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Direction & Development



What are festivals?  I believe that there are broadly two types of arts festival: one is often specialised, perhaps devoted to a single art form, seldom influenced by a particular location and drawing in a widespread community of interested people; the other is particular to the place where it happens, drawing upon the culture and involving the local people in programmes which reflect a ‘sense of place’.  Both of these types of event and indeed all manner of festivals are about community – and this is an extension of what one means by ‘audience’.  This sense of community also touches the creators and performers of the art: it completes and indeed helps to define the crucial triangular relationship between the creator, the performer and the audience.


Since I was first appointed to be Artistic Director of a music festival back in 1983 – the City of London Festival, to which I was to return many years later – these special events have provided some of the most important milestones of my career in the arts, both at home and abroad.  The success of a festival depends upon its special character and, in my experience, this comes from the place and the people who populate it.  Having directed festivals both in major cities and in remote communities that live - quite literally - on the edge, my approaches have been necessarily different in each situation but there are also many common factors in the models and methods I use in the creation of successful and sustainable events.  Of course, the differences between the urban and rural contexts in which festivals can flourish are obvious; the similarities may be less so but are also important. 


Chosen themes which both inspire the artists and echo the character and concerns of each locality can be one of the most effective starting points for a curator. All festivals, be they small or large, rural or urban, flourish when there is a creative and dynamic relationship between innovation, performance and the audience.  This vital relationship extends beyond the purely artistic into the audience development and fundraising strategies which, for most successful festivals, are working hand in hand.


Please contact me for discussion, further information and availability either to lead the processes and deliver the products or to advise on the ways and means of creating and growing festivals.


Here are three case studies of different festivals which I have recently directed:


St Magnus Festival (Orkney)


The City of London Festival


Festival de Música de Setúbal (Portugal)


"During his time as Director of the City of London Festival, 2005-2013, Ian created a string of world-class programmes that were both inventive and highly collaborative.  They also reflected the increasingly diverse and international nature of the City and he achieved this with sustained success despite the challenging economic climate.


I especially enjoyed his final Festival in 2013, when I was the City of London’s Lord Mayor.  And I continue to appreciate his support for young musicians, giving them artistic advice, performance support and wise guidance early in their careers, through the City Music Foundation.


Most of all, Ian brought intelligence and warmth to the Festival, a sense of fun as well as top artistic interpretation, diversity and quality."

Sir Roger Gifford

Lord Mayor of the City of London (2012-2013)

Articles & essays

Documentaries, talks & interviews

Festivals & conferences

As always under Ian Ritchie's direction, this year's City of London Festival is as packed with half-hidden interconnections as a detective novel.  This opening concert was espcially cunning.


Review of Trees, Walls, Cities

Ivan Hewett

The Telegraph, June 2013

Last year the City of London Festival commissioned 50 new works for its 50th birthday.  This year, Ian Ritchie's last in charge, nine composers were premiered in a single concert.  What boldness!  Some famous festivals think they are being dangerously modern if they commission one new work a year.


Review of Trees, Walls, Cities

Richard Marrison

The Times, June 2013

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