Dovedale hosts weekend festival

Derbyshire is blessed with an assortment of exciting arts festivals each year, but few are as intimate and carefully curated as Dovedale’s which is staged every other year by its founders Ariane Bankes and Mark Chichester-Clark. 

Early in June the Izaac Walton Hotel will become a cultural hub where writers, musicians, artists and the audience mix for a richly-rewarding long weekend. 

The Dovedale Festival will kick off at 6.30pm on June 8 with a private view of the festival’s exhibition featuring paintings by Caroline McAdam Clark, Kitt Allsop and Anne Lever, collages by Kate Scott, ceramics and drawings from Jane Rye, and pots by Bridget Whitehouse.

To mark its forthcoming centenary the Society of Wood Engravers has commissioned portfolios of prints for the four seasons, 24 of which will be at Dovedale. Accompanying them at an exhibition will be 11 wood engravings by Suzanne Cooper, one of the rising stars of British art in the 1930s, whose work was sadly overlooked for decades, but this year is set to get the recognition it deserved.

The evening continues with a concert by the Allegri String Quartet, who are returning to the festival for the third time, at 7.30pm followed by supper at 9pm.

Early the next morning at 9.30am, naturalist Mark Cocker will be leading a walk in Dovedale pointing out interesting flora and fauna, before his talk at noon which focuses on six places that embody the history of conservation in the British way of life.  

Highlights of the afternoon include Jon McGregor talking about his extraordinary new Booker long-listed novel Reservoir 13, set in Derbyshire, and historian Lucy Hughes-Hallett on her acclaimed first novel Peculiar Ground.

Nicholas Crane (author of The Making of the British Landscape) will also be in conversation with Julian Glover, biographer of pioneering engineer Thomas Telford, about the shaping of our landscape.

Following supper in the evening there will be a performance of a new musical by composer and festival founder Mark Chichester-Clark.  

The one-act show Passsepartout! – My Travels with Phileas Fogg is fast-paced, funny and packed with glorious songs accompanied by a live band.

Jules Verne’s classic novel Around the World in Eighty Days is retold through the eyes of the colourful French manservant Jean Passepartout, who accompanies his master, English gentleman Phileas Fogg, on his remarkable journey. Directed by Karen Henson, the performance will last for 90 minutes.

On Sunday June 10 prize-winning poets Helen Mort and Katharine Towers will read from their recent collections; biographer Claire Tomalin will be talking about her memoir A Life of my Own; and playwright and novelist Michael Frayn will be talking about his hilarious Pocket Playhouse. 

The event will close with Tea with Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A Museum and former Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent.

n For tickets go to You can buy a Dovedale Rover which includes supper on Friday and Saturday.