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Brief history

The composer Benjamin Britten was inspired by the vast skies and moody seas of the Suffolk coast, and in 1948, along with singer Peter Pears and writer Eric Crozier, he founded the Aldeburgh Festival.

Long before arts organisations thought of engaging in education and supporting young artists, Britten and Pears established both. They brought together international stars and emerging talent, including world-renowned figures such as Fischer-Dieskau, Menuhin, Sviatoslav Richter and Rostropovich, and young stars in the making such as Söderström, Perahia and Bream.

At first the Festival used local halls and churches but in 1967, Britten and Pears created a permanent home at Snape, 5 miles from Aldeburgh, by converting a Victorian maltings into an 832-seat venue. Within five years Britten and Pears had reclaimed more buildings on the site to establish a centre for talented young musicians.

This is the legacy behind the flourishing organisation known today as Aldeburgh Music, which now has a world-wide reputation as an outstanding year-round performance centre, and as a place where artists at all stages of their career can stretch themselves, explore new ground and perform.


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Britten and Pears outside Aldeburgh Parish Church at the first Festival, June 1948. Photo: Victor Parker. Courtesy Britten-Pears Foundation, Aldeburgh

In 2006 Aldeburgh Music purchased Snape Maltings Concert Hall and rehearsal facilities along with redundant maltings buildings. The centrepiece of the new development - the Hoffmann Building - opened in May 2009, with further developments in winter 2009/2010. The aim is to create a meeting point for the world’s most talented musicians, reinforcing Aldeburgh as a powerhouse for performance, nurturing talent and creating new work, and bringing to life what had always been Britten and Pears’ vision for the site.

For more details about the history of the Aldeburgh Festival and Snape Maltings Concert Hall, or about the life and works of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, please visit the website of our sister organisation, the Britten–Pears Foundation: www.brittenpears.org

 Click here for the BBC Four website, where you can listen to archive interviews with Benjamin Britten


The Britten–Pears Story and Snape Maltings Concert Hall tour

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.

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