music in may – folkestone’s music town

Folkestone was named the world’s first Music Town in September 2019.  The ethos behind the title is to incorporate music into our everyday lives.  It makes us happy, it makes us healthy and it’s a vital part of our economy.  Every month, musicians, music lovers, maitre de’s of music venues meet to discuss what’s going on in the town and plan ahead for festivals and events.  Music In May was first run last year, and aimed to have a musical event happening every day through that month.  This year the Folkestone Music Town Team are working on a bigger and better festival.  Folkelife went along to the launch of the 2024 marathon.

festival in may

Sophia Stutchbury: “Last year’s Music In May Festival was a blast.  We had over 150 events happening, from workshops to gigs, in over 35 venues across Folkestone.  We estimated that over 20,000 visitors came to the town to take part in our events.   This year, with thanks to the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust (RDHCT) and the Creative Folkestone (CF) Festivals Fund we have funding to help with the festival.  £5,000 from the RDHCT will go towards making our workshops accessible to all.  We don’t want people thinking they can’t afford to join a songwriting workshop, or a guitar workshop, so these funds will help make sure that anyone can come along.

“The next £5,000 from the CF will go towards our opening and closing parties that we’re holding at Quarterhouse.  Folkestone Music Town is a CIC (Community Interest Company) and we’re all volunteers helping run this festival.  It’s a huge amount of work, and any funds we can get to help make it all the better.”

Live Music in Folkestone
Shepway Primary and Youth Voices
Chris and Liz at The Chambers
Sacconi Quartet Credit Emilie Bailey


Sophia: “Last year we ran Choiroke which was great fun.  This year we have 7 choirs joining in including the Ukranian Choir, another from Lille and the Shepway Voices junior choir.  I dare anyone not to be brought to tears when they lead us in another song.  Last year they sang ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

“Last year the CF funded kits for people to be able to busk.  What we wanted, and what we’re planning for this year too is to have people playing music all the way from the station through town to the harbour.  Just imagine the old Bisto advert where everyone follows the smell, we want that but people following the sound of the music.

“We’ll have buskers again this year, and hopefully more than last year.  At the end of Music in May 2023 the buskers performed as part of Zest Fest in Westenhanger.”

folca – community space

Andrew Ward: “We’ve been having conversations with the council about using the Folca building.  And we’re pleased to announce that we can use that as a community space.  This is what it should be, and if it’s raining, or if it’s sunny, we’ll be playing in there.  Welcoming people into this space, and using it will be exciting.”

Sophia: “Last year, as a result of our hard work, and with the fact that Folkestone is being talked about nationally as a town on the up, we filmed a show for the BBC with chef Andi Oliver.  This is called Andi Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts and our episode goes out at 8pm on BBC 2 on 24th April 2024 – what a way to start Music in May!  Music is part of the glue that keeps this town together, and showcasing our musicians on national television is such a gift.”

music of all genres

Chris Smith: “Liz and I have been running The Chambers since 1998.  We’ve put a huge amount of work into making this a venue that’s know internationally for live music.  Last year we had 27 different events on during Music In May.  This year, it looks like May is pretty much booked up, so we’re heading into June to continue the music.”

Rhian:“I run the Sacconi Festival of Chamber Music and we’ve been coming to Folkestone for 17 years now.  Last year, with all the activity of Music In May, we became part of a much larger music festival.   We’ll be continuing this year with a Bach-themed series of concerts.  We’re not just creating a destination for audiences wanting to hear all these different types of music, but also a destination point for musicians too.  We have world-class musicians coming to Folkestone to play with us, and for us.  It’s really exciting to be helping build this reputation.

“Not only do we have such illustrious guest artists coming, but we also are nurturing talent within the town.  Sounds Folkestone, run by Matt Shipton, Grenville Hancox, and myself as administrator, has started up a Youth Orchestra for all ages and abilities.  Floriane Peycelon runs this for us and they will be performing as part of the Sacconi Festival.” 

from string quartets to dj sets

Sophia: “This is where our strapline comes from, the collaboration across the month that we’re working with many different artists.  ‘From String Quartets to DJ Sets!’ that’s what we’re about.  You will find every type of music in the line up and we invite you all to join us and support Folkestone being a music town.”

discover more about folkestone below

Sacconi Folkestone – Chamber Quartet in Residence
Everyone has a story to tell – Folkestone Songwriting Festival
Take Up Space – Folkestone Women’s Forum
The Lighthouse Tasting Rooms on the Harbour Arm

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