Double Award Celebration

Double Award Celebration


A record 78 trophies were presented to tourism businesses from across the county at the 2019 Dorset Tourism Awards dinner, held at The Tank Museum on Thursday 17th October with guest speaker Simon Cripps, Chief Executive of Dorset Wildlife Trust.

It was a double celebration for Sherborne Abbey Festival as the team collected SILVER in the Tourism Event/Festival of the Year category along with GOLD for Outstanding Contribution to Dorset Tourism, presented to Festival Director John Baker. In recognition of the many new initiatives for young people introduced last year and the Festival’s continued support of local schools and emerging young musicians, the judges said:

“Excellent, really embracing the younger generation”

Now in its seventh year, the Dorset Tourism Awards broke all records in celebrating the best of Dorset tourism and also as the route for Dorset businesses to win in the South West and national VisitEngland awards.  This year saw a new category for Dog Friendly Pub along with many category changes at the celebratory dinner, with awards presented by BBC Dorset’s Steve Harris and an inspiring talk about Dorset’s wildlife by Simon Cripps.

All parts of the county saw winners – from Shaftesbury and Sherborne in the in the north, to Christchurch, Poole and Bournemouth in the east, and Lyme Regis, Purbeck, Weymouth, Bridport and Lyme Regis in the south and west. Winners had been through what is recognised as one of the country’s most rigorous judging processes involving assessment of entry forms, 115 judging visits and ending with decisions by an independent panel.

Amongst the winners were three big surprises: two ‘Outstanding Contribution to Tourism’ awards to Libby Battaglia of Light Up Poole and John Baker of Sherborne Abbey Festival, as well as the Customer Service Superstar award to Pete Abbott from the café at Upton Country Park.

The prestigious Winner of Winners trophy went to Bagwell Farm Touring Park for their consistency in winning the sustainable tourism Gold award for the third successive year. Other multiple Gold winners were The Grove Arms at Ludwell, Christchurch Harbour Hotel and the Jetty, Jurassic Coast Guides and the Tank Museum and Tankfest.

Top Gold awards were presented to Durlston Country Park for Accessible and Inclusive Tourism, Cumulus Outdoors for Active and Sporting Experience, Marsham Court Hotel for Business and Wedding Venue, West Bay Discovery Centre for New Tourism Business and Mellulah Therapy and Yoga Retreats for Spa and Wellbeing.  Amongst accommodation providers Gold awards went to Wooden Cabbage for B&B and Guesthouse of the year, The Green House for Small Hotel of the year, South Lytchett Manor Caravan and Camping Park for Camping and Caravanning, Highlands End Holiday Park for Holiday Park of the Year, Farmstead Glamping for their glamping business and Greenwood Grange for self catering.

Other food and drink Golds were collected by Three Horseshoes Pub and Kitchen in Burton Bradstock and the Yellow Bicycle Café in Blandford Forum, whilst further attraction Golds went to Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park and the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum.  

Swanage Information Centre took Gold in the all-important Visitor Information category, with Yellow Buses taking Gold for Tourism Innovation.

Nick Fernyhough, Partner at headline sponsors Saffery Champness said: “What a fantastic evening. The awards have demonstrated the depth and quality of the tourism industry in Dorset with so many worthy winners. Dorset’s tourism offering continues to go from strength to strength and it is a privilege to be involved with so many people and organisations that are contributing in so many ways to the Dorset economy. Standards seem to rise every year and it is great to see so many new names amongst the winners.

“Robin and his team do a fantastic job putting on this event which showcases all that is best about the visitor experience in Dorset.”

The Dorset Tourism Awards have seen year on year growth since their launch in June 2013. Robin Barker, who has led the awards throughout this development has been delighted with progress, saying: “Tourism is a global industry and no-one can afford to stand still.  It is so rewarding to see so many Dorset tourism businesses take on this challenge, investing so much in their businesses and in being the best.  Huge congratulations to everyone!”

Successful businesses in the Dorset Awards will now be fast tracked into the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in February 2020 and possibly into the national VisitEngland awards later in the year.

Photos from the evening can be downloaded free of charge from 

For a full list of winners and commended click HERE

For Sherborne Abbey Festival press information and images contact: Liz Murray

Tourism Awards Success

Tourism Awards Success

Sherborne Abbey Festival is Finalist: Tourism Event/Festival of the Year 2019

Finalists have been announced for this year’s Dorset Tourism Awards which will be presented at The Tank Museum on 17 October at a prestigious Awards dinner hosted by BBC Dorset’s Steve Harris, with guest Speaker Simon Cripps, Chief Executive of Dorset Wildlife Trust.

TOURISM EVENT/FESTIVAL OF THE YEAR Finalists, sponsored by Yellow Buses

A record 146 entries were received from across Dorset, with 77 selected as finalists who are now in suspense until the Awards Ceremony at the Tank Museum, when they will learn whether they have won Gold, Silver or Bronze awards. A further 12 receive Commended status.

The 7th year of the competition has seen many changes, with new entry forms, new processes and a closer-than-ever link with the regional South West and national VisitEngland Awards.  Judging has also changed with an increased focus on digital presence and evidence.

Awards organiser Robin Barker of Services for Tourism commented: “Change is one of the constants in business success and so it is with awards entrants and our own teams, who this year have completed a record 115 judging visits to Dorset businesses in their search for exemplars of excellence.  This year has also seen our own recognition winning a Gold accreditation in the Awards Trustmark scheme, the only holders of this accolade in the region or in UK tourism, and I’d like to publicly acclaim all those in our teams whose professionalism has made this possible.”

Saffery Champness Chartered Accountants Partner Nick Fernyhough advised: “Interest in the awards has continued to increase year on year and the judging panel were thoroughly delighted at this year’s numbers. What has been particularly pleasing has been to see the number of first-time finalists as well as lots of new brand names and first-time entries.

​”The Awards continue to reflect the constant improvement in the tourism industry in the county and Saffery Champness Accountants are delighted to be headline sponsors for yet another year.  We are very much looking forward to recognising and rewarding outstanding achievements by Dorset businesses at the prestigious Awards event.”

For a full list of finalists in ALL categories click HERE

Opera in Oborne

Opera in Oborne

We’re thrilled to share with you news of our neighbouring music festival – Opera in Oborne which is happening in August.

Each year in August, St Cuthberts Church is transformed into a theatre for a weekend of sublime music. Whilst everything ‘back of house’ is carried out by an enthusiastic crew of villagers, the cast are all international soloists in their own right.

Opera in Oborne aims to make opera accessible to all and encourages first time opera-goers. Operas are cleverly abridged by the Director, Stephen Anthony Brown and usually last 2 hours including the interval. Televisions are used to show the audience plot prompts throughout the performances.​

​As circumstances allow, additional events are put on over the weekend, or at other times of the year. Proceeds from the event go to the upkeep of the church.




La Boheme
Friday 2nd, Saturday 3rd and Monday 5th August 2019, 8.00 pm

The most famous opera of them all, Puccini’s La Boheme.​

​Everyone loves La Boheme! Whether its the fantastic music, the tears of joy and heartbreak for Rodolfo and Mimi, or the sheer style of bohemian Paris in La Belle Époque, everyone adores this most romantic of operas. If this is your first visit or your hundredth, La Boheme’s emotional charge is irresistible – and you certainly need those tissues!

Il segreto di Susanna
Saturday 3rd August, 3.00 pm

What is Susanna hiding? Her husband’s suspicions are driving him wild. Will it destroy their marriage?

All is revealed in this hilarious 50 minutes of sparkling opera at its tuneful best by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari. Writing at the same time as Puccini, Wolf-Ferrari became internationally famous for his beautiful melodies and bubbling comedy. “Il Segreto”, with its contemporary plot and catchy tunes, is a great example of why he was one of the most performed opera composers of the 1900s.”


The Gala Concert

Sunday 4th August, 6.00 pm

How Opera in Oborne started, the ever-popular gala concert.​

Previous years have included favourites such as the Toreador Song, La donna e mobile and Maria from West Side Story alongside some lesser known, but beautiful arias.​

The perfect way to introduce opera to a wider audience.

For more information about performances and tickets call 01935 817194 or visit:



Dorset Moon lands in Sherborne 5-7 July

Dorset Moon lands in Sherborne 5-7 July

Feature image credit Luke Jerram / University of Bristol


It has travelled all over the world and wowed thousands. Now Luke Jerram’s internationally acclaimed Museum of the Moon is making its way to Dorset for the first time as part of DORSET MOON; the exciting new arts event for summer 2019. Inside Out Dorset, b-side and Bournemouth Arts By the Sea presents Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon as the centrepiece for a full programme of FREE lunar-inspired events, creating an experience that is out of this world.

Measuring seven metres in diameter, the moon features 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface. At an approximate scale of 1:500,000, each centimetre of the internally lit spherical sculpture represents 5km of the moon’s surface. Over its lifetime, the Museum of the Moon will be presented in a number of different ways both indoors and outdoors, so altering the experience and interpretation of the artwork. The installation is a fusion of lunar imagery, moonlight and surround sound composition created by BAFTA and Ivor Novello award winning composer Dan Jones

Sherborne is proud to be hosting #DorsetMoon at Sherborne Abbey from 5th-7th July, featuring a number of unique art installations along with a concert ‘The Seven Stars’ by Sherborne Abbey Choir. Sherborne is offering a town-full of activities to celebrate the event and welcome tourists to our historic town. The whole community, along with churches, schools, businesses, shops and organisations has come together to create a series of performances, displays, workshops, walks and competitions to complement the official #DorsetMoon programme.  Of course there will also be regular liturgical services ‘under the moon’ to which visitors are very welcome. Find out more at Sherborne TIC in Digby Road and

Read the official Press Release issued 1st July 2019

Visit for information on all three #DorsetMoon venues and activities


Andrew Smith | Moondust Friday 5th July 7pm

An evening with Andrew Smith, author of the international bestseller Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth and the BBC documentary Being Neil Armstrong. This celebratory event to mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing will combine lively conversation and Smith’s dramatic reading of his account of the first landing, with music and recently-uncovered film footage from a camera behind Buzz Aldrin’s head as the lunar module descended. Described as one of the books of the last decade this is one not to miss. BOOK NOW

‘Under The Moon’ Town Walks with a local Blue Badge Guide

Visit Sherborne Walks for more information or to book this very special experience

Space Detectives FREE Astronomy Workshops

Come along to the Space Detectives FREE family workshops after your visit to the Museum of the Moon. These are drop-in sessions for all ages so turn up whenever suits you.

Train Like An Astronaut
Saturday 6 July, 1pm to 5pm at Cheap Street Church
A highly interactive workshop using virtual reality experiences, learn what it takes to become an astronaut.

Blast Off!
Sunday 7 July, 12pm to 5pm at Digby Memorial Hall
Dress up as an astronaut, find out about different rockets and how they work and launch your own space rocket!

Summer Reading Challenge #SpaceChase

Join artist Darrell Wakelam and create rockets to mark the launch of the #SpaceChase #SummerReadingChallenge 2019 and the #DorsetMoon installation!

Drop in session for ages 4 – 11.  Sherborne Library Saturday 6th July 10am – 2pm (Children under 8 must be accompanied by a parent or carer)

‘The Seven Stars’ with Sherborne Abbey Choir

Be uplifted with a performance by Sherborne Abbey Choir in Sherborne Abbey on Saturday 6th July at 7.30pm. The Seven Stars programme includes favourites from the choir’s 2019 repertoire, along with pieces chosen especially for Dorset Moon, including Jonathan Doves’ Seek him that maketh the seven stars, Adam’s O holy night and Rutter This is the day. The choir will also give a second performance of the anthem Praise the Lord, O my soul by David Bednall, commissioned by Sherborne Abbey Festival and premiered at this year’s Festival. Free entry with retiring collection.

Director: Paul Ellis | Organists: Peter Bray, Kentaro Machida and David Bednall

Getting to Sherborne and accessibility

Here’s all you need to know about travelling to see #DorsetMoon in Sherborne and accessibility at Sherborne Abbey

Record audience for Benedetti

Record audience for Benedetti

Sherborne Abbey Festival welcomed globally-acclaimed stars of music to its 5-day event over the May Bank Holiday weekend. World-class violinist Nicola Benedetti CBE wowed a capacity audience of more than 820 in Sherborne Abbey while fans of BBC’s Pointless got to see another side to entertainer Alexander Armstrong who demonstrated his superb singing skills, accompanied by four truly accomplished musicians. As a complete contrast, Claire Martin OBE and Ray Gelato, the UK’s ‘Godfather of Swing’, entertained in their own inimitable style at Sherborne School with an evening of jazz while vocal ensemble Tenebrae made a very welcome return to the Festival. A much anticipated highlight was the performance by Sherborne Festival Chorus, a non-auditioning community-based choir of 140 people, with Mendelssohn’s Elijah, with bass David Soar as Elijah.

These stellar performers were joined by other hugely talented musicians and singers throughout the Festival – including, to name but a few, organist James O’Donnell (Director of Music at Westminster Abbey), baritone Benjamin Hewat-Craw and pianist Varvara Tarasova.

A group from Dorset Opera Festival ran the Festival’s popular Saturday morning workshop and then performed an outdoor ‘Pocket Performance’ of La Traviata in front of around 200 people enjoying the sunshine outside Waitrose; while a relaxed screening of Fantasia, Disney’s 1940 animation set to classical music, and a Guitar Workshop for ‘Kids That Rock’ gave a lot of bank holiday fun for young people of the town.

We were delighted to be one of the first events to use the brand new Arts Centre at Sherborne Girls with a moving performance The Pity of War, with BBC Radio 3’s Petroc Trelawny, and a magnificent piano recital by Ana Laura Manero. 

Liturgical elements of the Festival, always a very important part of the event, included a new anthem, commissioned especially for the anniversary from locally-born composer David Bednall, which was played by David for the first time at Sherborne Abbey’s Choral Evensong on Sunday 5th May. As always, local young musicians, bands and singers had a major role with jazz, close harmony and barbershop, madrigal, choral and chamber ensembles from Sherborne School, Sherborne Girls, Leweston and The Gryphon School.

An after Festival wine-pairing dinner event at The Eastbury Hotel on May 8th offered a contrasting wind-down to a busy week, when guests enjoyed French cafe-style entertainment by the Terry Quinney Trio, along with a talk from award-winning organic & biodynamic winemaker Caro Feely and a delicious menu by chef Matthew Street of Seasons Restaurant.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the hundreds of talented performers who entertained us, the staff of Sherborne Abbey and all of our Festival venues, our sponsors, local business supporters and suppliers, patrons, organising committee and volunteers (without whom the Festival would simply not be possible) and especially to all of you who came to concerts and enjoyed what the Festival is all about – great music and performance for ALL the community to enjoy!

We are grateful to the many thousands who shared our programme of musical experiences with others in the local community, while flying the flag for Sherborne and Dorset to all those Festival-goers from further afield!


Please enjoy some amazing photographs from our 20th Season, by our resident photographer LEN COPLAND:

Visit our google album:

Copyright Notice: Photographs are free to download, share and re-publish but please credit Len Copland and Sherborne Abbey Festival

Also see our social media and events gallery by Liz Murray:

Visit our google album:

A rich history and an exciting future

A rich history and an exciting future

Founded by Artistic Director John Baker in 2000, Sherborne Abbey Festival celebrates its 20th season in 2019. Time to reflect on the achievements of this award-winning local event while also looking with excitement to the future.

Sherborne Abbey Festival is unique, being charity-run entirely by experienced volunteers, and also in its support of musical good causes. It is the event that gives back to the community: Since its inception, more than £300,000 has been redistributed through scholarships and grants; along with ongoing support of the music and choir at Sherborne Abbey and maintenance of the Abbey’s famous Tickell organ (installed by Gray and Davison in 1856 and rebuilt by Kenneth Tickell & Co in 2005). Indeed, even the cushioned pew seats in the Abbey and Quire are gifts of the Festival. The town’s annual Young Musician of the Year competition is also a beneficiary, as well as well as countless talented young individuals who have been awarded grants towards music studies or help to purchase professional musical instruments.

One of the ways the Festival is celebrating its 20th season is with the launch of a contemporary new look, inspired by the famous vaulted ceiling of Sherborne Abbey, with a logo designed by Kevin Swindell, a local Dorset designer based at Wyke. This year’s programme also includes a number new initiatives aimed to extend its outreach and scope. Two free events especially for children include a guitar workshop and a relaxed film screening of a 1940 Disney classic Fantasia while visitors can expect the unexpected, with pop-up opera in the high street, in collaboration with Dorset Opera, and two unique music and dining events which wrap around the five days. Sherborne Abbey Festival is renowned for being inclusive, with something on offer for all ages and musical tastes and up to seventy percent of concerts free entry; it really is a unique offering in a very commercial world and something to be proud of.

But how did the Festival originally come about?

The story of this very successful Festival begins with the initiative of its founder and present Artistic Director John Baker back in 2000. John would be the first to confess that he had a limited musical upbringing; however, when his son became a chorister at Wells Cathedral in 1995 he set out on a musical journey of his own. Particular inspiration came from his first visit to the Edington Music Festival in Wiltshire; a choral liturgically-based festival that has now been running for 65 years, which made John think how a similar series of events could work in the equally beautiful surroundings of Sherborne Abbey.

With the Vicar’s support a working party was set up to explore the idea of how the Festival could work, with the initial group made up of John Baker, The Revd. Canon Eric Woods, Malcolm Archer, Master of Choristers at Wells Cathedral, and John Padley, Choir Master at Sherborne Abbey. The working party decided that it would be a good idea to aim for a four day festival at the beginning of May 2000. It was also agreed that it should be based around the liturgy, rather than being purely liturgical, as this would allow the Festival to host a wider variety of concerts. With many ideas and much enthusiasm, there was only one key factor that the working party needed to arrange for the first festival to go ahead – the funding. In this instance it was the Parochial Church Council (PCC) who came up trumps with enthusiastic support and a loan of £1000, to act as a ‘pump primer’ in order to facilitate funds to be obtained from other sources. This loan was agreed between John Baker and the PCC on the understanding that any profits made would be used to fund future festivals and to promote music in the Parish.

The principal aims of the Festival were set out to be outreach for the Abbey, staging attractive programmes with internationally renowned performers as well as engaging with young people to help them build on their musical talents. Professional performances are interspersed with free concerts by hugely talented students of the town’s schools, choirs and music groups, ranging from early music, madrigal and chamber music to jazz and barbershop. In paricular, Sherborne School, Sherborne Girls, The Gryphon School and Leweston School all have very strong music departments and the concerts they present are of an extremely high standard. This combination gives a unique flavour to the Festival, enticing people through the doors in order to experience the beauty and majesty of Sherborne’s historic Abbey Church.  Apart from local patronage, it was hoped the Festival would attract visitors from far and wide to the town, to Dorset and to the South West in general. Even then, as now, tourism was crucial to the town’s viability.

The initial working party was the basis for the Abbey Festival Committee when it was formed, with the then Sherborne Abbey Treasurer, David Lovelock, joining the committee as Treasurer. Having decided the line-up for the first Festival, which included Clifton Cathedral Choir, Bath Camerata and Wells Cathedral Choir, a steep learning curve was faced as to how to get the publicity leaflets, posters, programmes and tickets designed, laid out and printed. With no funds available for professional design, John Baker had no option but to learn, together with Richard Churchill – a verger at the Abbey, how to design and lay out everything, from tickets and programmes to websites and posters. The first Festival cost £5,000 to stage; it made approximately £2,500 profit and, as a consequence, the PCC loan was repaid even before the event had actually taken place.

In 2003, the Festival established its Patrons scheme offering people an opportunity to support the event financially and help it grow. There are now four levels of patronage: platinum, gold, silver and bronze – all offering different benefits, from advanced bookings, generous ticket discounts, pre-concert drinks and even a patrons’ party.

Another milestone in 2006 was the formation of Sherborne Festival Chorus, a non-auditioning community-based choir of 140 people, created by John Baker to enable and encourage local people to sing to a high standard within an informal environment. The Chorus is led by Paul Ellis, a professional conductor and Director of Music at Sherborne Abbey. The choir’s inaugural concert of Haydn’s Creation in April 2006, with professional soloists and orchestra, was highly acclaimed and they have performed to capacity audiences in the Abbey every year since.

How the Festival has grown since those early days! Technology (including our new ticketing system in 2019) and social media has made the Festival an entirely different event from the perspective of both staging and promotion. Outreach is magnified through a strong online presence, a loyal mailing list and the benefit of electronic communication. One thing hasn’t changed though and that’s the fact the organisation is still entirely run by volunteers. It was a few years before organisers felt brave enough enter major awards but since then the Festival has scooped many accolades, especially for tourism. In 2017 it was a real highlight to be awarded Gold in the Dorset Tourism Awards and Joint Best Event of the Year, followed by Silver in the 2017/18 South West England Tourism Excellence Awards. Judges deemed the Festival ‘Just beautiful’ and acknowledged the contribution it has made to the economy of Sherborne, one of Dorset’s most iconic market towns.

Over the years the Festival has attracted many world-class singers, musicians and performers– some have loved the experience so much they have agreed to come back more than once! Notable stars include Lesley Garrett CBE, Sir James Galway and Nicola Benedetti CBE, along with renowned vocal ensembles such as The Sixteen, Tenebrae, The Tallis Scholars and Voces8. From jazz to gospel and opera to dance – not forgetting a most memorable performance by Michael Morpurgo and the National Theatre’s own War Horse – the Festival has staged hundreds of stellar performances over twenty seasons and welcomed close to a hundred thousand concert-goers, all of them enchanted by what Sherborne Abbey and the surrounding town has to offer. And long may it continue.

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