Main Street, Thistleton, Rutland LE15 7RE
Church buildings are a wonderful resource for our communities and most have superb acoustics to allow live music to be heard at its best.
Thistleton Church is a small building seating around 60 people in the nave and 20 in the chancel but for concerts we only use the nave seating. The size and decor of the church provides a cosy environment for performances. The audience and performers are just metres apart bringing a certain intimacy to recitals.
Our background story
The church was threatened with closure in 2016. This would have deprived Thistleton, a tiny rural village in north Rutland (population 100) of the only public space in the village, which has no village hall, no pub, no shop, not even a bus service! The church was allowed to remain open as a 'chapel of ease' on condition that the community agreed to look after the church financially and practically. The church remains fully licensed for services but only holds about 6-8 services a year, mainly around the major festivals of Easter, Christmas, Harvest etc.
The community formed a charity 'Friends of Thistleton Church' to raise funds leading to the church hosting a range of activities. These included a couple of concerts which demonstrated the excellent acoustics of the building. More about this below.
Thistleton has a long history: the village is named in the Domesday Book and remains from Iron Age and Roman settlements have been found in surrounding fields. The community started to research the history and heritage of the church and local area and in 2020 we received a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to carry out essential repairs to the building and to run a three year Heritage Project for the benefit of the general public. We host heritage talks approximately once a month, have a rolling programme of displays and exhibitions and welcome visits from individuals and groups. We also operate a Saturday Cafe every week from 10.30am to 1.00pm. The result of these activities is that our 'community' extends beyond the village. Many of our regular attenders come from neighbouring villages and towns.
Why hold a Music Festival in Thistleton?
Our immediate answer is "why not?" Accessing a wide range of music means travelling to Leicester, Peterborough and Birmingham. With no public transport available, accessibility is impossible if you don't drive and ticket prices can be beyond the scope of a family budget. The aim of the music festival was to demonstrate that church buildings can be wonderful venues for live music. There is one in nearly every village and the acoustics are usually good. Then we heard about Scops Arts Trust who support bringing performing arts to places and people who have poor access. We hope that the Thistleton Music Festival will not only be the start of more music in Thistleton but that it will encourage other churches to do more to bring music to local communities.