To our festival family,

With sadness, I announce that the Association’s board of Directors have met and agreed that this summer’s festival should be postponed till 2021. Our next festival will therefore take place between 24th and 31st July 2021, in Worcester.

I am grateful to all those who have been in contact to express support and hope, and equally to those who have shared their concerns. I have considered them all and know that this announcement will come to some as relief, to others as inevitable, and to some as the removal of what you have called a ‘ray of hope’ for this summer’s music making. I truly regret that we have reached this point, but concern for the collective welfare of everyone involved with the festival must be our guiding principle. Since lockdown measures began, we have said we would closely monitor government advice and respond accordingly: the latest updates leave no doubt that the essence of our festival – collective music-making enhanced by the warmth and camaraderie of those who come to listen – cannot be realised this summer in a way that would do justice to the ambition of our performers nor the expectations of our audience.

A sense of place and the unique character of our three locations has always been at the heart of the festival. This – combined with the provisions necessary for hundreds of performers to take to a stage each evening – means we will not be presenting a virtual festival. Yet every performer we hoped to work with this summer was invited because we believe in the quality, creativity and artistic conviction they bring to the stage. Therefore, until public performance can resume in the UK, we will use our website and social media channels to bring you news of online performances planned by our 2020 artists, and we encourage you to support them and enjoy a flavour of what might have been.

In the Worcester Festival in 2021, we hope to honour existing programming commitments as far as possible, although some changes to repertoire and personnel are to be expected. The reshaped programme will be announced towards the end of the year. As a mark of our gratitude for the optimism many have shown by already booking and reserving tickets, they will be given the opportunity to retain corresponding seats in the relaunched programme.

Every element of our festival is months – sometimes years – in the making, and I would like to record my sincere thanks to those who have worked so hard to prepare for this summer: to Samuel Hudson for an enticing programme in his debut year as Worcester Artistic Director, Ben Cooper for his fortitude in a tumultuous introduction as Chair of the Worcester Festival, and to the Worcester City Committee and Friends for all their support. Our small and incredibly hardworking professional team have responded to these circumstances admirably, and I thank them, and all the performers, venues and suppliers we work so closely with for their patience and collaboration as we have held our breath over the past couple of months. Such complex planning also means that the outline of a compelling Hereford programme had already been carefully prepared by Geraint Bowen. This, and indeed, preparations already made by Adrian Partington for Gloucester must now be reshaped for 2022 and beyond, and we acknowledge the disappointment such a delay will bring to all those we were due to work with in subsequent editions.

Like all arts organisations, losing events is financially devastating, especially for an annual festival such as ours. Still, we are a resilient organisation which has weathered many storms, and the board and I are already working to ensure we can continue to give voice to extraordinary music making in our region. If you are able to support us with a one-off gift, or by becoming a member or patron of the festival, we will be hugely grateful, but we also know that these are financially uncertain times for everyone. Above all else, please join us in 2021 for a joyful revival of this treasured and vibrant festival: 24 – 31 July, in Worcester. I hope to see you there.

Alexis Paterson, Chief Executive