Former BBC television presenter and etiquette expert, Diana Mather talks to Jan Clarke about the inspiration behind the creation of the Sandstone Ridge Festival and this year’s programme of events.
The Sandstone Ridge Festival started out life as The Malpas Arts and Literary Festival. Diana was one of its founders and the festival ran very successfully for six years.
As a result, it has now spread its wings to become part of The Sandstone Ridge Festival. This arts and community festival is a celebration of Cheshire’s artists and performers. It combines music, theatre, art exhibitions, author talks and poetry and brings together people from Cheshire communities including Cholmondeley, Peckforton and Banbury, Maplas and Tattenhall.
Diana explains, “The idea of the festival came into being as a tribute to my late partner. It initially took the form of a short story competition which developed into ‘Malfest’. I am so delighted that from these humble beginnings the Sandstone Ridge Festival has been born.”
The Festival’s success is undoubtedly due to the great team which make up the committee. Coming from different backgrounds and careers such as law, teaching and management they are united in their passion for the arts and the importance of community spirit.
Diana says, “We are so lucky to have such an amazing group of people behind the festival.” Miles Clarke and Nicola Earl were instrumental in getting the Malpas Festival off the ground. Miles is a great supporter of the arts and is now lending his expertise to The Sandstone Ridge Festival. Nicola has a busy full- time role in the Compliance Department of a chemical company, but she one of the driving forces behind the Sandstone Ridge Festival.
“We all share of love of the arts and even though we have pursued different careers, we have all been involved in the arts during our lives, in some way."
Also onboard are retired teacher Nigel Briers who after a long career in teaching, led the development for the now highly successful Bickerton annual art exhibition. Lady Bibby is a former teacher of speech and drama and involvement in the festival is a perfect fit.
Penny Shearer’s career is in management but has been an active community and charity worker for many years: Barrister, Jeannie France-Hayhurst sings with the Decibellas community choir while Land Agent James Hall also loves to sing and has been a member of several community choirs. Last but not least, Judy Anderson brings the hope of good weather for the festival events, having enjoyed life in Miami before coming to Malpas.
This year’s programme of events is varied and offers something for everyone from a breath-taking concert of female voices whose sense of fun is evident, with their event entitled ‘Nuns and Roses’ and the Peter Wheeler Short Story Competition, now in the seventh year, which features the finalists from the best short stories from writers of all ages throughout the region. There’s music, talks, garden tours, dancing and much more. Finally, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Vote, the team have put together events to reflect this historical moment and pay tribute to the suffrage movement.
Lucy Stevens stars in a new play based upon the exploits and passions of Dame Ethel Smyth, composer, writer and suffragette.