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.

Iwan Davies

Music Director

Iwan Davies trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the National Opera Studio in London. He was a staff conductor at the Salzburger Landestheater, where he conducted repertoire ranging from Rossini to Philip Glass. Other recent work includes conducting La bohème and The Golden Cockerel (Rimsky-Korsakov) for English Touring Opera, and a recording of Gareth Glyn’s Un Nos Ola Leuad with the orchestra of Welsh National Opera. At Buxton he conducted Donizetti’s Viva La Diva and was Music Director for Viardot’s Cendrillon.

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.

Neil Hughes

Jazz Director

Neil has programmed jazz for over twenty years, first with his own business The Cinnamon Club in Altrincham, and then for four years at Southport Jazz Festival. Neil is a writer with his first novel published in 2022 under his pen name Sam Emony, and he is currently working on a TV Drama. A wild swimmer, skier, snowboarder and walker, you will find Neil in the Lancashire hills most days. He is enjoying discovering the hills and rivers around the Peak District.

Jacky Wershbale

Development Director

Jacky began fundraising for the Festival in early 2023 following a 25 -year career as a fundraiser for various national and international charities based in Washington, DC. Her work has included raising funds for a Washington-area arts organization which fed her passion for music and literature. Jacky returned to the UK in 2022 to be closer to her family and is enjoying exploring the Peak District with local birdwatching groups as well as hiking with friends and family.

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 swimming and exploring the stunning scenery on her doorstep by foot and bike.

Jen Francis

Digital Communications and Marketing Officer

Jen joined the Festival in October 2022 and has been working in digital marketing for over 13 years. Following studying Tourism Management and graduating in 2012, Jen co-founded Explore Buxton in 2013. After living in Nottingham for 12 years, she enjoys taking in the fresh air of the Peak District and living back in her home town. In her spare time, Jen enjoys live music, travelling and volunteering at the local cat sanctuary.

Helen Goodman

Artistic Administrator

Helen trained as a dramaturg at Bretton Hall, is a qualified Drama teacher and has an MA from Rose Bruford College in Ensemble Theatre. She brings significant experience as an independent producer in both theatre and dance, alongside work within sector and talent development. She also works as Talent Development Associate for Manchester Jazz Festival. She lives in Buxton with her family and is Co-Chair of Burbage Primary School Governing Board.

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. When time allows Lee enjoys travelling and seeing other opera productions in the UK and further afield.

Janette Smyth

Finance Manager

Janette is from Liverpool and moved to Buxton in 2022. With a professional background for several years in finance and online retail, she started working at the Festival in October 2022 as Finance Manager. When Janette is not in the office, she enjoys going for walks in the Peak District with her Yorkie-poo, listening to jazz and reading crime novels. Janette grew up listening to the Beatles but also enjoys a good night in watching the Eurovision.

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 J 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 the Chief Executive of at Academy of St Martin in the Fields. She joined the Academy from Nevill Holt Opera, where she was Managing Director for three years.. 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.

Diane Banks

Diane is Chief Executive of London-based talent agency Northbank Talent Management, managing the careers of authors, broadcasters, speakers and influencers. She founded the agency in 2018 following a 20-year career as a book publisher and then literary agent. Diane has extensive arts fundraising and policy experience, having held board or advisory positions with the Conservative Arts & Creative Industries Network, which exists to facilitate dialogue between creative industries practitioners and government; the Finborough Theatre, The Brixton House Theatre, the Eden Valley Museum and two Westminster think tanks, Bright Blue and The Entrepreneurs’ Network.

Richard Eastwood

Richard has a background as a Consulting Engineer, successfully running a firm of 120 people. He represented his profession both as a senior officer for some 25 years and visiting internationally in this role. Richard is a retired charity trustee of seven charities which kept him busy for more than 30 years. Richard has a passion for classical music, literature and jazz and attends many events at BIF every year. He also proudly holds a Level 3 qualification in Food Handling, Catering and Hospitality.

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 LLB ACA

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.

Nick Bond

Associate Board Member

Nick is a theatre and opera director based in London, who recently completed an MA in Theatre Directing at Mountview, having studied Music and Drama at the University of Manchester for his undergraduate degree. He has directed for Hen and Chickens Theatre, Arden School of Theatre, Mountview, and he first worked with Buxton International Festival when he directed ‘The Enchanted Pig’ for the 2021 season. It marked the festival’s first production to be created and performed entirely by young artists and kickstarted the ‘Platform 3’ outreach programme.

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.

Rebecca Anderson

Associate Board Member

Rebecca is a recent graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music and has worked as a freelance singer and conductor for several years. Rebecca is also a Project Manager for the National Youth Choir and since 2018, she has been a proud ‘Boobette’ Ambassador for breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel!

Bradley Travis

Associate Board Member

Having graduated from the Royal College of Music (RCM), Bradley recently worked with the English Touring Opera as Head of Learning & Participation. For several years he worked in major opera and operetta roles which he thoroughly enjoyed and his passion for opera continues.

Artist Programming

Getting Your Work Seen by BIF

Buxton International Festival prides itself in selecting and supporting artistic work which is both high quality and surprising for our audiences. We work with a range of artists both established and emerging to create a programme each year for the festival, which takes place every July across many venues in Buxton.

In most cases our Artistic Directors will curate the programme by seeking out specific artists or performances personally. Putting a programme together is a creative project in itself, and we always try to make sure our offer to the public is varied across the 17 days of the festival.

We are always pleased to receive information about new works and indeed to become acquainted with artists who we haven’t met before.  We also understand the time it takes to put touring packs together, and that you wish to engage with us in a meaningful way.

We hope this guide will help you.

Music Series

What We Programme:

Buxton International Festival programme a range of classical music concerts from internationally renowned composers and performers.

We programme short recitals running at one hour during lunchtimes, longer concerts running at around two hours in the afternoon and evening performances. We programme works that we think will complement the spaces we work in: a church, the opera house, the small studio, the Octagon at Pavilion Gardens; sometimes we are interested in music that can be presented outside or in found spaces but generally our programming is limited by the venue partnerships we hold.

In the past we have worked with artists including Dame Sarah Connolly, Roderick Williams, Jess Gillam and the BBC Philharmonic

Concerts are usually programmed between August and December.


How to Propose Artistic Projects

If you would like to propose a music project to be considered for programming at the festival, you are invited to email an expression of interest to: programming@buxtonfestival.co.uk

Please would you put the following information in the subject line: Name of Artist & Title of Work

Please include the following information in the body of the email:

  • When you are available to perform in July
  • An estimate in cost
  • An indication of the size of the ensemble
  • An indication of what space might best fit your work
  • Which audiences you imagine to be drawn by the work, and how you would intend to reach them prior to the event

Our Book Festival uses two venues, the Pavilion Arts Centre (capacity 350) and Buxton Opera House (capacity 902). Our Book Festival Director programmes established authors largely in the field of non-fiction, published by the UK’s major publishing houses. We do not promote self-published books.

If you would like to propose a book talk to be considered for programming at the festival, you are invited to email an expression of interest to: programming@buxtonfestival.co.uk



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.

Associate Board Director

If you are an ambitious young Arts Professional under the age of 35 who would like an opportunity to learn how major opera and music companies operate from the inside….read on.

Buxton International Festival has been described in New York’s Metropolitan Opera House magazine as “one of Europe’s great little unmissable opera Festivals”; it also enjoys the reputation of being the least pretentious! In 2019 it celebrated its 40th anniversary, and won the UK theatre award for Opera with its first wholly new commission, a pasticcio on the life of Georgiana, the naughty Duchess of Devonshire.

BIF, as it’s known, attracts audiences from all over Britain and increasingly abroad.  It is four Festivals in one; opera, classical music, books and jazz. We present new productions of less often performed operas with international casts run a major literary Festival with c. 50 well known authors presenting their latest books; host a major music series with celebrated and often international chamber ensembles, soloists etc; and since 2022, a professionally curated jazz series attracting some of the best known names in modern jazz from the UK and further afield.

These delights are all packed into 17 or more days every July.  2023 opens with a glittering weekend of operas by Bellini, Mozart, Handel and a brand new work based on the Life of Vera Brittain called ‘Land of Might-Have-Been; plus violin virtuosa Nicola Benedetti and arguably the most famous Jazz trumpeter of his age, the legendary Wynton Marsalis.  The full programme is on the website.

BIF is registered as a charity but also a commercial company.  It is governed by a Board of nine directors, and our two young associate directors. All details can be found on the BIF web site. BIF is an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation.


The Opportunity

Five years ago BIF appointed its first young Associate Director.  The board currently has two, each appointed for a two-year term in staggered appointments so that there is always one experienced Young Associate to mentor the incomer.  This position is treated in all respects as a full director of the company but is not registered as a full director or trustee and has no voting rights. The responsibility of running an Opera Festival carries a financial and reputational risk for all Directors. The Board of BIF does not think it fair to burden a younger, inexperienced colleague with that responsibility or the risk which goes with it.  We do, however, want a younger person’s perspective and the person appointed is treated in every other resect as a full Board member, invited to play a full and vocal part in proceedings and privy to all Board information.

The first Associate Director to be appointed was opera director, Mark Burns.  Mark trained at the Royal Northern College of Music.  He works regularly with the Royal Opera, Glyndebourne, Opera North and many others.  He is regarded as one of the most talented young up-and-coming directors.  He is passionate about education and is artistic direct of Opera Box producing operas with small casts.

This is what he has to say:

‘Having spent two years as an Associate Board Director at the Festival I was been able to build an understanding of how high level arts management works. From the financials to marketing and development, all aspects of how the company operates are there to be explored and colleagues were always available to offer their expertise and advice to help guide my progress.  As I move forward with my career my time with the BIF Board will stand me in good stead when I look towards management roles. To have demonstrable experience of board level work at this stage in my career is something that money can’t buy and I’m forever grateful to the Festival for their investment in my future.’

BIF is now looking for a new Associate Director to join us from November 2023 and another to join from November 2024.  If you are interested, are under 35, and think you have the right ambitions and skills, we would love to hear from you.  Our present Associate Directors, Clara Marshall-Cawley and Nicholas Bond would be more than happy to talk to anyone who would like more insight into their experience as BIF Associate Directors. The Board Chairman, Felicity Goodey and the Chief Executive Michael Williams are also available to discuss the position if you are interested.

There are four Board meetings a year. One is held via Zoom, two in London, and one, a full day which also includes a half day review and look ahead with staff, volunteers, Friends and other stake holders, held in Buxton.   Board Directors receive no remuneration or expenses but Young Associate Directors are reimbursed for all expenses incurred.

To apply please send a brief CV and a covering letter telling us why you are interested to:

Lee Barnes, Administrator: lee.barnes@buxtonfestival.co.uk

Details of the appointment process will be forwarded in due course.


Closing date 31 September 2023.