TYNEDALE Music Festival has been wound up after 115 years, it was announced this week.

Citing an ever-downward spiral in the number of entries, chairman Douglas Knott and secretary Hilary Robson said the decision had been taken very reluctantly.

Hilary, who has given a total of 50 years’ voluntary service to the festival and Consett Music Festival before that, said: “We have known for a while that if we didn’t get more performers and audiences then, really, it was becoming untenable.

“We simply couldn’t sustain it with the costs involved, despite the fact we were all volunteers behind the scenes.”

Besides paying venue hire, mostly at Hexham’s Queen’s Hall, the festival also had to cover the fees and expenses of the professional adjudicators it brought in.

Hilary, a retired teacher herself, put the steadily decreasing number of entries in recent years down to the relegation of music as a priority in schools.

“That certainly accounts for the drop in entrants into the musical instruments categories,” she said.

“Schools don’t have the time or the resources to work with youngsters in that way any more.”

Douglas, who served in several committee positions in the 14 years he’d been with the festival, agreed. “As a result, schools restrict themselves to entering the choral and hymn-singing categories nowadays.”

The festival had dropped from four days to three and then two in recent years, but the day devoted to the schools’ choral categories was by far the most successful.

“That day we’d have all 320 seats in the auditorium filled and 40 or so children in the upper area, waiting their turn,” he said.

“The support from mums, dads and grans was great, but that was the only time it was like that.”

Some of the costs had been offset by the bank of loyal patrons who had supported the event across many years.

Douglas said: “We owe our patrons and advertisers a huge vote of thanks, and we certainly couldn’t have done it without all the hard work of our volunteers either.

“They include our committee, who have given of their time freely, and the people who turned out on the day to do things such as stewarding and on-stage announcing. They have all been fantastic.”

l Courant opinion - page 18