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Opera star to raise £1.5 million for debt she cannot repay

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Lesley GarrettBuxton International FestivalOpera

The Duke of Devonshire and Lesley Garrett

Britain’s favourite opera star Lesley Garrett is helping to raise £1.5 million for Buxton International Festival  - which gave her a break early in her career.

“I owe this Festival a debt I simply cannot repay,” said Lesley, who was given two big roles there as a young singer.

The Festival, which is unique as it produces its own operas as well as incorporating concerts, jazz evenings and book talks, is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2019, and hopes the appeal will put its finances on a firm footing.

“Forty years ago this Festival and I were in our professional infancy,” said Lesley, who is Patron of the Appeal.

“I very much feel we grew up together. There is something for everyone in this Festival. You cannot, even in this cash-strapped world, allow that great heritage that we have worked so hard for to fail for lack of effort.”

The Festival already generates £3 million for the economy of the area, but the appeal aims to create a financial base which will allow it to expand.

“Our vision is to increase the international profile, run a year-round festival programme and strengthen the local connection,” said Executive Director Randall Shannon.

Nationally, the Festival provides an important training ground for the opera singers, musicians and theatre technicians of the future with its annual Made in Buxton original productions.

A survey by the University of Derby demonstrated that the average Festival-goer spends more than £320 each locally, and the event attracts visitors from France, Ireland, Germany, South Africa, the United States of America and New Zealand.

Lesley Garrett

“With some increased investment, the Festival could become a landmark in the UK for events,” said the report. 

Buxton has won a European award for its outreach work with local children, and former headteacher and now Chairman of the Festival Friends David Brindley said taking opera singers and musicians into classrooms paid dividends by widening young people’s horizons.

“We bring them in for a reason – because they inspire people,” he said. “When you take them into schools, the looks on the children’s faces are fantastic. It’s about nurturing talent and widening our audience base.”

The appeal, backed by the Festival Company’s President the Duke of Devonshire, aims to raise the £1.5 million over three years.

The  Festival in 2018 will coincide with restoration of the magnificent Georgian Crescent to its former glory as a five-star spa hotel, while the town, together with the local authority and the University of Derby was now working on developing Buxton’s tourist potential.

“The Festival is absolutely the epicentre of this continuing success and growth, and the opportunities for Buxton are enormous,” said the Duke.

“Without the Festival, Buxton and Derbyshire would be a much poorer place.”

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