Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all who support the work of the Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts.
None of us needs reminding what a strange year it’s been, but perhaps a reminder of the festival’s achievements this year – despite the pandemic and multiple lockdowns – would be welcome.
The first lockdown came hot on the heels of a very successful March fundraiser, for which we hosted Liverpool Cathedral’s Gilbert Scott Choir and soprano Danielle Thomas, the ‘Voice of Liverpool’ (pictured), under conductor Stephen Mannings.
While we couldn’t offer a full festival in June, we nevertheless adapted to the circumstances and ran the short story competition online. Read the enchanting winning entry, When You Wish upon a Star, by Rita Simpson, here. We entertained our audiences throughout the festival period with an array of video clips from our scheduled performers on Facebook., and many of those who would have joined the Prescot Festival Chorus sang Handel’s Messiah online, instead, with the Self-Isolation Choir.
The Friends of the Festival were able to meet in person for the AGM in September, and we spelt out our plans to bring as many of the scheduled 2020 acts back in 2021 for the next Prescot Festival. Do put Friday 18 to Sunday 27 June in your diaries now, and we fervently hope for a full, 10-day programme – but time will tell!
Prescot Parish Church opened the doors to visitors for Heritage Open Days in September, which we helped to promote as usual. It was well-attended, helped greatly by a Liverpool Echo article showcasing the impressive, Grade I-listed Jacobean building.
We continued to support other arts groups in the region throughout the year, taking part in virtual meetings with the Prescot Cultural Consortium, a new organisation bringing together other local arts groups and businesses in anticipation of 2022, when Knowsley is Borough of Culture and the Shakespeare North Playhouse opens.
We were pleased to see live music return to St Mary’s in the latter half of the year, with Prescot Parish Church Choir resuming its place in the stalls. Although congregations must take a break from singing, members of the choir will provide traditional festive music at the Festival of Lessons and Carols on Sunday 20 December (6.30pm), a Not-quite-midnight Mass at 6.30pm on Christmas Eve, and Eucharist at 10am on Christmas Day. All services are now broadcast live via Facebook.
It is always inevitable that we will bid farewell to some long-standing volunteers and supporters, and this year we lost two who perhaps deserve particular mention. Eric Orme sang tenor, and later bass, in an array of local choirs, including Prescot Parish Church Choir, Jubilate Praise, the New Cross Singers and our own Prescot Festival Chorus. He sadly passed away in August.
June Jagger was a founding member of the Friends of the Festival and, like Eric, was a stalwart of arts and music in Prescot for decades. She sang Gilbert & Sullivan, directed several pantos and was a lifelong member of Prescot Methodist Choir. With her husband, Brian, she led the 1st Prescot Boys’ Brigade from the 1960s to the 1990s. Together they played an indispensable role as stewards in the first 10 years of the festival.
We’d also like to note the passing of Claire Morris, director of the flagship Knowsley Youth Choir and Knowsley Chorale, and a key figure in Knowsley Performing Arts Service since its inception, in 1974. She is survived by her husband, founding Knowsley Youth Orchestra director Paul Morris.
We thank all our supporters – whether organisers, volunteers, performers, sponsors or audience members – for their patience as we navigate the coming months, and we wish you all a very happy Christmas and a blessed and prosperous New Year.
See you in 2021!