HOW do you organise a music festival? On the surface, it looks easy – after all, it’s only six days of - mostly- competitive performance. How hard can that be to sort out?

And on the surface, that’s right. The festival is held in the middle of March, but we actually begin work the previous August, when we begin to produce a syllabus. There are classes for all the instrumental and vocal options, solos, duets, trios, ensembles, groups and choirs – and of course, they all have to be split into age groups.

As well as school age performers, we offer classes for adults with varying degrees of ability, too. Then there are our very popular non-competitive classes for young people and for adults too – and all of these performances are given encouraging comments by a highly qualified adjudicator. We are affiliated to the British and International Federation of Festivals and all our adjudicators are approved by the federation

The syllabus goes out to schools, to teachers and those further afield and to our mailing list. It goes on to our website – and then there’s a period of calm. We’re not inactive though. There is a team of people who work the computer technology, who check that the venue is ok, the accompanist is booked, the piano move is organised and the accommodation for the adjudicator is secured. All the trophies given out last year must be collected, cleaned and then reallocated for each session. There is a fantastic group of folk who act as stewards both front of house and in the hall. Of course, we all need identity badges and that’s another job!

Once the entries begin to arrive, things speed up. Some enter online while others prefer to work on paper. There are entry fees to add up and music for the official accompanist to check – and that’s often a real problem. Once we have the bulk of the entries, work begins on the programme. How long does it take 27 children to play a two minute piece of music? (That has to include them getting to and from the instrument and giving the adjudicator time to write comments. There’s a slot at the end of each class for the adjudicator’s comments and then trophies or medals are awarded. Every young performer is awarded a certificate; these are hand-written by a group of lovely folk who give their time to the festival this way.

As the age of the young performers increases, so does the complexity of the classes and the length of the performance. The competitive highlight of the week is probably the Friday evening’s classes. These are the recitals and the class which features the Grade 8 pianists.

Saturday is adult vocal day and on Saturday evening we have our Gala Concert. That’s always a lot of fun: a chance to hear again some of the pieces which have caught our imagination during the week, a chance to let our hair down a little and, perhaps most importantly, to award the major prizes and to reflect on the dedication of our senior performers.

Some of them have been with the festival for ten years and their commitment is fantastic. As they leave childhood behind and move on to careers which probably won’t include music as a profession, we salute them and we wish them well.

After a couple of weeks when we clear up, return lost property and write thank yous, we breathe a sigh of relief for maybe four months. And then it’s August again. I love it!

* Skipton Music Festival, usually held in March, will not take place this year.