St Magnus Music Festival

Location: Orkney Isles | Malawi

Subject: Music & Development

Dates: 2007 – 2011

Related ACE Cultural Tours:Music Tours


The annual St Magnus Festival is renowned for its support and promotion of a wide range of talented musicians and composers. Indeed, the festival includes composing and conducting courses as an integral part of its program, ensuring excellence in these fields will continue into the future. Over time the festival has also introduced a variety of other dimensions to its activities including founding the Malawi Music Trust. This trust has worked towards sharing music with underprivileged children in Malawi, a project which has included bringing a children’s choir from Malawi to perform at the festival. Whilst the children of Malawi are often musical, they have few opportunities to develop their talents, and hence the trust has introduced structured programs of music and arts activities in Malawi.

Project History

The St Magnus Music Festival was founded in 1977 by the distinguished and famous composer, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The festival is held annually in Orkney and has always included highly prestigious performers, composers, conductors and other artists. The director of the festival, Glenys Hughes, spent some time in Malawi as a volunteer working on teaching music in schools. She invited a youth choir from Malawi to the St Magnus Festival in June 2006 and the response to the vibrant young singers was so enthusiastic that the Malawi Music Trust was founded. The trust intended to create opportunities for children to develop their musical skills through holiday workshops back in Malawi. In 2010 they had the capacity to involve 46 children at the holiday camps, where they learn music, English, sports, maths and arts. Activities at the camps are intended to encourage enjoyment of education, developing both academic abilities and social and personal skills. As a result of the camps the trust has developed the Likhubula Children’s Choir, which regularly gives public concerts and gets national media coverage. Most of the teachers are local, but, where possible, teachers from Orkney have also visited the centre in Malawi, creating a platform for the sharing of teaching experiences and methods.

Project & ACE

In 2007 the ACE Foundation was called upon to help support the first Music Camp, run in April of that year. This was a week-long residential course for 40 orphaned children at Likhubula House – an outdoor centre in the foothills of Mount Mulanje near the Mozambican border. The courses have continued to run three times a year and ACE has continued to make contributions towards the hire of buildings, teachers, accommodation, materials and course activities.