ONE of the area’s cultural highlights is heralded later this month with a spring gala concert.

Royal Wootton Bassett Arts Festival, which started over a decade ago as a bi-annual event, has grown to include dozens of singing, drama and different instrumental classes and attracts hundreds of performers from all over North Wiltshire and Swindon.

The concert at the Memorial Hall on February 23 at 6pm marks the official launch of the 2018 syllabus and features several prizewinners from last year’s festival.

Chairman of the music section John Davies said: “It’s not a long programme but it is enough really to get people together to be able to say thank you to the teachers.”

This year organisers are expecting several events marking the end of the First World War in November.

The festival proper starts in June with a singing weekend starting on the 22nd. A piano weekend follows at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy.

Festival organisers pride themselves on being inclusive and players of all abilities are welcomed. “We have had people who are beyond grade 8 taking part as well as beginners,” said Mr Davies.

A schools youth and community day on June 28 is also in the programme. Adjudicated by former opera singer and career voice teacher Rebecca Moseley-Morgan, the day includes classes for primary and secondary school choirs, instrumental groups and ensembles, youth groups and musical theatre groups and adult community choirs.

The instrumental programme follows on July 1, adjudicated by Andrew Hansford, a jazz piano tutor and examiner. It includes a modern section for classical, acoustic and electric guitarists, brass, recorders, woodwind and strings as well as classes for composers. There is even an opportunity for those who play more unusual instruments like accordions, harps or ukuleles to perform.

Public speaking and drama students have their chance in November. “The big increases last year were in speech and drama,” said Mr Davies.

“It is not a fixed syllabus so we are learning from one year to the next what appeals to people.”

This year there are classes for poetry, solo acting, choral speaking, Shakespeare, duologue, prose and group drama. Speech and drama chairman Sandra McDowell said: “At a time when many festivals are struggling, we consider ourselves fortunate to have such a stimulating and lively festival – and it is all thanks to those who support us in the many ways they do.”There is also a classical guitar festival followed by an autumn concert.

Visit for more details. Free tickets for the launch concert are available via