October 21st, 2016

MBE is music to the ears of Warwick’s Richard Phillips

MBE is music to the ears of Warwick’s Richard Phillips MBE is music to the ears of Warwick’s Richard Phillips
Updated: 9:07 am, Jan 06, 2016

RICHARD Phillips, the Leamington Music Festival Director, has been awarded the MBE for services to Music and the Arts in the 2016 New Year Honours.

It comes as the Warwick resident marks the 50th anniversary of his career in the arts world.

After reading history at Oxford, he had two years teaching in northern Italy and then one at Warwick School, before joining Sadler’s Wells Opera in 1966 as assistant to the Dramaturge Edmund Tracey. He worked on the house magazine, programmes and publicity, and with the company’s move to the London Coliseum was the founding organiser of The Opera Club, which was to become the Friends of English National Opera.

In the 1970s, he worked for Yorkshire Arts Association, first as publications officer producing a monthly magazine about the arts in Yorkshire, and then from 1973 as music officer.

He created and helped to found the York Early Music Festival and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Early Music Network and the Regional Contemporary Music Circuit. He also introduced Coffee Concerts from Holland into Britain in 1979 in a Sunday morning series in Bradford.

The following year he moved back to Warwick to live in the house where he was born and to start a wine business with his wife Veronica.

Involvement in the arts world soon took over and he began to develop his career in organising concert series and directing festivals at a time when sponsorship fuelled their expansion. For nearly 25 years he directed Warwick Arts Society with 39 festivals in Warwick and Leamington and numerous concert series, and from 2000 to 2007 was at the helm of the Stratford on Avon Music Festival.

He organised concert series for the National Trust in the Midlands including festivals at Baddesley Clinton and Charlecote Park. He was in the team that started the Oundle International Organ Festival in 1985 and directed the first of three Solihull Arts Festivals in 1990.

His big breakthrough was being appointed as Festival Director of the Norfolk & Norwich Triennial Festival in 1986 – a festival which dated back to the 1770s. He made this into an annual event with concerts and small festivals happening at other times. He left after the 1991 festival, but the connection with Norfolk continued and he was invited to programme the 1992 and 1997 King’s Lynn Festivals.

In 2002 he founded the literary festival Warwick Word, and when Warwick Arts Society stopped in 2005, he brought together a new committee which was able to continue to put on three concert series each winter in Leamington and Warwick and the Leamington Music Festival Weekend, which had been happening with various titles over the first bank holiday in May since 1990. Leamington Music was set up as a charity in 2006.

During the Leamington Music Festival Weekend in 2015 he was able to celebrate reaching the hundredth festival he had created or directed.

In 2002 he was made an Honorary Fellow of Birmingham Conservatoire in recognition of his contribution to music in the Midlands and in 2010 was given the Outstanding Contribution to British Arts Festivals Award by the British Arts Festival Association and the Culture Award in the Warwick District Council Civic Awards.