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Photograph credits:
Alan Johnson – Nell Dunn
Milly Johnson – Chris Sedgewick  

If you think political autobiographies are not for you, think again. Alan Johnson’s four volumes, all named after Beatles’ songs, are engagingly different. They vividly document his path from childhood adversity in a 1950s London slum, becoming a virtual orphan at 13, working as a postman and rising to become head of the union, then on to politics and ministerial posts. Three won major literary prizes; the latest, featuring the The Fab Four, appeared in paperback in June. He is currently working on a thriller.

With over two million books sold, Barnsley-born Milly Johnson is known as ‘The Queen of Feel-Good Fiction’. Her career as a novelist began 12 years ago with The Yorkshire Pudding Club, written while she and two friends were pregnant, and she realised she wanted to write about ‘the extraordinary that exists within ordinary, everyday life’. Her 16th novel, The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew has recently been published in paperback.

Alan Johnson was General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union before entering Parliament as Labour MP for Hull West and Hessle in 1997. He served as Home Secretary from June 2009 to May 2010. Before that, he filled a wide variety of cabinet positions in both the Blair and Brown governments, including Health Secretary and Education Secretary. Until 20 January 2011 he was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. Alan retired as an MP before the 2017 general election.

His childhood memoir This Boy was published in 2013. It won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Orwell Prize, Britain’s top political writing award. His second volume of memoirs Please Mr Postman appeared the following year and won the National Book Club award for Best Biography. The final book in his memoir trilogy, The Long and Winding Road, was published in 2016 and won the Parliamentary Book Award for Best Memoir

In September 2018 his latest book, In My Life – A Music Memoir, was launched at Studio 2, Abbey Road where the Beatles made almost all their records.

He and his wife, Carolyn, live in East Yorkshire.



Milly Johnson always wanted to be a writer, but her professional life initially took her on a different course. She started writing verses for greeting card publishers in her spare time and progressed through two rejected novels until she found her subject – the women she had worked with in a succession of jobs in mills, banks and offices, and the friendships that endure regardless of age, colour, class or creed. And the importance of Yorkshire.

She says that though the covers of her books often feature a beautiful care-free woman, inside there are deep, dark storylines. Her romantic comedies are as layered and complicated as crime novels, with plots and sub-plots that tie up neatly, as that’s what her readers expect.

Her literary inspirations are the Barnsley writer Barry Hines (A Kestrel for a Knave, filmed as Kes, and Threads) and Catherine Cookson, who was first published in her late 40s. Milly got her first publishing deal when she was forty and is now published internationally not only in English but in French, Spanish, Italian and Norwegian, with millions of copies of her books sold across the world.

Her most recent book, The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew, was published in paperback on 11thJuly 2019.

Milly lives with her partner, teenage sons, rescue cats, rabbit and dog just around the corner from her parents in the centre of Barnsley.


Have you ever fancied yourself as a bit of a wine buff? Come along to this event and see how good you really are, pit your taste buds and knowledge against those of our three ‘experts’. You taste six different wines and decide which of the three ‘experts’ is telling the truth – not an easy task as they all sound very plausible. Teams of up to 8 people. Prizes for the winners. French bread and cheese supper. A real fun evening for all.


Neil started playing the accordion at the age of 14 and formed his own band in 1982.  Since then he has played all over the UK and in Germany, France, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Canada and the USA.  He has played in many top Scottish Dance Bands performing in dance halls, theatre and on TV and Radio.  His band still plays regularly on BBC Radio Scotland. 

Neil will be joined tonight by Betty Hagart to call the dances. No excuses. We expect the ballroom to be filled with you and your friends dancing to this exceptional team.



Camilla Bisengaliev, Claudio Lamuraglia & Martin Binks

The Chamber Orchestra of Leeds has been newly formed by the conductor, Martin Binks MBE. It’s inaugural concert was held in October 2018 to wide critical acclaim. Martin, as conductor of the Leeds Symphony Orchestra has long been a favourite of Wetherby Festival visitors. The Chamber Orchestra will continue that tradition.

Accompanying the orchestra is our resident soloist, Charlotte Rowan, on violin.

Our programme will be the following:

Beethoven  – Overture:Egmont
Bruch          – Violin Concerto No.1
Soloist: Charlotte Rowan
Bizet            – Jeux d’enfants
Vivaldi        – Concerto for 2 Oboes
Soloists: Camilla Bisengaliev & Claudio Lamuraglia
Mozart – Symphony No.41 in C – ‘The Jupiter’

Martin Binks received a standing ovation at the climax of his recent concert at the Centro Orsini in Puglia, Italy where Camilla Bisengaliev also performed. Camilla is well known to the Wetherby Festival having previously played for us. Claudio Lamuraglia is a renowned oboist and artistic director of the ‘Nuova Musica’ Chamber Orchestra of Puglia in Italy.



Charlotte has gained recognition for her virtuosity and masterful command of the violin.  She has performed with orchestras both in America and Britain and has played at some of the country’s finest cathedrals: Ely, Winchester, Chichester, Ripon, Chelmsford, Lincoln, and Manchester, to critical acclaim.  She has appeared at many festivals including Homerton, Harwich, Edinburgh, Crail and Buckingham.  Her refreshing approach to concert programming and stylistic interpretations has resonated strongly with audiences and attracted new listeners to the violinistic genre.

Vitali – Chaconne in G minor

Sarasate – Carmen Fantasy

Mendelssohn – Andante and Rondo Capriccioso

Bartok – Six Romanian Dances

and works by Wieniawski, Milhaud and Szymanowski



John Dunford

John Dunford will perform some of the great music of the baroque. He will include the music of  Bach, Buxtehude and Bruhns. In particular, expect to hear Bach’s great Toccata and Fugue in D minor. This is a great opportunity to hear an outstanding musician.

John is the longest serving conductor of both the 170 strong Ripon Choral Society and the 120 strong Wetherby Choral Society (22 and 26 years respectively) with many acclaimed performances over the years and is in demand running choral workshops and ‘come and sing’ events. He is a professional tenor, baritone and even countertenor soloist performing with Choral Societies in the Yorkshire area.

John’s professional music making as an organist has involved him in performances at some 22 Cathedrals in England and on the Continent, fulfilling an ambition by playing for a service at York Minster ten years ago. He has held a number of posts as organist including Director of Music at Sheffield Cathedral and has accompanied services for the BBC World Service and has appeared several times for both BBC and ITV for televised services.

Aspects of Opera comprising Helen Whittington, Sarah-Louise Ince, James Kinsella with Janet Bishop on the piano, have been working together for over a decade. They have brought their unique blend of song, humour and repartee to a wide mix of of venues throughout the UK and Ireland.

 We are delighted to be guests of Wetherby Whaler for this new event. We guarantee a most enjoyable evening.



Joseph Spratt (Tenor), Heather Jane Taylor (Soprano) with Martin Binks (Piano) perform  a selection of popular songs from opera and the musicals – from Puccini to Bernstein.

These very talented singers proved very popular at our 2017 Festival. We expect they will be equally popular this time.



Tesni Ward is a professional wildlife photographer.  She uses her images and stories to promote conservation.  They educate the public on the struggles wildlife faces.  They challenge us to ask what we can do to protect species under threat, whether it is mountain hares, Skomer puffins, red grouse, Eurasian badgers or wildfowl.  They reveal a magical experience of the natural world.



The Leeds Symphony Orchestra Woodwind Quartet make their first appearance in Wetherby. Camilla Bisengaliev (oboe), Hannah Dilworth (flute), Mary Plumb (clarinet) and Charlotte Crossley (bassoon) will perform with  Martin Binks on piano.



One piano, 2 pianists, 20 fingers – fireworks from the piano duet repertoire.

We are fortunate to be able to enjoy the musical skills of these 2 accomplished pianists.

Martin Binks is conductor of the Leeds Symphony  and  Leeds Chamber Orchestras. He has worked with several Yorkshire choral societies and as Artistic Director and Conductor of West Riding Opera, he has conducted more than two hundred and fifty performances of over forty operas.

Michael Payne is musical director at St James’ Church. He was previously at Ross-on-Wye where he also accompanied the choir at Hereford and Gloucester cathedrals.


Join Tom Wrigglesworth and Sean McLoughlin for an evening of insightful fun.

Supporting Ricky Gervais on his International Humanity Tour, Sean McLoughlin has been described by Time Out as ‘the best comedian you haven’t heard of’.  This ‘impassioned and uniquely brilliant’ stand-up comedian is a regular on the UK circuit, headlining shows across America and Europe as well the Edinburgh Fringe.  His current podcast is called Sean and Eliot read the Bible and can be found wherever podcasts are found.

Tom Wrigglesworth is an established Stand-Up comedian, Radio and TV presenter and voice-over artist from Sheffield. He is best known for his live storytelling shows and BBC Radio comedy programmes which take a comical and emotional look at family relationships.

Alongside his comedy work, he’s used his engineering background to become a natural and engaging presenter for BBC Television and The Discovery Channel.

He is also known for his uncanny resemblance to record breaking Quarter-Back Aaron Rodgers. Tom visited Green Bay to meet his doppleganger and a short movie by NFL Films covering his trip became a viral Youtube hit.



Hear St James’ organ put through its paces in a scintillating concert of music from the past 400 years.

The present 2 manual organ was installed by Laycock & Bannister of Keighley in 1974.  Its range was extended by Principal Pipe Organs of York in 1997.

Badapple Theatre are renowned for their innovative and superb new comedy dramas, at the smallest of venues through their ‘Theatre On Your Doorstep’ programme.

They came, they saw, they built a wall… they went away again. Or did they?

A clandestine meeting at the Phoenix pub gets heated, as the villagers rack their brains for new ways to fight the imminent housing development that threatens village life as they know it.

The discovery of an ancient Roman site under foot may just throw them a lifetime if they can somehow authenticate their mysterious findings. But things aren’t always what they seem!

Expect a double dose of comedy as the situation goes “ballisticus maximus” in this brand new original comedy from Kate Bramley and Badapple Theatre.

Bramley crafts elegiac drama that is both witty and wistful, humorous and haunting, assisted by Jez Lowe’s typically adroit songwriting.   “YORK PRESS



Moving Stories – An interactive dance work for young children and families by Katy Hewison. 

‘Engaging, playful and welcoming’

Observe the journey of Beanlet, a playful character discovering interaction with people in an unknown, imaginative space.

Inspired by Montessori learning methods and Play Theories, the work uses elements of improvisation, physical theatre and invitations for interaction, if you wish.

Each sharing will also feature a short performance Improplay. This is a collaboration between 12 children from St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Wetherby and professional dance artists using improvisation and physical theatre.

Katy is a local dance artist from Wetherby, passionate about sharing the practices of improvisation and
physical theatre and their movement, imagination and engagement potential for all ages and abilities. Katy has performed & taught throughout Yorkshire, UK and Internationally. Trained at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Leeds.

This award winning ABBA Tribute Band ‘Revival’ have recently been voted as the UK’s Official No.1 ABBA tribute act by the Agent’s Association of Great Britain. This renowned ABBA stage show has proved a hit time and time again in the UK and the world over, wowing audiences from Europe to the Middle East and the band has even been invited to perform a 5 day tour in ABBA’s homeland of Sweden.

The show includes faithful choreography, spectacular and authentic costumes, stunning production and, most importantly, excellent musicianship.

ABBA Revival takes their audience on a musical journey back to those heady pop-tastic disco days when ABBA ruled the dance floor! They’ll guarantee to get everybody dancing – even the biggest party grouch will be throwing shapes in no time.

Why not come dressed for the occasion. Helicopters on the playing field.



In 2018 Maisie Adam was nominated for the Best Newcomer award at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, for her debut show ‘Vague’ and she won the Amused Moose National Comic Award. Maisie Adam is a young female comedian from Yorkshire. After receiving positive reviews from runs at Bath Comedy Festival, Hastings Fringe Comedy Festival, Southend Fringe and Guildford Fringe, the show was nominated for Best New Comedy at the 2017 Brighton Fringe.
Later that year, Maisie entered the nationwide So You Think You’re Funny? competition (which has previously been won by many of her comedy heroes, including Peter Kay, Aisling Bea, Tom Allen, David O’Doherty and Lee Mack). Before she knew it, she found herself with a place in the Grand Final, held at the Gilded Balloon up at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and on 24th August she won the competition, becoming only the 4th woman to have done so in its 30 year history.
Maisie has since appeared on The Stephen K Amos Talk Show, SkyArts and BBC Radio 2. She has appeared alongside Josie Lawrence and Dan Antopolski as well as opening for Lloyd Griffith, Bec Hill and Gavin Webster.

‘There’s something incredibly watchable about Adam.’


Award-winning comedian Neil Delamere is one of the top acts working in the Irish comedy scene today, well known to audiences for his regular television appearances on RTE and the BBC as well as his hilarious sell-out stand up tours.

With stellar reviews as well as a number of platinum-selling DVDs under his belt, Neil has turned his attention to comedy documentaries, writing and presenting IFTA Award- and Celtic Media Award-winning TV programmes on the Vikings and St. Patrick. His  four part series on heroes from Ireland’s past, Holding out for a Hero, was recently broadcast as part of RTE 2’s autumn schedule.

Never one to sit around, Neil is also back in the hot seat with The Blame Game, the perennially popular BBC panel show, back for its 14th season in 2018. He is a regular panellist on BBC 5 Live’s Fighting Talk and recently appeared on BBC 4’s The News Quiz.

‘a hysterical hour with a hilarious comedian’



Art exhibition by three local artists: Ailsa Read, who specialises in atmospheric seascapes, Rachel McNaughton, a watercolour artist who paints a broad range of subjects and Clare Dean, mixed media artist inspired by nature.  Rachel, Ailsa and Clare were the founders of  Artists Around Wetherby Open Studios that started six years ago and is now an annual event in the local calendar. Originals, prints and cards will be available during the exhibition.


In addition we had support from the Fringe Events including, of course,

Wetherby Light Music Singers

Wetherby Silver Band

Linton Antique Society

Wetherby Library events

St James’ Church Choir

One again we had the support and continued attraction of the ‘Places of Worship’ and ‘Historic Wetherby’ guided walks.