CORVEDALE FESTIVAL By Christopher Morley

 South Shropshire, bordering the Welsh Marches on the western edge of our region, may appear a sleepy part of the world, as typified in A.E.Housman’s “Clunton and Clunbury, Clungunford and Clun, are the quietest places under the sun”, but in fact a huge amount of artistic activity teems beneath its placid surface.

Festivals at Clun itself, Arcadia based in Bromfield, Ludlow, and the internationally-famous Presteigne, straddling the border between England and Wales, are thriving, and now there is a new kid about to join the block.
The Corvedale Festival presents a multitude of attractive events, instrumental, chamber music, voice and harp, vocal ensembles in a variety of local venues within the Craven Arms area, under the shadow of the Long Mynd, from September 16 – 24. It is the brainchild of singer/composer Paul Henley (some of his works receiving their premieres during this busy week) and his cellist wife Ruth, both alumni of what is now Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
Paul sees the launch of Corvedale as very much a response to the depredations of two years of pandemic stagnation,  “to create opportunities for artists who were struggling after the devastation of the arts industries due to the lockdowns,” as he tells me.
“Yes, other industries were affected, but with the arts being a low priority in this country, it is very important to try and help in that regard. As a composer, it would also provide opportunities for performances of some of my works.”
Paul also wants to add to the presence of quality artistic activity in the Corvedale area. “I feel there is scope for that,” he says.
“ I also believe that the local people need to feel that it is not just our Festival but their Festival and with that in mind I have invited a well known local group, The Edge Chamber Choir, to participate as performers. There are also many local residents who are involved with various aspects of the Festival e.g. accommodation and catering - I'm very grateful to them. 
“During the last couple of years, we have been through tough and unprecedented times and worthy though the efforts have been to keep the arts going in some form, there is no substitute for the visceral experience of live events and the connection they can make with an audience.”
We then talk about performing venues, most of which are local churches. “We are also making use of Diddlebury Village Hall ,” Paul adds.
“This was used for the launch event in April where we received much help and support from local people. Westhope College near Craven Arms is being used for the Art Exhibition - a member of the Festival's Management team has a contact there.
“The performers are mostly friends and colleagues we already knew, but one was a new contact made more recently and another I'd not worked with since 2007 and she is very kindly bringing her lutenist colleague!”
Paul goes on to tell me how local amenities – shops, hospitality, catering – havd responded to the idea of the Festival.
“There are not many shops in this area, but the main village shop has gladly put our brochures on display and it also sold tickets for the launch event back in April. That event was well attended and well received. Local residents are helping with catering and artists' hospitality.”
Corvedale has been busy making itself a positive presence in the enterprising arts activity bubbling quietly around this glorious region, liaising with other festivals in the area.
“We have distributed publicity in the Clun area and yes, we have liaised with the Arcadia Festival in Bromfield,” says Paul.
“They have been very helpful, and we are being mutually supportive. We have agreed to display their publicity material at our concerts and they are going to mention the Corvedale Festival in the newsletter they send to their supporters. Arcadia Festival and Corvedale Festival are both members of 'Ludlow Arts: Classical' - a consortium of classical music groups that give and promote concerts in Ludlow and the surrounding area.”
Paul ends on a determined note.  “I believe it is vital, especially when confronted by so many cautious attitudes, to try and get the arts going again and encourage a positive attitude to that. That is one of the principal motivations behind the Corvedale Festival. There really is no substitute for live events - they are not an option, they are absolutely necessary!”
*The Corvedale Fesyival runs from September 16 – 24. All details on

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