About Swaledale Festival

When and Where

Founded in 1972, the Swaledale Festival is an annual festival of music and arts based in the three most northerly Yorkshire Dales - Swaledale, Wensleydale and Arkengarthdale - a large rural area of outstanding beauty. Festival venues range from tiny chapels seating fewer than fifty people to halls seating several hundred. Many are charming village churches but there are also heritage sites such as Richmond's Georgian Theatre Royal and Gayle Mill near Hawes. We have recently added Tennants Garden Rooms in Leyburn as a Festival venue - our largest at 600 seats. The Festival starts on the Saturday of the late May Spring Bank Holiday each year, and goes on for two weeks.

The Programme

The Swaledale Festival's events programme includes a core of classical music concerts as well as folk, brass band, jazz and world music. In addition there is poetry, film, dance, drama, comedy, workshops, masterclasses, exhibitions, children's events, talks and themed guided walks. There are usually a few surprise events too, such as steam train trips, bat watches, archaeology projects and astronomy sessions. There is a particular focus on the extraordinary landscape, the history, the legends and the characters of the northern Dales.

The Team

We have a dedicated team of staff and volunteers here at the Festival. To read more about them, please see our Team page.

The Artists

Top musicians and artists come from all over the world to perform at Swaledale, which is consistently described in the press as one of the finest festivals in the country. The list of recent performers includes John Williams, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Dame Emma Kirkby, Peter Donohoe, Alexander Markov, Tasmin Little, Natalie Clein, Tenebrae Consort, Fretwork, Red Priest, Iestyn Davies, Emma Johnson, Royal Northern Sinfonia, the Choir of York Minster, the Brodsky, Fitzwilliam, Carducci and Ŝkampa String Quartets, Antonio Forcione, Niamh Ní Charra, Clare Martin, Martin Taylor, Kathryn Tickell, Martin Simpson, Adel Salameh, Sura Susso, Alan Plater, Brian Sewell, Simon Armitage and Barry Cryer.

Please see our What’s On page for details of this year’s Festival.

The Swaledale Festival provides a platform for local performers and artists, and its Young Artists Platform gives valuable career support and performance opportunities to up-and-coming musicians.


We are proud of our achievements and recognitions. Please visit our Awards page to see what’s been happening.

Commissions and World Premières

The Swaledale Festival has a strong record of commissioning and staging new music and art by top creators such as Sally Beamish, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, David Blake, Graham Coatman, Stephen Goss, Roxanna Panufnik, Jonathan Dove, Heather Fenoughty, David Gordon, Alan Plater and Michael Kusz.

Community and Education work

Throughout the year the Festival runs a programme of community and education activities which are delivered free through numerous local schools and other organisations. These activities include visual arts projects, mentoring schemes, children's concerts, music, poetry and drama workshops, and a 'Wandering Minstrels' programme which brings high quality live music to care home residents who are often not able to attend concerts. These activities are always provided at no cost to the recipients and are often supported by grants and donations from generous funding organisations, trusts and foundations. The Festival has received several national and international awards for its education and outreach work, including, in 2014, the Prime Minister's Big Society Award. 


The Swaledale Festival enjoys excellent relations with a number of local businesses which sponsor the Festival by providing funds. Full details of and links to this year’s sponsoring businesses can be found on our Local Business Supporter Scheme page.

The Festival is grateful to Arts Council England for its support and for its continuing advice and encouragement. A number of charitable trusts and foundations also support the Festival with donations. Full details are in our ‘Support the Festival’ pages.

If you would like to help us to continue our Commissioning or Community and Education work in the future, either through a financial donation or through a gift in your Will, please get in touch. Our contact details are on the 'Support the Festival' pages. We will treat your communication with the utmost discretion. 

Festivals North comprises four fantastic North Yorkshire festivals to promote them to an ever-growing national and international audience. We work with Coastival (12 to 14 February 2016), Swaledale Festival (28 May to 11 June); Grassington Festival (17 June to 2 July) and Harrogate International Festivals (all year). Under our banner ‘Achieving Brilliance Together’, we celebrate the fact that whilst each festival is unique, taken together they provide a wonderful, varied arts offer throughout the year. We work hard to bring new and established talent to entertain and delight audiences from near and far, and bring a valuable economic boost to these beautiful locations. Together, we showcase music, literature, art and entertainment at their finest against a unique and breathtaking coastal and countryside backdrop. 

Learn more at www.festivalsnorth.org