We’re South West Tourism Excellence Finalists

We’re South West Tourism Excellence Finalists

Hot on the heels of winning Gold and joint winner Event/Festival of the Year in the Dorset Tourism Awards, Sherborne Abbey Festival is celebrating once again, having been named today as Finalist in the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in the Tourism Event/Festival of the Year category.

Businesses and events from across the South West have been named amongst the Finalists of this year’s Tourism Awards, which saw a record of 645 entries from as far afield as the Isles of Scilly and Wiltshire, Dorset and Gloucestershire, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

Festival Chairman and Artistic Director, John Baker, said: “We’re simply thrilled that our volunteer-run festival has gone through to the finals of such a prestigious award. It is a huge accolade to all our team, our sponsors, supporters and patrons. It firmly puts Sherborne and Dorset on the map as a great destination for tourism and events, filling us with anticipation as we prepare to launch the exciting programme for our 19th Festival which runs from 4th-8th May”.

The events and festivals up for Bronze, Silver or Gold and overall Winner in this category are:

Judging involved judges poring over entries, studying website and review sites, looking at use of social media and 416 business visits, most of them unannounced mystery visits. Reports and recommendations were then submitted to an independent panel which made the final decisions.

The awards have seen a further increase in entries since 2016, reflecting their importance to entrants in showcasing the quality of their offering and as well as giving benchmark ideas for future improvements. As stated by Liz Lamport from Bulleigh Barton in Devon, a Finalist in the Dog Friendly Tourism Business category: “We really feel that the whole awards process has allowed us to develop our business.”

The awards will be presented at a black tie dinner in the Arena at the Riviera International Conference Centre in Torquay on 1st February, the culmination of a 10 month programme. They are also the official scheme for the South West, with many finalists also nominated to represent the region in the national VisitEngland awards in April 2018.

Up to six finalists have been announced in each category, but all will have to wait until 1st February to learn whether they have won Gold, Silver or Bronze at the prestigious Awards Ceremony.

Richard Stanbrook, Director of headline sponsors South West Water Business, commented: “As headline sponsors for the South West Tourism Excellence Awards, South West Water Business continues to be fully committed to the prosperity of this important and thriving industry – helping businesses save money, improve their green credentials and capitalise on their long-term sustainability. 

We’re privileged to be sponsoring the Tourism Awards again this year and wish the very best of luck to all the finalists.”

Robin Barker, Director of Services for Tourism Ltd, who manage the Awards, commented: “Excellence is elusive.  It requires patience, vision, consistency, commitment, drive, hard work, skill and often a bit of money.  That’s not an easy list and I’d like to commend this year’s finalists for once again blowing the socks of the judges.  You are a credit to tourism and the region is proud of you.”

The full list of Finalists can be seen HERE

Please follow the Awards on Twitter at @SWTourismAwards and Facebook www.facebook.com/swtourismawards/  The Hash tag is #SWTAwards

Festival GOLD in 2017 Dorset Tourism Awards

Festival GOLD in 2017 Dorset Tourism Awards

‘Just beautiful’ as the Festival wins in the Dorset Tourism Awards

After much anticipation, we’re delighted to announce that Sherborne Abbey Festival has won GOLD in the 2017 Dorset Tourism Awards, jointly awarded BEST EVENT/FESTIVAL OF THE YEAR. This is a huge achievement and we held our own against very tough competition. Judges deemed our Festival to be ‘Just beautiful’ and we couldn’t agree with them more.

We couldn’t have achieved this without the support of Sherborne Abbey and the PCC, our Presidents, Patrons and sponsors and the other churches and schools who participate. We especially thank our very many volunteers, and our Festival Committee, who work tirelessly throughout year to make the event the huge success it has become.

Thank you, and here’s to the 19th Festival coming up next year from 4-8 May.  John and Jacqui Baker

Read all about the finals below:


A record audience of 297 guests witnessed 66 trophies being presented to tourism businesses from across Dorset at the Dorset Tourism Awards dinner, held for the first time at The Lighthouse in Poole on Thursday 16th November.

Now in its fifth year, the 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 Visit England awards.  This year saw 4 new categories for Spa & Wellbeing, Active & Sporting, Artistic & Learning Experience and Guided Tour at the celebratory dinner, with awards presented by national tourism leader Bernard Donoghue.

All parts of the county saw winners – from Swanage and Portland to Cranborne and Blandford Forum, from Ferndown to Lyme Regis, Christchurch to Sherborne, Bournemouth to Poole.  Winners had been through a rigorous judging process involving initial study of entry forms and online presence, a programme of visits – often mystery visits – and ending with decisions by an independent panel.

Amongst the winners were two big surprises: an ‘Outstanding Customer Service’ award to Katie Davies at Moors Valley Country Park, for going the extra mile in researching and looking after autistic visitors, and the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Tourism’ award to the Jurassic Coast Team, for their long-term contribution to the coast and helping put Dorset on the international map.

The prestigious Winner of Winners trophy went to a business just 2 years old, Loose Reins, who also picked up two Gold awards.  Another double Gold winner was The Town Mill in Lyme Regis, whilst Moors Valley Country Park, All Hallows Farmhouse – Cookery School and Mellulah Therapy & Yoga Retreats took the other attraction and experience Golds.

Food and drink Golds were collected by The Acorn Inn, Guildhall Tavern and Taste Café at Chesil Beach, with accommodation Golds going to Dorset House B&B, Higher Moor Farm, Rockley Park, Christchurch Harbour Hotel, Greenwood Grange, The Alexandra Hotel and The Grange at Oborne.

Cross-sector Golds went to Golden Acre Holiday Bungalows for being Dog Friendly, BOD Bournemouth for Access and Inclusivity, and Bagwell Farm Touring Park for Sustainable Tourism. The Visitor Information Gold was awarded to Swanage Information Centre with the Italian Villa taking Gold for Venue and Business Tourism, whilst the Tourism Event category saw joint Golds awarded to the Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival and Sherborne Abbey Festival.

Nick Fernyhough of headline sponsors Saffery Champness said:  Saffery Champness Accountants are delighted to be the headline sponsor for the fifth consecutive year. Tourism within the UK is an ever-growing sector, particularly in the light of the exchange rate movements due to Brexit.  We are keen to see that Dorset is well placed to attract as much business and attention as possible, by delivering the highest quality product possible.  These awards reward and celebrate that excellence which is essential in this sector.

“We wish congratulations to all the finalists at this year’s awards. Standards have, as always, been particularly high.”

Chairman of the Judges, Professor Peter Jones commented: “As chairman of the Dorset tourism awards judging panel I’m delighted to report that the work of the panel becomes harder year-on-year. This is not just because of the number and the quality of the applications, but is a reflection of the commitment of the tourism businesses of whatever size and type in enhancing and developing the true authentic Dorset visitor experience.”

The Dorset Tourism Awards have seen year on year growth since their launch in June 2013. Robin Barker, who has developed the awards from first concept to their current success has been delighted with progress, saying: This year has seen record entries, more sponsors and our biggest Dorset event ever. Many congratulations to all the winners, who we look forward to working with in their quest for ever higher standards.”

Successful businesses in the Dorset Awards will now be fast tracked into the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in February 2018 and possibly on to the National Visit England Awards in April 2018.

The full list of winners can be seen HERE

Photos from the evening can be downloaded free of charge from http://nickwilliamsphotographer.co.uk/p90363110

Twitter @DorsetTourAwds  HashTag #DorsetTA

We’re Dorset Tourism Awards Finalists!

We’re Dorset Tourism Awards Finalists!

We’re thrilled to announce Sherborne Abbey Festival is a finalist in the 2017 Dorset Tourism Awards.

We are one of the top four entries in the category of Tourism Event/Festival of the Year – guaranteed to collect a Gold, Silver or Bronze award at the Dorset Tourism Awards finals on 16th November at The Lighthouse (Centre For the Arts) Poole. The finalists in this category all demonstrated innovation, distinctiveness and clear evidence they make a significant contribution to the economy of a Dorset destination.

Festival Chairman John Baker says: “This award is an accolade to our Festival volunteers who work tirelessly throughout the year, enabling us to stage a world-class annual event where more than seventy percent of performances are free entry. Our success means we can support other local music and arts initiatives, and encourage young talent through charitable grants, as well as raising the profile of Sherborne and Dorset all year round as a destination for tourism, the arts, and music in particular”.

Find out more about all the finalists and highly commended entrants.

We’re proud to be at the top with other great events – in a category sponsored by Bournemouth University Department of Tourism & Hospitality www.bournemouth.ac.uk/tourism

The TOP FOUR Tourism Events & Festivals are:

This year’s awards sees an increase of 15% with 123 entries across 23 categories and a new category for Guided Tours, along with the former Experience category split into three.  Entrants went through a 3-stage judging process, taking into account websites, reviews, social media and over 90 visits by judges to businesses. All evidence was then presented to an independent judging panel which met on 3rd October. Finalists are from across the county including Lyme Regis, Sherborne, Christchurch, Poole, Weymouth, Bournemouth, Blandford Forum and Cranborne.

Robin Barker of Services for Tourism, who created and manages the awards, commented: “It is so rewarding to see the increase in entries and also the further raising of standards across the county.  Judging this year has been tougher than ever, with evidence of excellence from businesses that are investing significantly in their facilities and people.”

Successful businesses in the Dorset Tourism Awards will automatically be considered for matching categories in the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in February 2018 with the chance to go on to represent Dorset at the National VisitEngland Awards later in that year.

See Sherborne Abbey Festival’s image and media story from 2017 and see why the judge’s were so impressed with the quality of what we do. Next year’s Festival takes place from 4-8th May 2018.

New! Dorset Tourism Association

New! Dorset Tourism Association

Illustration by ‘graphic scribe and doodler’ Emma Paxton www.imagistic.co.uk


The Festival was delighted to be invited to join the newly-formed Dorset Tourism Association recently;  John & Jacqui Baker, along with Liz Burt, attended its inaugural conference on 28th March 2017. Sherborne Abbey Festival and its volunteer team are proud winners of many tourism awards. We aim to contribute all year round, not just at festival time, to local and Dorset-wide tourism – with an emphasis on local arts.  We are therefore pleased that the county now has an association to represent everything that is great about visiting this part of the UK.



Find out more about the DTA

Established in 2016, the purpose of the Dorset Tourism Association (DTA) is to promote, market and develop tourism in Dorset.

Tourism is a strategic sector for Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (Dorset LEP).


Dorset Tourism Association is a ‘free to join’ membership organisation working with tourism trade membership associations, partnerships and individual businesses.

To promote trade and commerce in tourism, and improve the overall awareness, effectiveness and quality of tourism provision, in Dorset for and to the benefit of the members, Dorset’s residents, tourists and visitors.


The Dorset Tourism Association is:

  • Representing and communicating with tourism trade members across Dorset using website, annual conference, e-newsletter, social media and PR.
  • Gathering intelligence (e.g. research, data, case studies, trend information) for market and visitor analysis.
  • Understanding changes in tourism trends, economic or other factors (e.g. technology and connectivity) and how these impact Dorset tourism businesses. Supporting initiatives that maximise the opportunity for Dorset tourism.
  • Lobbying and helping with co-ordination of activities to maximise grant making and other funding opportunities.
  • Encouraging close working and co-operation between all the Destination Management Organisations, economic development teams in the local authorities and the tourism trade throughout Dorset.
  • Providing a link into Dorset LEP and other public sector bodies as well as a point of coordination for other organisations in Dorset.

Dorset Tourism Association Board 

The aim is to have representation across tourism in Dorset, to cover the range of tourism trade businesses and organisations including accommodation, attractions, food and drink, arts and culture as well as senior local authority representation.

The Dorset Tourism Association Board is Chaired by Richard Smith, Director, The Tank Museum and Dorset LEP board member.


Dorset Tourism Association is a ‘free to join’ membership organisation working with the tourism trade membership associations and partnerships in Dorset. Any Dorset tourism business or organisation is welcome to join the DTA, either as an individual business or as part of a group or association.

Member organisations and benefits.

Annual conference for members

The first conference of the DTA was on Tuesday 28 March 2017 at Kingston Maurward College.


If you are interested in joining the DTA please contact Janet Schofield at office@dorsetta.co.uk

Tickets on general release for 2016 Festival

Tickets on general release for 2016 Festival

As of 1st March, tickets for the 2016 Sherborne Abbey Festival are on GENERAL RELEASE.

From atmospheric acoustics to rousing sea shanties, Sherborne’s annual music festival guarantees to delight music lovers of all ages.

With a seventeenth season in 2016, and many awards for tourism under its belt, Sherborne Abbey Festival can justifiably be described as a well established event. There can be no doubt that, in Sherborne, the first weekend in May now means only one thing – wonderful music of all kinds!

This year’s programme, taking place from 29th April – 3rd May is no exception; full of exciting and adventurous performances, with something for all tastes and ages.  The Festival is unique in that seventy percent of all performances are free entry, making it one of Dorset’s most welcoming and accessible musical events.

This year welcomes back Sir James Galway, accompanied his equally accomplished wife, Lady Jeanne Galway, with The Juventus Ensemble and Ruth Rogers who are performing a repertoire from Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn.  An internationally acclaimed virtuoso flautist, born in Belfast and nicknamed ‘The Man with the Golden Flute’, Sir James’ recordings have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.

The Festival also features a performance of devotional music, From the Cradle to the Cross, by globally renowned British vocal ensemble VOCES8, established as one of the most versatile and best-loved singing groups in the world, who will also stage a workshop for pupils at Sherborne Primary School as part of their visit to the town.

Audiences will enjoy one of the world’s finest early music vocal ensembles, Stile Antico, renowned for their vibrant and expressive performances of music from the Renaissance. Presenting The Touches of Sweet Harmony, an enticing programme devised to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.

As a complete contrast, direct from London’s world-famous jazz club, The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars take to the stage with world class jazz to celebrate The Ronnie Scott’s Story.

As always, local young musicians and singers have a major role with concerts by jazz, madrigal, choral and chamber ensembles from Sherborne School, Sherborne Girls, Leweston and The Gryphon School (performing Ahoy! Sing for the Mary Rose, a fusion of Tudor-style music and British Sea Shanties).  Sherborne School’s Swing Band performances are now legendary, attracting such a large audience that they have moved to a larger venue to accommodate fans.

A much anticipated highlight is the performance by Sherborne Festival Chorus, a non-auditioning community-based choir of 140 people, created in 2006 by John Baker on behalf of Sherborne Abbey Festival, to enable and encourage local people to sing to a high standard within an informal environment. Together with The Sherborne Chamber Choir and Chameleon Arts Orchestra they will present an all-English programme featuring two of our best-loved twentieth century composers, Vaughan Williams and Howells.

The Festival is an exciting celebration of contrasts in music and performance – from improvisation workshops, poetry and close harmonies to salon baroque, madrigals and classical ukulele. Whether audiences are looking for atmospheric acoustics, or rousing sea shanties, the early May bank holiday weekend in Sherborne is definitely the place to be.

For more press information and images contact:

Liz Burt, Press Officer:  liz@sherborneabbeyfestival.org

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