Portsmouth Music Festival 2024: Over a Century of Celebrating Portsmouth’s Musical Excellence

Song and dance competitions dominate our tv screens these days, but did you know that Portsmouth has one of the UK’s oldest such talent competitions?

One that’s been running continuously for over a century? The prestigious Portsmouth Music Festival was established in 1917 to uplift morale during World War I.

It continues its legacy in 2024 as a continuing celebration of music and dance excellence. The 2024 Festival opens on Sunday 28 January 2024 with the Guitar & Strings Section at the Menuhin Room, Portsmouth Central Library.

This annual extravaganza awards cups in various categories, including dance, song, piano, speech & drama, brass, woodwind, and more. Aspiring musicians and dancers, ranging from schoolchildren to adults, perform to expert adjudicators who provide positive feedback for each individual.

Winners are not only recognized locally but also get the opportunity to be considered for special performance opportunities during the year after their festival appearance. 

Of course, the Festival is not just about competition, it is about learning, having fun, and enjoying the experience of performing to a friendly audience. It really is for everyone – beginners and advanced performers alike. 

Andrew McVittie, the chair of the festival and a pianist himself, remembers competing in the festival as a child. He emphasizes the inherent benefits of participating in musical and dance activities.

He said: “The benefits of taking part in a performing arts festival such as we are lucky enough to have in Portsmouth are endless. It’s a huge opportunity to show everyone what you can do, to express yourself, and to learn more about your art. For young people, it helps build resilience, confidence, and self-belief. For many people, it’s the start of a journey.”

Cllr Steve Pitt, Leader of Portsmouth City Council said “Portsmouth Music Festival has a long and successful history. I actually took part myself many years ago! As a council leadership team, Cllr Suzy Horton and I are passionate about young people being able to access cultural activities and know just how beneficial playing music can be to their personal development. It is fantastic to see Portsmouth Music Festival re-established where it began and we hope to see it thrive.”

Operated as a charity and powered by volunteers, the festival spans various local schools in the city over successive weekends, with several events in February half-term. The festival awards a large number of cups and trophies, some dating back to the 1950s and crafted from solid silver. These help to provide a permanent record of Portsmouth’s cultural heritage and the city’s enduring commitment to musical excellence.

Key awards include the prestigious PORTS FEST Recital Prize, the Solent Symphony Orchestra Concerto Award, and sponsorship from the Milton Glee Club for a young player to attend the European Youth Music Summer School.

The festival’s finale is the Gala Concert, a spectacular showcase of the best performances. This year the event will held at 3pm on Sunday 24 March 2024 at Crookhorn College.  

Emma Beatty

Facts and Figures:

§  Established in 1917
§  Number of Cups: nearly 500 across the various sections, not all in current use
§  Number of Performances to be held this year: 2364 of which nearly 2000 are in Dance
§  The 2024 Festival opens on Sunday 28 January 2024 with the Guitar & Strings Section at the Menuhin Room, Portsmouth Central Library.
§  Full programme: https://portsmouthmusicfestival.co.uk/2020-programme-for-all-events/
§  Entries for this year are now closed, see portsmouthmusicfestival.co.uk

Did You Know? Portsmouth Music Service offers instrument rentals for any child living or studying in Portsmouth. For details, contact them at portsmouthmusichub@portsmouthcc.gov.uk.

Portsmouth – A Creative and Cultural City: Arts Council England announced in October 2023 a £650,000 investment as part of the Place Partnership award to “underscore Portsmouth’s commitment to strengthening its economic future and international reputation as a hub for creative and cultural innovation”.

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