Lockdown Inspirations: Felicity Goodey, Chairman

The Festival may be on hold, but a small group of BIF team members are still extremely active behind the scenes – gathering new ideas and revisiting old favourites.

In this new series of blog posts, we share the opera, music and books that are inspiring us during this unusual time.

This week, our chairman, Felicity Goodey, writes about the works that she has turned to during lockdown.

Cancelling the 2020 Buxton International Festival for the first time in 40 years is the hardest decision the Board and I have had to take. There was no choice and our over-riding concern was how to protect the staff and the future of the Festival. That has kept everyone at BIF pretty busy despite the lockdown. Thank goodness for Zoom!

The team led by our CEO, Michael Williams, and Artistic director, Adrian Kelly, have been fantastic. Losing the Festival cost us our entire commercial income for the year and wiped out more than a year’s work. The Government furlough scheme is helping, as is the Arts Council’s swift move to give us all our grant money up front. But 90% of BIF’s income comes from ticket sales, sponsorship and donations; with no Festival we have almost no income. We have been saved by our staff, our Friends, the Foundation and our thousands of supporters. Staff volunteered for major pay cuts, Friends made extra donations and gifts have been coming in from all over the country. Our freelancers, who now have no work, have been hugely supportive and understanding. Together we are looking forward to 2021. Michael and Adrian are salvaging what they can of what would have been a stunning 2020 programme and planning new delights. The staff are desperate to get back to work and there will be plenty for them to do. Thank you to everyone who is helping us through this dreadful time. We will be back with opera, music and books to delight the most jaded souls.


I have been listening to a rarely performed opera……….sorry! I cannot tell you what it is because we would like it to be a big surprise. But I can tell you it’s going to be another winner! There is so much wonderful work in the opera world which for no good reason gets overlooked. You can rely on us to continue finding and presenting the gems. Sadly we cannot afford to record our wonderful productions, though the trailer of last year’s UK Theatre award winner, Georgiana, is a terrific reminder of that glorious romp through the life of the naughty Duchess.

But ten out of ten to those who can afford recording and for sharing some of their gems on line. I couldn’t resist the Met’s Merry Widow with the wonderful Renee Flemming as a quick pick me up!


On the music front I have been listening to BIF favourite Roderick Williams singing ‘I said to love’ and other works by one of my favourite 20th century composers, Gerald Finzi. Roddy is not just a wonderful artist he is a terrific human being and we hope to engage his creative talents on new projects in the future.

But for a wealth of vibrant music from our younger partners do go onto the Royal Northern College of Music website. Every week they have a huge range of online music making – sheer delight. #KeepMusicPlaying – Issue 6 is the latest offering.


As for reading, at last I am at last able to make some inroads into the huge pile of books bought at Buxton last year, and if I am honest, one or two from the year before!

Diarmaid Macculloch’s Thomas Cromwell is a revelation. It’s quite a read but if you are really interested in this period, stick with it. It will blow your mind! Wolsey was closing down monasteries through Cromwell long before he worked for Henry.

The gorgeous Saliha Mahmood Ahmed ( NHS doctor and MasterChef winner) gave birth to a baby boy on March 24th during lock down. Her husband, also an NHS doctor, had developed a fever and cough so could not be with her. All are fine now, thankfully, and if, like me you bought Khazana, her wonderful book on Mughal cooking at BIF last year, do try some of the recipes. My husband is addicted to her Mughal Baked Cod Korma.

Charles Spencer’s To Catch a King from BIF 2018 is a rollicking good read. He, Charles, comes across as so brave and charismatic; what a shame he gave in to the high life when he became king.

Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt describes an NHS is much need of reform. Let’s hope that the amazing job the NHS is doing now will accelerate the reforms, especially the union with, and appreciation of, the social sector which the current pandemic has highlighted.


When not engaged on BIF matters, I am singing! As a young woman I loved choral singing so when Michael Williams – the other one!!!- announced we were doing Hayden’s Creation to accompany the new Oratorio we had commissioned on Climate Change, I said ‘Please can I sing?’ He was sceptical- rightly. I haven’t sung for 50 years. But I engaged a wonderful young student Opera Singer as my teacher and together we have been studying The Creation. I am happy to report that despite the lockdown our lessons continue online and we are well into part 2!

You can read Victoria Dawson’s lockdown inspirations here.