The Festival - A Brief History
The Festival began in 1947 as the Weston Junior Arts Festival, with the Dance Performances at the Playhouse Theatre and the Music at the Winter Gardens Pavilion in the Starlight Room. In the 1990 the Prince Consort Hall was opened at the Winter Gardens. This was an adjustable 200/500 seater Hall with Stage and back stage facilities, along with meeting rooms and it became an ideal venue for the expanding Junior Arts Music Festival.
In 1994, Tom Shearman was invited to organise the Music Festival on behalf of the Winter Gardens, funded by the Town Council. Tom had recently retired from the County of Avon Music Service and was well known in Weston as conductor of the Weston Brass Band and Musical Director for the Weston Operatic Society. He was delighted to take on the role provided that specialist adjudicators for each of the music disciplines (Piano, Strings, Vocal and Wind) were engaged, and that Speech and Drama competitions be added to the Festival programme. This was agreed and after a few years the Festival became a three week event in the Calendar.
2014, however, was the last year that the Festival was held at the Winter Gardens as it was announced that the Winter Gardens would be closed by North Somerset Council, for financial reasons, and sold to Weston College to meet it’s expanding educational provision.
Undeterred,Tom, along with his Festival colleagues and friends and with the advice of the British Federation of Festivals, of which he was South West secretary, the Junior Arts Festival became an independent charitable organisation and the Music Festival continued without a break transferring, in 2015, to Victoria Methodist Church in Station Road, Weston and the Speech & Drama to St Jude’s Hall and the Methodist Church in Milton.
In 2015 the Weston Dance Festival ended and it is now part of the North Somerset Festival staged in Clevedon.
In 2016 Tom retired as member of the organising team for the Music Festival. The core of the Festival is still competitions for children up to the age of 18 but adult classes have now been added and the Festival renamed as the Weston Festival of Music and Drama, so plans are now well in hand for the next 20 years!