✨ Spitalfields Music Festival 2021 ~ The Highlights ✨

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Last month, we held Spitalfields Music Festival (1 – 11 July), our first live festival since 2018! It was such a joy to bring together performers, audiences and artists once more. From classical music to contemporary, intimate performances to family workshops, we wanted this year’s festival to have a little something for everyone. And for those who couldn’t make it in person, some online events to be enjoyed from your home.

To celebrate, we wanted to pause and reflect on some of our festival highlights, your wonderful feedback, plus some legacy piece podcasts for you to listen to. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at Spitalfields Music Festival 2021…


Never to Forget, 1st July, photo by James Berry

First up was the opening concert, Never to Forget, an aural memorial celebrating the kindness of strangers and commemorating the health care workers who lost their lives to the pandemic. The concert featured music by Festival Curator Errollyn WallenHoward Goodall & Franz Schubert, performed by musicians from London Symphony ChorusCity of London Sinfonia, directed by Simon Halsey, with Roderick Williams and Christopher Glynn.

Before the public performance, we held a small private performance for the family and friends of those commemorated in Never to Forget. It was certainly an emotional yet beautiful start to the festival. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful setting too, our spiritual home, Christ Church Spitalfields.

“I went to Howard Goodall’s Never to Forget, a beautiful if sobering tribute to all those we have lost to the pandemic.” – Audience Member

We were thrilled with the reviews received, including two 4* reviews from The Evening Standard & The Arts Desk, and a beautiful write up by the Byline Times (click on the links to read).

Music & Mindfulness Workshops, 3rd July, photo by James Berry

The first weekend of the Festival was certainly jam packed. On Saturday (3rd) the first few showings of a place to call home, an immersive sound and video installation exploring queer spaces over time, took place in an 1800s flat nestled above The George Tavern, Whitechapel. To listen to Alicia Jane Turner discussing their work on Hoxton Radio, click here (coverage starts from 1hr 1 minute).

Over in Canary Wharf, our Learning & Participation team, along with our wonderful music leaders, hosted a series of free Music & Mindfulness workshops for families with little ones. We’ve also created The Mindfulness Corner’ on our website, a space where you can try some activities yourself!

 > Click here to visit The Mindfulness Corner


Ongemang: Exploring the spaces in between, 8th July, photo by James Berry

Later in the week came Ongemang: exploring the spaces in between, a treat for jazz lovers. This intimate performance, held at Café Oto, Dalston, was the baby of Kit Downes and Tom Challenger, who created a collection of interpretive melodies, joined by Irish vocalist Lauren Kinsella and guest artist Heloise Werner. To read more about this event, head to London Jazz News, here.

“I thought it was wonderful, intimate and an occasionally breath-taking gig. I thoroughly enjoyed my first evening out in a VERY long time!” – Audience Member

Manchester Collective x Edmund Finnis, 10th July, photo by James Berry

The final weekend of the festival was just as busy as the opening, starting with Manchester Collective x Edmund Finnis on Saturday. Back in Christ Church Spitalfields, Festival Curator Edmund Finnis was the brains behind this masterpiece. This intimate concert of music for strings, performed by the Manchester Collective, featured the music of Finnis himself, alongside gems such as Mica Levi’s astonishing and richly textured quartet, and Igor Stravinsky’s three quirky and contrasting miniatures. ‘Finnis’s own String Quartet No 2 was given its world premiere, a finely balanced work in four short movements that uses all the timbres and mysterious overtones of four strings, four instruments without hurry or urgency, and with minimal use of vibrato’ (The Guardian).

To read the full  4* Guardian review, click here.

“I thought Manchester Collective in particular were astonishing…they blew me away” – James Berry

Dancing with Apollo, 11th July, photo by Matthew Belcher (Spitalfields Music Festival 2021 Producer).

Dancing with Apollo was our closing event of this year’s festival, and one that certainly didn’t disappoint. A programme of music, dance and commentary centred on Greek myth, ‘beautiful and thought provoking in equal measure’ (The Guardian). The performance featured Sara Trickey (violin), Ivana Gavric (piano), Marina Warner DBE (analysis & myth), choreographed by Kim Brandstrup, with dancers Laurel Dalley Smith and Liam Riddick – including the premiere of a new piece A Duet in the Dark by Fesitval Curator Edmund Finnis.

Made slightly more exciting by being on the day of the match! But a wonderful and original experience. Dancing with Apollo was so unusual and wonderful. – Audience Member

“Very professionally run and thoroughly enjoyed ‘Dancing with Apollo’. Fantastic budding talent!” – Audience Member 

To read the full 4* Guardian review, click here.

Choosing highlights hasn’t been easy as we’re so proud of the whole festival, and everyone who worked with us to make it such a special event. So, if you’d like to delve even deeper, we’ve created a series of podcasts with our wonderful friend from Thoroughly GoodJon Jacob, interviewing this year’s curators, artists and contributors.

 > Click here to listen to the Spitalfields Music Festival 2021 Podcast Series

We would also like to say a HUGE thank you to our funders and supporters for allowing us to make this year’s festival happen: Arts Council England & The DCMS’s Cultural Recovery FundThe PRS Foundation, Help Musicians UK, Brian Smith, The London Community and Cockayne – Grants for the Arts, the New Music Commission Fund, The RVW Trust, The Open Fund and finally, The University of Oxford.