It’s taken me a good couple of weeks to put my experiences of the last month into words. July is the busiest month in the calender for most people in the town of Frome and Rook Lane is no exception. I’d been to the Frome Festival many times, but this would be my first year operating from the other side of a venue!
I’d love to be able to report each detail, but the week went by in bit of a blur. This, however, was the most enjoyable part: a whirlwind of different bands, performers, promoters and audiences flowing in and out of the chapel throughout the week.
We opened with a sell-out concert from the Frome Concert Group in the form of the acclaimed Castalian Quartet. Many audience members then returned two days later for a day long music and art event, which started with Space-time – a joint improvised performance by Barry Cooper and John Law. This was shortly followed by an energetic performance by pianist Stephen Marquis, and then a great show from John Law’s Three Ways Trio. Despite the double bass player having to play sitting atop a stack of chairs, this busy day of concerts was resounding success.
A hectic week followed, with the Break 3 showcase welcoming 100 children and their families into the chapel for music, maths, art and Break 3 goody bags, given out by the Mayor of Frome. The next night, seasoned performers Hank Wangford and Brad Breath made good use of costumes and props in a concert that did not disappoint. Local jazz genius Josh Arcoleo was similarly impressive with his accomplished quartet of fellow jazz musicians.
Ian McMillan and Luke Carver Goss had audiences rolling in the aisles with their blend of songs, anecdotes and poetry. This was a particular highlight for us – not least beacause the chapel was used for its original purpose – as a place of oration.
Later in the week we welcomed the phenomenal vocal group Opus Anglicanum, who performed Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Nights Dream” to an eclectic score of classic music.
The festival was wrapped up with two magnificent performances, both arranged by Frome’s most expert promoters Dave and B. On our final Friday, North Sea Radio Orchestra came to the chapel. It was a tight squeeze getting the ten musicians onto the stage – especially with a large number of instruments and a heavily pregnant lead vocalist – but the band looked and sounded sublime. Another group who prefer to perform in churches, it was incredible to hear the acoustics here stretched their full potential. The group received a well deserved standing ovation.
On our final night, we welcomed a smaller, louder band to Rook Lane. Travelling accross the UK, Flap! were stopping off in Frome to close the Festival programme at Rook Lane. Dave and B requested ample dancing space in their seating spec – an intriguing diversion from the normal arrangement here, but the seasoned promoters assured me that it was necessary for the good people of Frome to finish the festival in a lively style. We were not disappointed – Flap! were as raucus and joyful as promised. By the third song half the room were out of their seats and dancing (including the Mayor of Frome on her second visit of the week) and by the interval the seats were empty and the dance floor full.
After a week of tidying, cleaning and catching up on sleep I reflected on the huge array of performers, musicians, artists and audiences who had passed through Rook Lane over the previous 10 days. Never before had I met such a diverse range of people in such a short space of time. I realsied that this had been happening all over the town – venues were used in new ways and filled with new audiences; gardens, studios, galleries and secret tunnels were opened up to members of the public; visitors were pouring in from out of town to discover the strange and wonderful delights the our unique town has to offer.
We’re already looking ahead to next year’s festival, and the new discoveries it will bring.