The Colchester Rotary Festival of Music, Drama and Dance provides a performance platform for aspiring amateur musicians and dancers with supportive feedback from professional adjudicators in a friendly atmosphere.

The Festival began in 1991 as the Colchester Rotary Music Festival.  It was originally organised and funded by three Rotary Clubs in Colchester.  There was a strong link to Colchester Institute from the start with the Head of Music, Bill Tamblyn, and the Principal, John Threlfall on the committee.  There were different adjudicators for each instrument the majority of whom were staff at the School of Music.  The final concert took place at the Moot Hall on the 13th July 1991.  Dance was added to the Festival in 1997.  From its outset the Festival has been affiliated to the British Federation of Festival for Music, Dance and Speech.

The Festival is a competitive festival with a wide range of classes organised by age of entrant.  Each participant gets a written adjudication and the first three in each class are awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals.  These days the adjudicators are always chosen from the British and International Federation specialist adjudicators.  This ensures that the quality of the feedback is of the highest standard and that the running of the Festival is compliant with all of the national standards.  Adjudicators are also always from out of the Essex/Suffolk area to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest.

2019 was our busiest year to date.  There were 640 entries across the five days of the Festival;  570 dance and 70 music.  In light of the numbers of entries we moved the Music Festival to March and spread the Dance Festival across two weekends in June.  The Festival was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid19 lockdown but in 2021 we were able to offer an online Music Festival, and for the first time an online Speech and Drama Festival.  We are delighted to be back to a live Festival in 2022 and to be moving to our new venue The Headgate Theatre.

The Festival is now run entirely by the Rotary Club of Colchester.  It is a non-profit event and one of the major projects that the club undertakes each year alongside its charitable work in the local area and around the world.  The committee consists of volunteers largely from the Colchester Rotary club who meet monthly to plan and implement each year’s festival.  The work starts in August for the following year and requires a lot of time and energy throughout the year.  The stewarding of the Festival weekends is also done by volunteers from the Rotary club.  It takes a lot of people to make each Festival happen.