About the Torbay Festival


It all started with wartime evacuees……

The competitive Festival movement was already well established when war broke out in 1939.  In 1940 a large number of evacuees were housed in Paignton, who attended school for half days only.  On the initiative of the Youth Service, and backed by businessmen and local residents, a number of activities were arranged in order to give children something useful to occupy their spare time.  As a result the first Festival was held in 1941 and Bill Coysh, with his musical background and Rotary and business contacts, was the ideal person to successfully organise this new project. 

In the first year just five classes were offered in Music and Speech, but by the early fifties, and with Dance then introduced, the Paignton and South West of England Festival (as it was then called) was the largest Festival in the south-west, matching any in the country.  Today we offer a wide range of classes in a variety of disciplines; from lieder to barbershop choirs; from piano recitals to jazz quartets; from dramatic scenes from Shakespeare to My Favourite Nursery Rhyme and Musical Theatre; from classical ballet to tap dance via Highland Fling.


Our competitors are overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, children and young people. The advantages they gain are enormous:

  • an opportunity for an amateur to perform in front of a professional, and to learn and improve from that process;
    an opportunity to pace themselves against others of similar abilities;
  • an opportunity to increase their repertoire by watching their peers;
  • an opportunity, especially for younger children, to grow in confidence by performing on a public platform;
  • an opportunity to use amateur performance as a springboard into the professional arts, whether as an artist or a teacher;

The majority of performers, of course, will not go on to a professional career; however they will become the educated audiences of the future, supporting our opera houses, theatres and concert halls throughout the country.

The Torbay and South West of England Festival is a member of the British and International Federation of Festivals, one of over 300 festivals throughout the United Kingdom and Channel Islands. There is a strong overseas festival movement in the Republic of Ireland and there are affiliated festivals in Hong Kong, Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Sri Lanka, the United States and Zimbabwe.

Our Festival has a high profile within this wider festival movement; and is active both at national level, and within the South West Regional Forum of the Federation.


General Fund
Funds provided from the Festival’s general reserves for both higher education and junior teaching grants.

The Karen Collings Fund for Dance
Funds provided by the Collings family for higher education grants, in memory of their daughter Karen.

Higher Education Grants
Performers are invited to apply for a grant for the next academic year if they:

1. are resident in Devon, and
2. have been a competitor in a range of classes at the Festival for at least five years, and
3. have obtained a place at a principal school of music, drama or stage dance for further training.

Applications should be made in writing as soon as possible, but before 30 th June of the year the FE/HE course begins.

Applicants must send full particulars of themselves, their training to date, their participation in our Festival, and a copy of the letter of acceptance from the school or college concerned. An application to one fund will be considered an application to both. Any grant awarded is intended to be used by the recipient for the purchase of essential items related to their training, e.g. reference books, ballet shoes, music etc.

Junior Teaching Grants

State Schools are invited to apply for a grant for Year 6 or below towards specialist teaching in the performing arts for the ensuing term if the school:
– is situated in Devon and
– has a history of entering the Festival.

Applications for both funds should be made in writing as soon as possible but before the end of the term immediately before the term when teaching is intended to start.

All applications to:
Chair of Trustees
Torbay and South West of England Festival
6 Thorne Park Road
Torquay TQ2 6RX

Email: lindalear20@outlook.com

Successful applicants will be notified as soon as possible after the committee has met to consider applications.