The Aldeburgh Festival was founded in 1948 by Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Eric Crozier. The idea for a Festival sprang from their desire to find a home for their touring opera company, the English Opera Group.
From its inception it aspired to be an international festival that drew on the distinctness of Aldeburgh and its surroundings. These Suffolk roots included not only the community as audience and onlookers but also as participants. With a composer at the Festival's centre, new music was a key element as were fresh interpretations of classical repertoire and the rediscovery of forgotten music. These elements were blended together to create something that was unique to Aldeburgh. These values are still retained today although the Festival is very different from what it was.
Aldeburgh strives to be a Festival that is distinct. It eschews the international festival circus, it develops long-term relationships with both established and young artists and is inspired by its heritage. It is also unique in that its parent, Aldeburgh Productions, is responsible for the Brittenâ€“Pears Young Artist Programme (formerly the Britten-Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies), Snape Maltings Concert Hall and Aldeburgh Education, all of which considerably enrich the Festival mix.
The recent announcement of new three-year funding for Aldeburgh has launched Aldeburgh Residencies, a major new professional development programme offering bespoke training and development opportunities to both international and UK artists. Aldeburgh Residencies will act as a springboard for more performance, touring and educational work. There will also be significant further investment in opera development, training, production and touring (in collaboration with the Almeida in London), which can only strengthen Aldeburgh's position as the UK's leading producer of contemporary opera.
In 1999 the Festival entered an exciting new phase when one of this country's leading young composers, Thomas Adas, became Artistic Director at the age of only 28.
The Festival's audience comes from all over the world, making the Festival important to the local economy, as well as attracting substantial numbers of local people.
In recent years the Festival has expanded to include the creation of Free Events on the Beach, which have been enjoyed by people of all ages. A new initiative for 2000 was the Pumphouse, an informal venue that embraces experimentation, spontaneity and nurturing of new talent. It is also important because it is a way of addressing that in the future we (the music world) will have to find new ways to present music "both contemporary and classical " in order to broaden its appeal and develop new audiences.