Brighouse Arts Festival is a record-breaker - and there's still plenty to come

Mayor of Calderdale with Matthew Harrisoson-Lord and Calderdale College Students at Opening. Picture by Steven Lord.
Mayor of Calderdale with Matthew Harrisoson-Lord and Calderdale College Students at Opening. Picture by Steven Lord.

The seventh annual Brighouse Arts Festival has seen a fantastic start with record-breaking audience numbers, and there's still plenty of events taking place across the town this week.

Matthew Harrison-Lord, programme director, said: “We set ourselves the target of beating last year’s record audience figures and before the first event we had already done that!”

Hesiod Brass Ensemble. Picture: Steven Lord.

Hesiod Brass Ensemble. Picture: Steven Lord.

The fun began on Friday night with local singer Roger Davies and his band performing at St Martin’s Church to a sell-out audience.

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On Saturday the Mayor of Calderdale, Coun Dot Foster, presided over the official opening of the festival at an event which saw students from Calderdale College performing Shakespeare sonnets, Hipperholme Community Choir singing and Benjamin Guilfoyle entertaining the large audience with his performance poetry.

In the evening Natasha Harper directed a theatrical performance of The 39 Steps at the Civic Hall. Based on the Hitchcock film, the cast of only five local players magically transformed themselves into dozens of characters.

The performance of The 39 steps attracted an interesting visitor from Leicester.

Cast of The 39 Steps. Picture by Steven Lord.

Cast of The 39 Steps. Picture by Steven Lord.

Adrian Brown is a great fan of the John Buchan story, so much so that he has set himself a challenge. He is attempting to get in the Guinness Book of World Records by seeing 39 different productions of The 39 Steps across the country.

The Brighouse Arts Festival production was his 22nd performance so he is rapidly homing in on his target. Sometime next year he hopes to be on the home straight.

Adrian, who arrived in period costume, said: “The 39 Steps is a great story and the character Richard Hannay was one of the first great fictional spy heroes.

“Many more have followed but most famously James Bond is a direct descendant of Hannay.”

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Adrian is the proud owner of a Lincoln Zephyr V12 car once owned by author John Buchan himself.

On Sunday the focus shifted to St Matthew’s Church in Rastrick where the Hesiod Brass Ensemble gave virtuoso performances of music from the 1600s to the present day.

Famous pianist Jill Crossland gave a piano recital on Monday at St John the Divine in Rastrick while Tuesday night saw a shift in style as Matthew Harrison-Lord and Lydia de la Murray performed contemporary theatre pieces to an appreciative audience at Prego’s restaurant.

On Wednesday night a packed church enjoyed a feast of Gilbert and Sullivan led by Bridget Budge, while folk music fans had a great “unplugged acoustic” night at Lane Head Hotel organised by Barry Smith.

The Brighouse Arts Festival continues until Sunday, October 13.

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What's still to come

The festival continues on Thursday, October 10 with an “Open Mic” concert at Brighouse Library at 2pm.

This year the festival raised the bar again with its headliners.

International superstar Kiki Dee, who famously had a number one with Elton John, performs tonight (Thursday) and opera singer Lesley Garrett, who has starred in Loose Women and Strictly Come Dancing among other shows, performs on Saturday evening.

Both of these shows have now sold out.

On Friday, October 11 there’s a treat for classical music fans – a Baroque Festival Concert.

Led by top violinist Martyn Jackson and keyboard expert Daniel Bath, the concert includes two Bach Brandenburg concertos, Bach’s Magnificat and Handel arias.

On Saturday, October 12 there’s a family Mini Fest at Field Lane Community Centre in Rastrick from 10.30am. It’s a free drop-in event.

Talks and other performances took place all week and continue throughout the weekend. There are art displays in various shops and cafes around Brighouse and Merrie England café owner Keith Hanselman has filled the café with his landscape paintings.

The festival concludes with a screening of a live recording of Puccini’s famous opera La Boheme on Sunday night.

For more details, visit or call 01484 722462.

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