Festival Committee

Joanne Barrow – Vice-Chairman and Honorary Secretary

Joanne’s first connection with the Festival was in 1978 when she participated with Hazeldene School’s music group. Latterly she has been involved as a parent encouraging her two children who have entered varying classes over the last few years. Joanne’s background is in administration and she joined the Committee in 2004 as Entries Secretary. She now holds the positions of Vice-Chairman and Honorary Secretary; her duties include Publicity and Safeguarding matters. Joanne works part-time for the Stroke Association and is involved with other local charities.

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William Burton – Chief Steward

Bill is the Chief Steward and was Assistant Chief Steward from 2016-2018. He came to Bedford in 1977 after university where he was an active member of the drama society both as a performer and committee chairman. He has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Bill is not a musician but his daughters have performed in the festival numerous times over the years in both musical and dramatic roles. He has also been involved with the festival as a corporate sponsor having spent most of his working life as a director of an electronics manufacturing company in Bedford.

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Olivia Cooper

As a teacher of both drama and music, a professional copywriter, and a lifelong bookworm, Olivia has always had a love for literature, music and drama and so takes a keen interest in both the musical and dramatic sides of the Bedfordshire Festival. She did, in fact, compete herself as a young girl in the piano, verse and prose and choral classes. Trained as a classical pianist to Grade 8 Associated Board level, Olivia has a passion for musical theatre and a love of accompanying singers performing this exciting and varied genre of music. Olivia joined the Festival Committee and as an official accompanist in 2020, having been a part of the Festival for as long as she can remember. She grew up with both of her parents (now Festival Vice Presidents) on the Festival Committee as Chief Steward and Secretary, and she is keen to continue her family’s dedication to supporting the Festival. She hopes during her time on the Committee that she can open the Festival’s doors even wider and enable more students from across the county and beyond to enjoy the Festival experience. Olivia has been Head of Musical Theatre at the Redford School of Speech and Drama for over a decade – responsible for the musical direction of all school projects and the tuition of the LAMDA Musical Theatre syllabus to individual students and groups, consistently achieving high distinctions across all grades. In addition to her private musical theatre accompanying and performing, Olivia has also worked as an official accompanist for the London College of Music’s Musical Theatre degree course. She tells us that her favourite thing about the Festival is that performers of all ages and abilities have the opportunity to come together to learn from each other, to inspire each other and to share their hard work and talent with an audience. It is always a privilege to watch.

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Tim Grant-Jones – Official Accompanist

Tim has had links to the Bedfordshire Music Festival since 1979, as accompanist, teacher and parent. He joined the Committee around 10 years ago and his responsibility includes entry checking, organising piano hire and tuning, syllabus setting and development, programming arranging and proof reading, rota for official accompanists', and advising on musical matters. He accompanies many of the choir, vocal, string and wind classes throughout the Festival week. Tim is keen to make the festival an enjoyable and rewarding experience for all who take part.

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Sally Merryweather – Trophies Secretary

Sally was brought up in a musical family and played the violin and viola in school and County Orchestras in Suffolk. She came to Bedford in 1973 to the then College of Education to train as a primary school teacher. Her main subject was music and she went on to be part of the musical life of the schools in which she taught. Sally retired in 2017 and has been able to work with Jean Duivenvoorden learning the job of Trophies’ Secretary. Sally is really happy to be part of the Festival which gives opportunities to so many talented performers in the County and beyond.

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Julia Smith - Chairman

Julia became Chairman in July 2019. A Music graduate, she was a violinist in the County Youth Orchestra and now plays regularly in the Bedfordshire Symphony Orchestra and Bedford Sinfonia. She is also a Trustee of the Bedfordshire Music Trust. Upon graduating, Julia worked in the administration team for two high profile professional orchestras before taking a career break to have a family. Julia now works for the agency IMG Artists, organising UK concert tours for foreign orchestras. Her first experience of the Festival was as a student participating in the recorder classes. Julia was also Festival Secretary for 9 years between 2007-2016. Her two children also perform regularly at the Festival.

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Ellie Tadiello – Festival Secretary

Ellie took up the post of Festival Secretary in July 2023 after spending the last fifteen years working in education as a primary school teacher and later as a health and wellbeing education lead in community learning. During this time, Ellie has been part of many music, speech & drama projects, helping children to develop a passion for the arts. Ellie has a keen interest in making music, speech and drama accessible for everyone and is keen to further this by working with the Festival.

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Robert Trunchion – Honorary Treasurer

Bob is the Treasurer – he therefore counts notes but cannot play them! He first visited the Festival in March 1974 when he attended the Prize Winners’ Concert (equivalent to today’s Gala Concert) to see his then girlfriend (now his wife!). After he returned to Bedford to raise a family, his daughters started performing in the Festival in various Music and Speech and Drama classes. As he was spending so much time at the Festival with the children, he thought he ought to join the Committee to help out and is still serving despite the fact that the children left home long ago. Bob is a tax partner in a national firm of accountants and lectures regularly to fellow accountants and solicitors. He has also appeared on national television and radio talking about that subject.

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Henry Vann – Bedford Borough Council Representative

Henry was a participant in the Festival from a young age, particularly in singing, clarinet and piano classes. Having been involved in music making in Bedford all his life, through County Youth Orchestra and at school, he joined the Council in 2011 and has been the council appointee to the Committee since then. Henry was Education Portfolio Holder on Bedford Borough Council for six years and is now Portfolio Holder for Town Centres and Planning. Until 2018 he was Head of External Affairs for the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) and now teaches at Bedford School, as well as continuing to perform locally as a conductor, singer and occasional clarinettist

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