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Beverley children take a look at the free to borrow Discovery Packs, available at Beverley Minster 26 May – 16 July as part of the Through the Looking Glass digital exhibition on the musician and spy, Petrus Alamire. Photos: National Centre for Early Music

The 30th year of the Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival this month is one of the most family-friendly festivals to date, aiming to engage with young people through participation, puppetry and particularly colourful backpacks.

A handful of backpacks, filled to the brim with gadgets and tools, including chime bells, binoculars, spyglasses and more, will be available to borrow in Beverley Minster from 26th May – 16th July, as part of a free, large-scale digital exhibition, Through the Looking Glass, that visually and audibly brings to life the music and times of the glittering 16th century musician and spy, Petrus Alamire.

The backpacks are just one part of a family-friendly programme in this special year, presented by the National Centre for Early Music. Over 150 school pupils, from Years 4 and 5 from Keldmarsh, Walkington and St Nicholas’ primary schools, in addition to Year 7 transition mentors and Years 9 and 10 music leaders from Beverley Grammar, are also taking part in a music project, which has seen them explore stories from the time across several weeks in May, and create their own responses and performance.

All the pupils involved will perform their work in Beverley Minster on Friday 26th May at 2pm, in a ticketed event called Of Shoes & Ships & Sealing Wax.

“We are creating a musical extravaganza to mark the exciting point of the story where King Henry’s life is in danger and Alamire, haplessly involved in a dark plot, flees England, never to return,” Says Zoe Hughes, Head of Music at Beverley Grammar and one of the key creators of the proiect. “The primary school children have been fascinated by this mysterious character of Alamire and his dual personality of musician and spy in the court of Henry VIII.”

Delma Tomlin, the festival director, told Beverley FM: “Working with young people has always been at the core of what we do, and early music is particularly suited to this. We see curious children picking up intriguing instruments and they are instantly fascinated by the connection with the stories and the fact their imaginations can wander free.

“We have enjoyed some wonderful outcomes from these festival projects, and this year will be one of the highlights, as the subject matter of the life and times of the bold and beautiful of the 16th century, captured by this composer, is laid down before us. We’re really very excited.”


1. Friday 26 May –Of Shoes & Ships & Sealing Wax, Beverley Minster, 2pm. 

Over 150 school pupils perform the culmination of their month-long music project exploring the life and stories of Petrus Alamire, the main inspiration for the 2017 Beverley Early Music Festival. Expect blood, gore, deceit and corruption! Tickets £3

2. Friday 26 May – 16 July – Through the Looking Glass, Beverley Minster. Free. 

Filling the transept of Beverley Minster both visually and audibly, this impressive seven-week art exhibition brings to life the work of 16th century German-Dutch Petrus Alamire, musical scribe, composer, singer and spy in the court of Henry VIII.

Speculum Musurgica is a digital installation by Flemish visual and music artist Rudi Knoops, and is the centerpiece to the exhibition – a heptagonal media installation comprised of large-scale mirror structures and sound projections, inviting visitors to walk in and around them, as the physical choirbooks of Alamire would have done.

Free to borrow backpacks are available for use by children visitors (aged 5-11) and contain fully interactive kids to learn more about Alamire’s double life as a spy for Henry VIII, with code cracking, puzzles, magnifying glasses, binoculars and musical instruments.

3. Monday 29 May Dr Dee’s Daughter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Toll Gavel United Church 2-3pm

Performed by Palisander with Rust and Stardust

Award-winning recorder quartet Palisander joins theatre company Rust and Stardust, in an exciting new family show of magic, history and science. The tale is told through puppetry and music, and performed on recorders up to 6ft tall.  Set in 1595, Dr Dee’s Daughter and the Philosopher’s Stone follows young Katherine Dee as she starts her search for the Elixir of Life, a quest her father has abandoned.  Tickets £8 (children aged 7-12 £5). Family ticket (2 adults, 2 children £20).

Full details of all the festival main concerts, including that by The Tallis Scholars, is available online from

PICTURED BELOW, left:  Examing one of the backpacks. Right: Nicholas and Naomi with Cathy Dew, artistic director.