This weekend sees the opening of the wonderful Two Moors Festival.
This feast of classical music and culture, now in its seventeenth year, has a fascinating history.
In 2001, Penny Adie was driving along the high ridge near North Molton. From the road she could see great swathes of farmland, from Exmoor to Dartmoor. The landscape was punctuated by fires as diseased cattle were burned, and the air was heavy with the smoke from the pyres. It was the height of the foot & mouth crisis, and the countryside was being devastated.
Penny decided there and then that something had to be done, and that the area would need a lift – something to look forward to and to bring the community together after the horrors had passed.
The Two Moors Festival began that year as a small concern with just a few performances, but has now grown in to a cultural event of national importance.
There are so many performances this year that it's difficult to pick out highlights, but a couple are worth a mention.
One of the most unusual venues is Tiverton Parkway station - somewhere I know well thanks to my weekly trips to Westminster. The station is hosting the Kaleidoscope Saxophone Quartet this Saturday at 1145 – carefully timed to minimise interruptions from trains.
And on the Festival's last day next Saturday, the finale concert is being given by our very own North Devon Sinfonia. This local orchestra has become nationally famous after winning a recent TV competition. They'll be performing at St Paul's Church in Tiverton at 7.30.
On the same day, I'm honoured to have been asked to present the prizes at the Festival's Young Musician competition, something I'm really looking forward to.
For full details of the Festival, which runs from 13 to 21 October, log on to their website at www.thetwomoorsfestival.co.uk.
In a few years, the Two Moors Festival has grown from Penny's idea during a car journey to become one of the country's most renowned classical music events, right here on our doorstep. I'm proud to be a supporter.