Chiltern Arts Reveals Engaging 2024 Festival Lineup: Exploring ‘Human Stories’ Through Music, Literature, and Film alongside an Innovative Youth Outreach Programme

Chiltern Arts is delighted to unveil its 2024 festival theme, ‘Human Stories’, set to run from the 10th to the 17th of May. The festival will offer a rich tapestry of musical performances, captivating poetry recitals, and thought-provoking literature sessions. Esteemed musicians such as The Gesualdo Six, I Fagiolini, violinist Fenella Humphreys, and the Carducci String Quartet will share the spotlight with literary luminaries Roger McGough and James Runcie. This year’s festival is designed to enchant a broad audience, with a concerted effort to spark interest in youngsters aged 9 to 14 through the pioneering ListenUp & ListenIn initiative, aimed at cultivating a future generation of cultural aficionados.

The ListenUp & ListenIn programme is woven into the festival’s diverse offerings, reflecting the foundational ethos of the organising charity: making music accessible without the need for prior concert-going experience or knowledge of musical intricacies, thus appealing to a wide and varied audience. The initiative encourages supporters to contribute by ‘Sponsoring a Seat‘, thereby extending the programme’s reach to more children.

Naomi Taylor, the Founder and Creative Director, expressed her enthusiasm: “We’re so excited to be in the pilot phase of this project, taking steps to nurture a love of culture in young people that is so essential for a resilient cultural sector. I always try to plan thoughtful programmes with human experience at their heart — programmes that are designed to spark curiosity and inspire creativity. I hope that integrating literature into our events, and developing enjoyable and interesting online resources will offer new perspectives, both for our new young audiences, and our existing audiences.”

In a departure from previous years, Chiltern Arts will dedicate two days each to Henley-on-Thames and Princes Risborough, along with nearby villages, before concluding in Hughenden and Marlow. This immersive approach, new to Chiltern Arts, is recognised with ‘Festival Passes’ for these locations, granting a 20% discount on ticket prices for either a Henley or Risborough Pass.

The festival kicks off in Henley on Friday, 10th May, with an archetypically British Afternoon Tea aboard Hobbs of Henley’s flagship, The New Orleans, hosted by the esteemed poet Roger McGough. The evening will feature a vibrant trio of chamber musicians in a programme that spans Bach to Gershwin, complemented by poetry from Sara Teasdale to Pádraig Ó Tuama.

The musical journey continues on Saturday, 11th May, with a line-up that includes Mozart and Haydn String Quartets in the morning, the Natrio Trumpet Trio in the afternoon, and a French music evening headlined by The Gesualdo Six. The latter event will also feature Fauré’s Requiem, in collaboration with the Chiltern Arts Festival Chorus, under the direction of Owain Park. Those interested in joining the Festival Chorus can apply until March 31st: register today to be part of this fabulous event.

On Sunday, 12th May, the festival moves to Princes Risborough, starting in Bledlow with French Fables performed by a young theorbo and viola da gamba duo at the 12th Century Holy Trinity Church. A film depicting the life of Fanny Mendelssohn follows, featuring pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, culminating with an evening dedicated to Bach, led by violinist Fenella Humphreys and novelist James Runcie.

Monday, 13th May offers a nature-connecting poetry walk starting at Whiteleaf Cross, followed by an afternoon delve into the life of Dimitri Shostakovich, capped off with an evening concert that interlaces his letters with his impactful string quartets, featuring the Carducci Quartet and actor Anton Lesser.

The festival’s concluding days will see Hughenden hosting poetry sessions and a performance by the Alinde Wind Quintet on Thursday, 16th May, celebrating The Year of Czech Music. The grand finale in Marlow on Friday, 17th May will showcase I Fagiolini with a repertoire of 17th Century Italian choral compositions, including Monteverdi and Orazio Benevoli’s Mass for Four Choirs.

This year’s Chiltern Arts Festival promises an unforgettable cultural experience. For more details and ticket bookings, visit

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