Wimbledon is fast becoming a brand in itself. As well as the tennis, this cosy corner of SW19 also has an exciting array of other cultural events on offer, such as the Fifth International Wimbledon Music Festival coming up 9-24 November. Bit by bit, Wimbledon’s gaining an international reputation that many other London suburbs would envy. With movers and shakers building up its artistic life, it’s evident that open spaces such as Wimbledon Common alongside the pretty churches in the area, provide the perfect backdrop to top-class events.
Therefore it’s understandable that sell-out performances are once again expected at this year’s music festival, allowing artists to display their various talents. The festival’s got an excellent reputation in the classical music world since it started four years ago and has grown exponentially from 12 to 17 events. One thing to keep an eye out for this year is a major recital recalling the world’s greatest viola player who lived locally in Marryat Road. Lionel Tertis, who died in 1975, was widely feted for his viola skills in the 20th century. The Tertis Foundation is among the sponsoring organisations for the festival – and apparently this year festival patron and supreme violist Rivka Golani will be performing recitals by Schubert, Schumann, Britten and Brahms at St John’s Church, Spencer Hill, on 12 November.
What’s interesting is that Wimbledon’s got historical links with serious music. The earliest references are to the Elizabethan Lord of the Manor, Thomas Cecil, back in the 1550s. Two centuries later in 1779, George Spencer the future 2nd Earl and Lord of the Manor celebrated his 21st birthday playing the chamber organ.
In the 1820s and 30s, the Duchess of Cannizzaro boosted Wimbledon’s music reputation – hosting concerts for selected guests at Cannizaro House, Westside Common and even holding them on Sundays which was massively controversial at the time. The Duchess built up a library of musical manuscripts and was spotted regularly at upmarket musical events across the country.
It’s not just the festival either – there’s been much musical entertainment at Wimbledon Theatre during the last century and the annual open air festival in Cannizaro Park from 1989 onwards had fantastic productions of opera and ballet. The demand’s continuing with the Fifth International Music Festival – and that was all part of the plan! Theatre and film director, Anthony Wilkinson, who organises the festival; said that when he started the event five years ago, he wanted Wimbledon to be on the world map for sport and music and he seems to be well on the way to succeeding.
So it seems that Wimbledon is slowly developing credibility as a musical cultural hub as well as a sporting one. Brand Wimbledon’s growing in its international reputation – and it looks as if that’s not going to stop anytime soon.