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Inspired by the vast skies and moody seas of the Suffolk coast, Britten and Pears, along with writer Eric Crozier, founded the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. Pioneering an era of arts organisations engaging in the education and support of young artists, they brought together international stars and emerging talent; world-renowned figures such as Menuhin, Sviatoslav Richter and Rostropovich and young stars in the making such as Söderström, Perahia and Bream.
In its earlier years, the Festival used halls and churches local to Aldeburgh; Orford, Framlingham and Blythburgh amongst them. With ever increasing popularity there came the need for a permanent home for the Festival and in 1967, two years after malting had ceased, Aldeburgh Festival moved into its new home, Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Originally explored as a place to store opera scenery, the vision of Britten and his colleagues saw the largest of the malthouses as the perfect building to convert into a concert hall. In 1967, Snape Maltings Concert Hall was opened by HM The Queen. Disastrously, fire struck two years later in 1969 and the Concert Hall needed rebuilding, to be opened once again by the Queen on her second visit, in 1970.
The Aldeburgh Festival continues to have education and artist development at its heart, with residencies and masterclasses ever present alongside international talent. The opening of the Hoffmann Building in 2009, home to the Britten Studio, provides further flexible performance and rehearsal spaces where artists come to develop their work. Here audiences are able to enjoy performances and follow works in progress, from leading musicians and artists as well as Aldeburgh’s rising stars, turning into reality what always was Britten’s vision for the Festival and indeed the whole campus at Snape.
Click below to view a short video about the history of the Aldeburgh Festival and the Britten–Pears legacy, and for a tour of Snape Maltings Concert Hall with the late maltster and Concert Hall manager, Bob Ling.