About Us

Our Vision

Message from the CEO

Every July for the last forty years, audiences from all over the world have gathered outside Buxton’s intimate Edwardian opera house to enjoy a festival of opera. Buxton International Festival has carved out a reputation as a haven for rarely performed operas and the Frank Matcham theatre has proven to be the ideal venue for these explorations. The Festival holds a unique position in the pantheon of Summer Opera Festivals in the United Kingdom, in that it presents a Music series and Book festival alongside the opera season. We have been fortunate to attract some of Britain’s best musicians and opinion-forming authors to Buxton to participate in our annual celebration of the arts.

I am committed to continuing this much-loved tradition and building upon the partnerships that make the festival possible. The history of the Buxton Opera House and the Festival are inextricably intertwined, but we have never mounted a production together. Next year we have committed to jointly mounting a musical which will be a welcome addition to the usual season of opera. This variety of programming provides wonderful opportunities for artists in our Young Artists and Young Instrumentalist Programme, which lies at the heart of the company we put together every year.

Commissioning new works is another commitment Adrian and I have made to ensure that the Festival keeps looking forward. We began with the creation of a pasticcio, Georgiana, based on the life of the fifth Duchess of Devonshire and were delighted when the production won the UK Theatre Award for Opera in 2019. We commissioned Kate Whitley and Laura Attridge to create an opera oratorio about climate change, Our Future In Your Hands, for our 2020 Festival. Unfortunately, Covid-19 forced us to cancel the Festival and the premier of this work, but we hope to mount the production at the 2021 Festival.

Paul Kerryson, CEO of the Buxton Opera House, and I share a vision to expand the community engagement and Learning and Participation programmes of both our organisations. We are planning to provide a platform for young people throughout Derbyshire and the UK to create, perform, and learn more about the performing arts. Artistically led and community driven, our initiative will provide greater participation in the experience of live performance and support the creation of new works for the next generation.

Plans for our 2021 Festival are well advanced and we hope to reunite with all of our loyal supporters next summer on the sunny piazza outside the Buxton Opera House for another season of opera, music and books.

Michael Williams

Chief Executive Officer


Our Programming

Message from the Books Festival Director

Programming a well-established festival such as Buxton is both a blessing and a curse. I follow in the footsteps of the learned Roy Hattersley who foresaw the appetite for a serious, literary book series to run alongside Buxton’s serious, engaging and innovative opera and music programme. We are a festival weighted towards history and constitutional politics but we also like to engage with art, the environment and topical biography. No subject is closed to us and we aspire to be genuinely ‘opinion forming’. We are not always serious though. Our cookery demonstrations and our walks are fun but not frivolous. Our literary salons are open to all to experience a unique juxtaposition of words and music.

Cancelling in 2020 due to COVID-19 was heart breaking. Some of our 2020 authors joined us for BIF Digital filmed over the summer and these author ‘events’ can still be viewed online. Some of our 2020 authors will join us again in 2021 but the book trade is a fickle, fast moving industry and new books are published daily. Our 2021 programme will be largely new, as always topical and I shall try to capture the zeitgeist of the moment, while programming eight months in advance of our first audience taking their seats. At our most fearless we shall host events on land reform, the success of our prime ministers in recent decades and our nation’s response to the current pandemic. At our safest, but no less engaging  we will look at the history of the Spa in Great Britain and meet three historical crime writers all with new books published. In between expect TV personalities, heavyweight historians (currently encompassing neanderthal culture via a reassessment of empire and the slave trade to art and the British landscape) plus scientists, law makers and economists. I hope there is something literary to tempt any thinking person to visit our beautiful spa town next summer and to forget the ennui of 2020.

Vicky Dawson
Books Festival Director

Our Trailer

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.

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.

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. More recently she has been working 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.

Mel Rogerson

Digital Marketing Officer

Mel is a freelance digital marketer who has worked with BIF since 2019 (and has attended Buxton Festival since she was at school!). With a background in publishing, she is passionate about the arts and storytelling, and loves combining these interests in her festival role. A dedicated bibliophile, you’ll often finding her exploring Derbyshire’s literary spots with camera in hand.

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 joined the company in 1992 and is the Administrator and Company Secretary 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.

Jobs & opportunities

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.

Learning and Engagement Manager

Buxton Opera House and Buxton International Festival are embarking on an exciting journey working together creatively to make a difference to the lives of people in Buxton and High Peak. As such, we are looking for an exceptional Learning and Engagement Manager to lead, develop and co-ordinate a new joint initiative – Platform 3.  Designed to provide an accessible platform for all ages to create, perform, and engage with the Arts, Platform 3 will provide opportunities for creativity and learning.

Salary: £27,000 per annum
Contract: Full time, permanent (37.5 hours per week)

Closing date for applications: 5pm, Monday 8 March 2021
First stage interviews: w/c 15 March 2021
Second stage interviews: w/c 22 March 2021

All applications should be sent to Buxton Opera House (via the APPLY link below).

We are strongly committed to diversity. We strive to recruit, retain and advance people of all backgrounds and particularly encourage applications from individuals who are underrepresented in the cultural sector.