THE Minehead and Exmoor Music Festival has been "saved from extinction" and will run for its 61st year later this month.

The festival sees an entire symphony orchestra assemble itself for a week each summer in this small seaside town in West Somerset.

It will see 60 to 70 first-rate musicians gather from across the UK to give a series of orchestral concerts featuring internationally renowned soloists.

However, in 2023, the Festival’s Diamond Jubilee year, the future of the event looked rocky when conductor Richard Dickins stepped down after 42 years at the helm.

Most of the Festival’s longstanding committee members also felt it was time to retire. 

Now, thanks to the "extraordinary dedication" of its participants - specifically orchestra member Paula Tysall and committee member Mike Dewar - it will continue for 2024.

The remaining crew rapidly ascertained the orchestra members’ strong commitment to the festival, formed a new committee, and recruited rising star Christopher Stark, co-founder of the award-winning Multi-Story Orchestra to conduct the Festival for 2024 — Mr Stark has performed three times at the BBC Proms.

Several of the Festival’s international soloists have returned year after year, including Cellist Laura van der Heijden, who was BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2012, aged 15.

Virtuoso violinist Callum Smart will also return for 2024. He was recruited at the last minute in 2022 when the planned soloist fell ill and met such a "storm of acclaim" that he was booked for the next two years. This year he will perform Mozart’s 4th Violin Concerto.

One final ingredient completes the magic of this Festival: the local community. Most orchestra members stay with residents, often forming lasting friendships.

The 2024 Festival opens on July 21 with a Young Musicians Recital, followed by three orchestral concerts and a chamber wind concert.

Full details can be found at