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Britten's legacy assured as organisation behind Aldeburgh Festival merges

PUBLISHED: 08:01 22 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:18 22 March 2019

Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears standing in front of the recently completed Snape Maltings Concert Hall - 1969 Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears standing in front of the recently completed Snape Maltings Concert Hall - 1969 Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

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Suffolk's world famous Aldeburgh Festival will soon be run by a new organisation as its parent company looks to merge with a neighbouring heritage charity in order to boost the range of events and the expertise it can offer both musicians and audiences.

Roger Wright outside the Snape Maltings Concert Hall Picture: MATT JOLLYRoger Wright outside the Snape Maltings Concert Hall Picture: MATT JOLLY

Snape Maltings, formerly Aldeburgh Music (and before that Aldeburgh Foundation), is merging with the Britten-Pears Foundation to form a new organisation which will support the development of new musical talent while also taking care of the heritage of composer Benjamin Britten and partner Peter Pears. The new organisation will be called The Benjamin Britten Foundation.

Events such as Aldeburgh Festival and Snape Proms will continue as before. The merger between the two internationally recognised organisations was announced late last night after trustees agreed that their separate teams had been increasingly pursuing similar aims and it would make much more sense to pool their resources and expertise.

Snape Maltings is home to the Snape Maltings Concert Hall, the rehearsal and educational study space Hoffman Building as well as various artist development programmes. In addition to the Aldeburgh Festival and the Snape Proms, the Snape Maltings host the annual Celebration of Schools Music, as well as a series of autumn and Christmas concerts.

Benjamin Britten on the drive way at The Red House Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVEBenjamin Britten on the drive way at The Red House Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

The Britten-Pears Foundation is a charity run from The Red House in Aldeburgh, the former home of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, and serves as an archive and study centre for their musical legacy. In addition to exhibitions and tours of the house, where it is possible to view part of Pears’ extensive art collection, there is also a state-of-the-art archive building, set in five acres of grounds, which houses all of Benjamin Britten’s papers which has been declared the most extensive composer collection in the world.

The merger is set to be completed by April 2020 but the two organisations have already started working more closely together. Roger Wright, from Snape Maltings, will become the new chief executive and Sarah Bardwell, from the Red House, will be its executive director.

Speaking at the merger announcement Roger Wright said: “As sister organisations we have always been locked at the hip, we are close to each other geographically and because we have the same founders we have a similar outlook on the world and because we were set up in a complementary way it seems entirely natural we work together as one and make the most of those strong connections.”

The Red House, Benjamin Britten's home at Aldeburgh Picture: PHILIP VILEThe Red House, Benjamin Britten's home at Aldeburgh Picture: PHILIP VILE

Sarah Bardwell added that the new unified organisation will significantly enhance the impact, reach, influence of their work, boost engagement and provide new opportunities to promote and preserve Britten and Pears’ legacies.

The pair said that the work of the new foundation will embrace both far-reaching new projects as well as the day-to-day. Sarah said: “It could be as simple as making the original score, correspondance and design drawings for a Benjamin Britten opera available as an exhibit to go alongside a revival in the concert hall.”

Roger added: “From an artist development point of view it will be wonderful to have the resources of The Red House available to our young composers and musicians as part of our residency programme. I think the timing is right to develop our future together.”

Aldeburgh Young Musicians at Snape MaltingsAldeburgh Young Musicians at Snape Maltings

He said that plans to develop the Snape Maltings site and boost Suffolk’s cultural economy will continue as planned. “The proposed site developments will expand this vision by providing more accommodation and additional music studios to allow for a growth in residencies as well as the significant advancement of Snape Maltings as a central hub for the UK’s work in music and wellbeing.”

Sarah said that it makes sense that charities with a common purpose should work together. “This merger will be a positive and transformational moment in the Britten legacy, rooting Britten more strongly to Suffolk. The Benjamin Britten Foundation will be able to promote Britten and Pears’ legacy and vision more effectively and consistently.”

The two boards intend to merge, and the new organisation will be co-chaired by Snape Maltings Chair, Sir Simon Robey and Britten-Pears Foundation Chair, Sir Vernon Ellis. Staff will continue to work on both sites but there will be greater movement and routine communication between the different areas of the business. The full merger is expected to be complete by April 2020.

The re-opening of Snape Maltings Concert Hall on June 5 1970. The Queen is seen with Benjamin Britten, while Prince Philip talks to Peter Pears Picture: ARCHANTThe re-opening of Snape Maltings Concert Hall on June 5 1970. The Queen is seen with Benjamin Britten, while Prince Philip talks to Peter Pears Picture: ARCHANT

Composer Colin Matthews, Britten’s assistant in the 1970s and a founder trustee of the Britten-Pears Foundation said, ‘Britten and Pears were passionate in their wish to secure their legacy through the work of the bodies that they initiated. A merger achieves exactly that in a remarkable fusion of the two organisations, and promises a very bright future for both.’

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