About the HDFA

"Anyone who sings, plays an instrument or enjoys listening is invited to come".

These were the words on a poster which appeared in and around Hunstanton in the winter of 1940 – Saturday December 14th to be exact – inviting people to “A Day of Music” at the town’s Council School.

But for the war, many of the people involved would have been continuing their active association with the Hunstanton Choral Society, a long established group that carried a choral tradition in the area dating back to 1889, but with many members of the choir being called up or involved in Civil Defence, it had been impossible to get a balanced chorus.

This is where “The Day of Music” stepped in, and with its sessions for singers, instrumentalists, even budding conductors – a day that bought people together to make music and a day that helped bring about the creation of “Hunstanton & District Festival of Arts”.

The first official Festival was held at the Town Hall on the 20th June 1942 and participants included evacuee children from the L.C.C. Scrutton Street School in London, and members of the Royal Engineers who at the time were billeted in the Town.

There were adjudication sessions in verse, speaking and music and an evening concert featuring piano and violin solos, choirs, massed voices and an orchestra conducted by Dr Patrick Hadley, and tenor solos by Malcolm Davidson who had sung at the World renowned La Scala Milan.

By 1948 the Festival had affiliated to ‘The British Federation of Music Festivals’ and had grown into a “Two Day” affair and by the late ‘fifties’ this had doubled to four days and by the late ‘seventies’ had doubled again. Drama and Dancing were introduced in 1951, Bible Reading in 1958 and Art in 1960. And so it went on expanding more every year.

Highlights over the years have included a performance of “Merrie England”, during the special coronation year Festival involving a chorus of over 80 voices the ‘Granta Orchestra” and ten soloists and a visit by Soprano Jean Reddy shortly after she won the “Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Prize”.

As well as renowned percussionist Evelyn Glennie, popular trumpeter Humphrey Littleton and other luminaries of the musical world too numerous to mention, we have also been lucky enough to be joined by well known personalities such as actress Prunella Scales, speaker Richard Baker, the raconteur and comedic singer Richard Stillgoe and the late great singer-songwriter Peter Skellern.

In the mid-Eighties the Festival appeared to be in danger of folding up through lack of support. Then only two members attended the meeting, one of them the Secretary who was then resigning. It was only after the intervention of the Town Mayor, Douglas Hopkins who called a special open meeting in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall, that a new committee was formed, and within a very short time, the Festival was once again in “Full Swing”.

The HDFA has revived old traditions and now presents monthly Craft Fairs, Drama Festivals, a popular outdoor Music Festival featuring local solo artists and groups and the ever-popular Christmas Tree Festival and in spite of the recent slow-down following the Coronavirus pandemic, the committee continue to work on events to bring the arts to Hunstanton in 2021.

Note: The HDFA is a registered charity and runs purely on donations and grants, the main grant being from the Borough Council of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk, without whose help it would not survive. If you would like to join our group, have some suggestions or even care to donate your time or money, please get in touch by clicking here.