Bridlington's status as a popular seaside resort may well be in terminal decline but its cultural life is enjoying something of an upturn. Thanks to the patronage of some eminent townsfolk, "Brid" is gaining a reputation for its music provision as much as its wide stretches of golden sand. A gift of around pound;7,000 from a body called the Lords Feoffes and Assistants of the Manor of Bridlington has enabled the town's schools and its choral festival to further improve musical excellence.
This July, up to 400 primary school children will be performing a specially commissioned choral work about Europe as part of the millennium celebrations of the Bridlington Choral Festival, now in its fifth year. The festival will also host guest choirs from France. During two of those five years, Michael Brewer, director of the National Youth Orchestra, held workshops in the town for the choirs of every Bridlington school, and two years ago Michael Hurd composed and directed a pop cantata called Pop Pied Piper for all primary and secondary pupils. This year, the choral festival has commissioned Peter Harrison to compose Good Day to Europe and to hold school workshops. Peter Harrison has already written three musicals - Hadrian's Wall about the Romans, Longships about the Vikings and This is the Christmas Story - which have been performed by hundreds of schools across Britain. He has taken a very melodic, positive approach. He says:
"It is very upbeat. It might not go down well with Eurosceptics but it has the kind of optimism young children can respond to."
The Feoffes are doingeverything they can to improve cultural life in the town and in particular to raise the status of music in its schools. Apart from the choral festival, the Feoffes pay out between pound;10,000-pound;15,000 every year for musical instruments and equipment for schools and gifted pupils. For example, three sixth-formers were helped with funds to go to music college. Often, students attending music college who need better instruments will be given new ones by the Feoffes on permanent loan, as long as they give their old ones in return, which are then handed on to schools. Children on free school meals are also helped to continue with music exams.
Jonathan Chapman, a music teacher at Headlands secondary school in Bridlington, says: "We are all extremely grateful to the Feoffes. They like to give when they see positive things happening."
Feoffes is an old word meaning "to whom you pay tolls". The trust came about in 1636 when 13 townspeople bought the Manor of Bridlington, which amounted to tracts of land taking in the old town and the quay, from George Ramsay, the Earl of Holderness, who inherited it through the gift of King James I. The 13, who had to be freehold property owners and elected, became known as Lords and Assistants. From then on they have managed the property of the manor "for the good of the town", and still meet in a former priory.
As well as funding instruments, the Lords and Assistants also pay for a group of professional musicians called the English Camerata, which holds recitals in Bridlington through the winter, to run workshops in schools.