About the Festival

Every year, the Ryedale Festival welcomes outstanding performers from all over the world to perform a wide-ranging and distinctive programme in the many spectacular venues in and around Ryedale, North Yorkshire – an area full of history and natural beauty.

The Festival enjoys a large, loyal and enthusiastic audience, the warm support of the local community and a reputation as one of the most exciting and enterprising summer festivals in Europe.

Events range far and wide across the area and performances are given in over thirty stunning venues, including Castle Howard, Hovingham Hall, Duncombe Park, Birdsall House and Sledmere House, as well as in Ampleforth Abbey, York Minster, Scarborough Spa and many other local venues. There is also a popular series of morning Coffee Concerts given in the many beautiful, sometimes remote, country churches of Ryedale.

The market towns and villages of the region – principally Malton, Helmsley, Hovingham, Kirbymoorside and Pickering – have a special charm and seem not much changed for decades. Beautiful medieval churches, major stately homes and heritage spaces abound. The surrounding countryside encompasses the North York Moors and magisterial Howardian Hills, as well as vast rolling landscapes and wooded valleys through which the River Rye flows. 

Innovative and imaginative programming ideas attract top-level artists from all over the world. But the spirit of the festival is equally found in its many participatory events, including a long tradition of Community Operas. The festival also offers strong support and enthusiasm for talented young performers and a ticketing initiative to help more young people explore the festival.

Broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 bring the festival to a national audience and long-term partnerships have been developed with the Halle Orchestra, BBC New Generation Artists, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Opera North, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Manchester Collective, Yorkshire Young Musicians, Leeds International Piano Competition, the Kathleen Ferrier Awards and Manchester Collective. 

The breadth and depth of the festival’s impact is reflected at the box office, where it has achieved record-breaking ticket sales for ten years in succession. A recent five-star review by Richard Morrison in The Times recognised the remarkable growth and ambition of the festival, praising ‘the visionary direction of Christopher Glynn…a distinguished piano accompanist who has turned into an inspired programmer and a canny spotter of rising young talent.’

The Festival began in 1981 when four musician friends, Geoffrey and June Emerson, and Peter and Alex White, had the idea of launching a small series of local concerts. This first Helmsley Festival brought together more friends and other professional musicians and made an immediate impact on the town and its surroundings. So popular did it become that after five Festivals a broader base was called for, and the Ryedale District Council stepped in with the generous support, enabling it to grow. Before long, events ranged far and wide in the area to make a true Ryedale Festival. 

Among many exciting and ambitious plans for the future, the festival recently created an online platform called RyeStream to share performances with music-lovers far and wide.

Join us soon to discover the festival’s friendly atmosphere and unique magic.