Tribe at the Festival (not Glastonbury)

There are festivals and festivals. The Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts has been going since 1948 and is a music festival, but one without camping. It was founded in 1948 by Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and the writer and producer Eric Crozier.

Before the evening concert at Snape Maltings from across the River Alde.

The first festival was held from 5th to 13th June 1948 with a varied programme of choral, orchestral and chamber concerts, recitals, exhibitions and lectures and three performances of Britten’s opera Albert Herring.

The Maltings through the grasses and reeds, 21 June 2022.

Over the following 20 years the festival’s increasing international reputation for excellence and its subsequent expanding audiences led to Britten and Pears realising the need for a dedicated festival concert hall. The disused maltings at Snape were selected for redevelopment. According to Kenneth Powell of the ’20th Century Society, “Britten was a demanding client: he wanted a 1000 seat hall, costing no more than £50,000, and completed in time for the 1966 Festival. The concert hall eventually cost £127,000 and seated 830”. It was opened by the Queen on 2 June 1967, the first day of the 20th Aldeburgh Festival.  

However, just two years later on 7th June 1969 the concert hall was destroyed by fire. The hall we see today is the replica rebuilt, as requested by Britten, to be “just as it was”. The Queen came again in 1970 to open the hall, as she had done in 1967, and is reported as saying that she hoped not to be asked to come back a third time. The Queen may not have been back to the Maltings, but with the exception of the two years for Covid cancellations, the Aldeburgh Festival has returned every year since.

So what of the ‘tribe‘ at the festival? It is an artwork. It is these fine bronze men striding out towards the reeds. ‘Tribe’ by Laurence Edwards is part of a a three-year creative collaboration between Britten Pears Arts and Messums Wiltshire for 2022, 2024 and 2025.

‘Tribe’, Laurence Edwards, 2019-21. Bronze. Walking Figure 1, 238.8 x 134.6 x 83.8 cm, Walking Figure 2, 240 x 142.2 x 81.3 cm, Walking Figure 3, 238.8 x 124.5 x 88.9 cm.

The bronzes are currently on display as part of the Aldeburgh Festival at the Maltings site. They will then feature as part of Laurence Edwards’ solo exhibition ‘Tribes and Thresholds’ at Messums Wiltshire from 6 August – 16 October 2022. And, then next year they will travel to the other side of the world to Australia to be installed at the Orange Regional Museum in New South Wales.

It is difficult to appreciate from a photograph the compelling presence of these bronze men not least their imposing size.

Five men.

As a group of three there is an intensity and solid quality to the ‘Walking Men’, but also, for a static sculpture, a strong sense of movement. And, then, when you look up and into their faces expecting purpose and resolve instead there is a questioning hesitancy coupled with a hint of resignation or perhaps even loss. Altogether a captivating work.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

16 thoughts on “Tribe at the Festival (not Glastonbury)”

  1. Well, you have upstaged me with this splendid post. On Tuesday people who look at both our blogs are going to be very surprised to find that I have also written about the Maltings! Mine will be a poor effort compared with yours! If I have made any mistakes in the text I apologise.

    1. Oh I can’t believe that for a minute. And, also I strongly believe that everybody has their own unique perspective and responses especially to places, art and music. I look forward to reading your Maltings take. It is a significant memorable place for me as I remember as a child both seeing the burnt shell of the original concert hall and on another occasion Benjamin Britten driving past us on his way to Orford. I think I also remember you saying you heard him play in New Zealand. Lucky, lucky you.

      1. I was lucky. I have put a link to your post in mine which I can take out again if you object. You know so much more about the Laurence Edwards work.

      2. Oh please do link – sharing info is one of the great things about the blogging world. Ah Laurence Edwards is a Suffolk chap and comes from Yoxford up the A12 from Ipswich and Snape. I do really like his work.

  2. Well, well, well. How very interesting. I have a vague memory of watching a documentary on Benjamin Britten and that there was something in there that particularly resonated with me, and which I now cannot recall. But I won’t forget his name even though I am all the way over here in the Antipodes.
    As for festivals, I remember my kinda’ (kind of) English daughter was a great fan of Glastonbury and I saw it was about to kick off again and wondered if she was still keen enough, and now brave enough, to take her two young children camping there…

    1. According to my daughter (both she and her cousins have been as unaccompanied young adults) she thinks Glastonbury is a pretty safe festival for families unlike some of the more tricky ones and people have a fine old time even it turns to rain showers and a mudbath.

  3. Whoops! Hit the wrong button. I was about to say…”as for Orange”… what a curious place for such a sculpture to end up. I hope you remind me when it is getting close and perhaps we will head out there for a road trip. It is about a four hour drive west from Sydney. Orange is in the central tablelands farming district and has a temperate climate which can get quite chilly in the winters. I looked back through my blog posts and see that on the occasion we were there, there was “no room at the inn” and we pushed on to a small village called Millthorpe. So! You would be doing us a favour if you caused us to retrace our steps. Meantime, here is my story of being in that general area:

    1. Well, that looks an interesting place even if it’s a long way (by English standards anyway) from a big city, but perhaps it is well-placed and has a reputation for ‘cultural visitors’? Also I see it has popular parks and this artwork would look good in a rugged setting.

  4. Well, I never really knew the history of this place, so thanks for the informative post…I would love to go to the festival.

    1. The festival usually has a wide-ranging programme of music and art and some discussion sessions too. I am a fan of Baroque and Early Music and over recents years have been lucky enough to hear performances at churches in Framlingham, Blythburgh, Long Melford and Orford as part of the festival. The Maltings Concert Hall is renowned for its acoustics which are good for large, symphonic works and opera, but there’s nothing like Bach in a medieval, village church performed by international performers.

      1. Sounds good! I like the idea of Bach in a medieval, village church performed by international performers.

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