About Us

Welcome to BIF

Recognised nationally and internationally as one of the UK’s leading arts festivals, Buxton International Festival is a summer celebration of the very best opera, music and literature at the heart of the beautiful Peak District.

Video: Mo El-Fatih www.moelfatih.com
Music: Corran Quartet

Our History

Buxton International Festival has been thrilling audiences for more than 40 years. We have a reputation for offering often once-in-a-life-time opportunities to hear sublime but rarely performed operas; and internationally acclaimed singers, musicians and literary speakers are all attracted to our beautiful spa town. Here's how BIF came to be...

1900 – 1930 A glittering start…Buxton Opera House Buxton International Festival

Buxton International Festival’s story begins with the town’s beautiful opera house. It opened with great fanfare in 1903. Designed by the doyen of opera house architects, Frank Matcham, it remains to this day a real gem of Edwardian architecture.


1930 – 1970 Challenging times…

Buxton Opera House was attracting the biggest names of the day.  The legendary director Lilian Baylis brought an Old Vic Theatre Company production to the town, Sadler’s Wells brought opera and the Hallé played regularly in the adjacent Octagon.  However post war the Opera House was mostly being used as a cinema and started falling into disrepair.


1970 – 1980 A plan is hatched…

In 1976 Malcolm Fraser, then lecturer at the Royal Northern College of Music, visited Buxton on a day trip.  Entranced by the beauty of the town he mustered friends from the world of music, and the idea of a festival to revive the Opera House was born.

The Festival’s opening year in 1979 was a triumph, though not without drama.  The soprano for the role of Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor lost her voice on the morning of the opening performance. A replacement was flown in from Germany, arriving two hours before curtain-up!

In 1980 enough money had been raised to restore the Opera House. A grand re-opening was hosted by Princess Alice, the Duchess of Gloucester, and was attended by the poet laureate Sir John Betjeman.  The Minister for the Arts, Norman St John Stevas, played the trumpet with a local band outside!


1980 – 2000 Rarely performed opera becomes BIF’s signature…

Organisers realised that the Festival needed to offer something different to encourage people to Buxton. Rarely performed or unusual opera became BIF’s signature. These seldom staged works continue to attract not only audiences from across the world but also a stellar array of musicians and artists thrilled to be able to perform in them. Lesley Garrett’s career was launched when she sang in Cimarosa’s Secret Marriage, while outside the theatre George Thomas, the then speaker of the House of Commons, was spotted twirling with the Morris dancers on Opening night.  Buxton does that to people.


2000 – Present  Books, anniversaries and outreach work

The Festival continued to grow with the inclusion of a major concert series.  Then in 2001 came the idea of adding a literary element, the brainchild of the then Chairman Roy Hattersley.  Margaret Drabble, Beryl Bainbridge, Sir Jeremy Isaacs, Michael Palin, PD James are among the many literary and celebrity giants who have flocked to what one critic has described as the ‘envy of Edinburgh let alone Cheltenham.’

In 2019 Buxton International Festival celebrated its 40th anniversary by reviving the genre of opera pasticcio with a specially written work Georgiana.  The critically acclaimed and award winning opera depicted the story of the exuberant 5th Duchess of Devonshire – whose family, at the nearby Chatsworth estate, remain inextricably entwinned with Buxton.

Today Buxton International Festival has evolved to become more than just a summer celebration.  Work takes place all year round to provide opportunities for young musicians, platforms for rising stars in the North of England, BIF delivers Art Council Awards in local primary schools, and runs the local Kaleidoscope Community choir

What the critics say…

‘There is no more enticing Festival than Buxton’, said The Sunday Telegraph; ‘I’d advise you urgently to get to Buxton’, said The Times; ‘One of Europe’s great … unmissable opera Festivals’ said the New York Metropolitan Opera House magazine; ‘The best Opera Festival in Europe’ said Germany’s Opera Magazine!

Buxton International Festival looks forward to welcoming everyone for more unmissable opera, music and literary events which you simply will not find all in one place elsewhere.

Our Team

Meet the people behind the BIF team

Michael Williams

Chief Executive Officer

Michael started his opera career working as an Assistant Director for New Sadler’s Wells Opera in London, touring productions throughout the UK. He returned to South Africa and worked for Cape Town Opera for the next twenty years as head of Outreach, opera director, General Manager and finally as Managing Director. He is the author of several novels, plays, musicals and opera libretti. He moved to Buxton in 2018 with his wife, Ettie, and loves walking in the High Peak.

Adrian Kelly

Artistic Director

Following his studies at the University of Cambridge, English conductor Adrian Kelly became a member of the Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and was then a coach at the Hamburg State Opera. From 2010 to 2017 he was first Kapellmeister at the Salzburg State Theatre, working regularly with the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg. In June 2018, he was appointed Artistic Director of Buxton International Festival. As part of his first season he conducted a new production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.

Vicky Dawson

Book Festival Director

Vicky has worked in bookshops from the south coast to Moray in the North-East of Scotland. She was a store manager for both the Waterstones and Ottakar’s book chains and was a partner in two independent bookshops until 2018 when she relocated to Derbyshire. Utterly committed to spreading the joy of the written word, Vicky now runs an online second hand bookshop specialising in art, architecture and history alongside her role as Book Festival Director at BIF.

Joanne Williams

Development Director

I joined Buxton International Festival in 2017, having worked for a variety of not for profit Arts & Heritage organisations including; the National Trust, HOME, Contact Theatre, The Lowry, Abandon Normal Devices, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. I am responsible for income generating activity working with Individuals, Trusts & Foundations and Corporates and love meeting our amazing donors and supporters and hearing their stories about the festival. I am a great advocate of the role of the arts in social change and continue to be amazed at the incredible artists we work with and the impact their music and words have on the lives of people, young and old. Living in the Peak District, I love walking and watching our ever changing and often unpredictable seasons!

Lucy Marsden


Lucy is a professional fundraiser has been working for charities for over 14 years. She works for BIF, The Thomas Theyer Foundation and is a Director of Buxton Civic Association. With 2 border collies and when not at work, she can be found usually out on the moors, or walking in Buxton’s woodlands.

Harriet Grubb

Marketing Manager

Harriet has been a friend and advocate of the Festival for many years. She comes from a journalistic background and moved to Buxton in 2011 when parts of the BBC relocated to Salford. Aside from journalism, she has experience in communications in the travel and tourism industry. Having been brought up in the countryside she feels very much at home in the Peak District. In her spare time she enjoys wild swimming and exploring the stunning scenery on her doorstep by foot and bike.

Caroline Hewitt

Artistic Administrator

Born into a musical family, I was asked ‘which instrument would you like to play’ at quite an early age. Music and performance have been my life ever since. Having graduated from the Royal Academy of Music, I started my career as an Orchestra Manager with the English Chamber Orchestra, moving up north to join Manchester Camerata and then the Northern Chamber Orchestra. It is at the NCO that I began my love affair with Buxton International Festival and I have never regretted joining the amazing team at BIF and am thankful that I can continue to work with my former colleagues as their association with the Festival continues.

Lee Barnes


Lee is the Administrator of Buxton International Festival.  Lee has also served as a Trustee of the Friends of Buxton Festival Board and continues to work closely with our Friends group and knows many of our members personally.  Having had a long history with the Festival there is little that Lee has not rolled up his sleeves and done for the organisation for the past quarter of a century. When time allows Lee enjoys travelling and seeing other opera productions in the UK and further afield.

Marie-Axelle McMahon

Finance Manager

Marie-Axelle joined Buxton Festival as the Finance Manager in January 2020. She had moved to the UK 25 years ago after completing her business degree in France, her native country. She worked for 17 years for Kellogg in Manchester where she acquired a wealth of experience in finance, especially around setting financial strategies and managing budgets. She left Kellogg in 2013 to focus on her and husband Peter’s holiday cottages business in the Peak District, which she continues to manage when not working for the Festival.

Sarah Crispin


I am a self-employed bookkeeper and accountant specialising in charity accounts. I moved to Buxton in 2019 with my husband and 3 boys and was excited to join the Festival team at the start of 2020. My role at the Festival is ensure all of the day-to-day accounting is done and to support Max our Finance Manager. When not working, I play the cello, am part of a local church, enjoy walking and craft and am developing my green fingers having foolishly bought a house with a large garden.

The BIF Board

Felicity Goodey CBE DL


Felicity Goodey led the team which created Mediacity:uk, the project which has relocated much of the BBC from London to the North of England ,to create a globally significant media hub. Her career began as a journalist with the BBC becoming a senior correspondent specialising in industry and politics. She went on to develop a business career before leading a major Lottery project which built and established ‘The Lowry’, the £127 million-pound international theatre and arts complex Salford Quays. She gave up broadcasting to help found the Northwest Regional Development Agency and was asked by Salford City Council to set up and lead the UKs largest Urban Regeneration Company, Central Salford, securing more than £2.5 billion of private sector investment in just 5 years. She was awarded the CBE for services to regeneration and the arts.

Emily Gottlieb

Emily has been Chief Executive of the National Opera Studio since 2015. Prior to this, she spent 15 years with the Royal Opera House. She was the first Consortium-supported Performing Arts Fellow on the Clore Leadership Programme in 2012-13. She has worked in leading opera companies around the world, as stage designer, company manager or stage manager, including Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Victoria State Opera, European Union Opera and Grange Park Opera. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts and a relational dynamics coach.

Julian Glover OBE

Julian is Associate Editor of the London Evening Standard. He is a writer, journalist and author of the bestselling biography Man of Iron: Thomas Telford and the Building of Britain. Julian has worked as leader writer and columnist at the Guardian and as a Special Adviser in Number 10 and the Department for Transport. He chaired the Landscapes Reviews for the Government into the future of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Beauty in England.

Michael Harper

Michael Harper is an internationally renowned countertenor. He has sung opera and concerts throughout Europe, the USA and China. He teaches and gives master classes across Europe and the US and has recently accepted a position as Principal study tutor in the school of vocal studies at the Royal Northern College of Music. He is a Patron of the National Opera Studio’s Diverse voices programme, works with choirs across Britain and teaches at his studios in London, Oslo and Bristol.

Stuart Lester

Stuart has a long-standing interest and involvement in the arts and education. He was a founder trustee of the Hampstead & Highgate Festival and is Chair of Governors of two schools in the London Borough of Barnet. A chartered accountant by profession, he had a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry before retiring to pursue an eclectic range of interests, including opera, classical music, theatre, sport, walking and all aspects of Italian life and culture. He has been a regular visitor to Buxton since the first festival in 1979.

Annie Lydford

Annie is Chief Executive of Nevill Holt Opera. She is the former Director of Marketing and Communications for the Creative Industries Federation and Head of Communications at English National Opera having previously worked at Warner Bros. Records. She is a trustee of SWAP’ra, the organisation supporting women and parents in opera. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music and at Cambridge University, and has since completed an MBA with the Open University. As an organist, Annie has performed internationally and on BBC Radio 3.

Louise Potter DL

Louise Potter is a prominent Buxton hotelier and businesswoman and has devoted much of her energy to supporting and promoting the Buxton International Festival. She has also advanced Buxton as a major tourist destination. Louise is Treasurer of the Kinder Choirs Trust and a Patron of Visit Peak District & Derbyshire. In 2021, Louise is the High Sheriff of Derbyshire.

Mark Sutherland

Mark is from Sheffield and works in London. He is a career civil servant leading on major project management in the Cabinet Office. Outside of work he enjoys travel, reading, visiting museums and galleries, and attending opera and concerts at the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, BBC Proms and Wigmore Hall, occasionally writing reviews for the website classicaldiary.com. He is also a member of the BBC Trust’s Yorkshire Audience Council.

Careane Wallace

Chair of Audit & Risk Committee

Careane is an accountant with extensive audit experience. She runs two successful practises serving small to medium sized clients in London, both of which she started, and one of which has more than 187 clients from the arts world Services include consultancy, accountancy and tax planning. She has a number of years’ experience auditing various charities with turnovers well in excess of £1.5 million together with sizable listed companies. She is a chartered accountant and has a law degree.

Nicholas Bond

Associate Board Member

Recently graduated with a first in Drama and music at the University of Manchester and is about to embark on an MA in theatre studies in London. Nick is already an accomplished young director with ambitions to manage a theatre or opera company. His passion is to create work with a focus on accessibility, diversity, comedy and entertainment. His extensive voluntary work has given him opportunities with the BBC Singers, Glyndebourne and various TV production companies in the Northwest.

Clara Marshall Cawley

Associate Board Member

Assistant Orchestras and Ensembles Manager at the RNCM, Clara has gained significant experience working in arts administration since graduating from the University of Manchester with a degree in Music in 2018. Previous experience includes working with the Chorus of Opera North and the Learning Department of the Liverpool Philharmonic. While still a student she founded ‘Musica’, a week-long festival celebrating female music making which continues annually with increasing success. In her spare time Clara sings with the Halle Choir and enjoys running, cycling and hill walking.

Jobs & Volunteering

Buxton International Festival is made of a small, passionate and dedicated team working all year round. We would love for you to join us to help inspire a new generation.

Social Media and Communications Officer

We are looking for an exceptional person to join our BIF team as a Social Media and Communications Officer.

The candidate will have outstanding digital skills and experience of working in a challenging and busy environment, with the ability to manage multiple tasks concurrently. The successful candidate will be an excellent team player and collaborator, effectively leading all digital communications for Buxton International Festival.  Flexible working hours, including evening and weekend work is required during the Festival.

Click here for the full job description.

To apply:

If you feel you have the skills suitable for this role and wish to apply, please submit a covering letter setting out why you are suitable and why you want to work at Buxton International Festival (no more than one page) along with your CV and the Equality Monitoring_Form  to recruitment@buxtonfestival.co.uk

Closing date: Monday, 22 August


 Purpose of the Role  


To process, record and report all financial transactions of the organization in a timely and accurate manner, working with stakeholders across the organization to ensure the effective and efficient management of its transactions.


Key Responsibilities


  • Maintain financial systems, including purchase, sales ledger, fixed assets ledger and general ledger.
  • Account for VAT and produce returns on a quarterly basis.
  • Reconcile financial ledgers to bank accounts.
  • Reconcile control accounts as appropriate
  • Operate the Festival’s payroll, National Insurance and Nest Pension scheme.
  • Calculate and monitor staff holidays entitlement.
  • Perform year end tasks to facilitate the production of statutory accounts.
  • Prepare end of month and end of year reporting packs.
  • Provide financial information to other team members on an ad-hoc basis and as appropriate.
  • Support the Finance Manager in complying with all legal and statutory requirements for charities and registered companies.
  • Monitor and report on restricted funds.
  • Produce returns for HMRC as required.

Click here for the full job description.

Closing date: Monday, 15 August

Start date: Monday, 19 September

Volunteer Steward

Your Festival Needs You!

Buxton International Festival is looking for volunteers to help us host the Festival.

The Festival Volunteers are the smiling and welcoming face of the Festival, greeting and seating ticket holders, and supporting the staff team to deliver the
annual celebration of creativity in Buxton.

Benefits of being a BIF volunteer:
• Enjoy the buzz of the Festival
• Grow your social circle and meet new people
• Access free training and enhance your personal skills, knowledge and experience
• Volunteering is good for your mental and physical health
• Get to see some of the BIF events
• Work as part of the awesome BIF team
• Be able to say “I was part of that”

Volunteer training will be provided online and in person in the weeks leading up to the festival.  For more information click here, and to view the Volunteer Steward Job Description click here.


Artist Accommodation

BIF features the most promising rising stars in the performing arts world, as well as prominent international singers, musicians and literary figures.  We have a packed summer programme of more than 120 events over a 17-day period.

Each July our visiting artists need to find accommodation and this is where you can help.  The Festival has put together an accommodation list of local people who have kindly offered a spare room in their home for an artist to stay.  As the Festival continues to grow in scale we need to find more hosts to welcome artists in to their homes.  Those offering accommodation are able to charge rent and currently most hosts ask for around £100 per week to cover their expenses.  Typically hosts will allow a guest staying with them to share their kitchen facilities so they can make their own meals.

If you are able to offer a room for a performer to stay in your home, then we would very much like to hear from you.  Please give Lee Barnes a call on 01298 70395 or email lee@buxtonfestival.co.uk to find out more.