Thank you, Daxa!

Our most valued long-standing committee member, Daxa Jannaty, is stepping down from her post as Treasurer of the Festival. Daxa has held for the past thirteen years. She has worked tight budgets to ensure that the festival could be maintained on a shoe-string each year: being a charity Daxa’s role is hugely important and her attention to detail critical. We are all truly indebted to her for her dedication and meticulous work in keeping RWBAF afloat.

Daxa has long been the backbone of festival operations taking on several other roles in support and will leave a huge gap in the life of the festival. You will have seen her manning the door, running around delivering things, helping out wherever she can during the Festival itself! Apart from the commitment she has given for all of these years, her warm personality and cheerful disposition will mean she will be truly missed by all. Our gratitude has no bounds.

We presented her with flowers, and afternoon tea vouchers at a very lovely manor house. We look forward to hearing all about it!

The whole committee, and no doubt all the entrants, would like to say a huge thank you, Daxa!

Highlight’s Concert Tickets now LIVE for 2023

Yes, it’s that time again already! This February 3rd is our annual highlight’s concert, at The Memorial Hall, Station Road, Royal Wootton Bassett, SN4 8EN.

Tickets are free but you will need to book online here.

Donations welcome and gratefully received please. You can donate through eventbrite or through cash on the night. We do know how much you enjoy seeing all the entrants perform, and it really is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to showcase their talent but, of course, there is the hire of the hall and much else that goes on behind the scenes to organise. As a charity, your donations make all the difference to our ability to put these things on each year.

So: February 3rd. Doors open at 6pm for a 6.30 start! All are welcome. There will be a raffle and a CASH ONLY bar. There is plenty of parking and there will be someone on the door to check tickets.

Thank you, Sheila!

A few days ago, we had a special celebratory tea to honour Sheila Dunn’s work on the festival. Sheila has been a smiling stalwart and a huge supporter of the festival over the years. We presented her with flowers, Theatre Vouchers and a new trophy in her name – The Sheila Dunn Trophy for Excellence in Musical Theatre – which she will present at the Highlights Concert in February to the best overall Musical Theatre performance.

Sheila is a wonderful singer, and has been from a very early age and still sings now. She learnt her stage art from belonging to various societies, including: S.A.L.O.S. Gilbert & Sullivan society, Highworth Amateur Drama Society and W.B.L.O.S. – whom she has been the President of.

Sheila’s association with the RWB Arts Festival goes right back to its conception it 2005. Back then, it was something of a ‘one man band’ under the baton of Brian Taylor, before Sandra McDowell, our Speech and Drama Chair, was brought on board and helped expand the festival to the scale and scope that it is now.

She was asked to ‘help out’ in those early days, and has been ‘helping out’ ever since! After 17 years of service, Sheila is – quite deservedly – putting her feet up. She wishes the Festival well, and values its input in helping the hundreds of very talented students and young adults in their singing careers. Your valuable input will be missed; your trophy is well deserved!

The whole committee, and no doubt all the entrants, would like to say a huge thank you, Sheila!

Poetry Competition Winners 2022

We are thrilled to share with you the winning poems from our Poetry Competition!

All entrants received a chocolate prize and RWBAF pencil for taking part, and we then awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold Medals with a book token for the winners of each section!

Thank you to all who took part. And a special thank you to Ceri Gascoyne.


Winner Years 1&2 – Topic Animals or Food


A monster’s favourite toppings

Include a layer of elephant droppings

A chink of stinky cheese

A handful of tiny leaping fleas

A pair of smelly socks

Sharp teeth of a fox

A mug of sludgy tea leaves

Torn sleeves of thieves

A heap of slimy frogspawn

A shake of a billy goat gruff’ s horn

Serve it on a chipped plate

It will taste great.


Winner Years 3&4 – Topic Magic or Teachers


My teacher is a tiger,

I’m really really scared!

If you send me to school today

No children will be spared.

My teacher is a tiger

Mum I’m begging you,

If I go to school this week

I’m sure I will be stew

My teacher is tiger

With claws as sharp as knives,

This isn’t like the other times

I am not telling lies!

My teacher IS a tiger

And slowly getting thinner,

When you come to pick me up

I’ll be my teacher’s dinner.

My Mum did not believe me…

She sent me into school…

Now I’m in a tiger,

My Mum is such a fool!!


Winner Years 5&6 – Topic Hobbies or Family


My family; Mum, Dad my sister and me

And the world’s most annoying dog, Betty!

She woofs and slobbers and digs and pulls,

Dad says she’s just excitable,

Mum says she’s a bloomin’ handful.

She leaves mud on the carpet,

paw prints on the bed,

She spends all day, everyday,

wanting to be fed.

My sister adores her,

no matter what she does,

I ignore her, but it really is odd,




Winner Years 7-9 – Topic Environment or Fantasy


A wasteland. Covered in ash. Desolate, barren…

Like an endless, unforgiving purgatory… a hell.

Consumed by poison and pollution, foul and

Decaying. A beautiful land that simply fell…

Nothing lives, not anymore. Not since the

People killed it. Destroyed it. Burned it.

Once a perfect heaven, resplendent in its glory—

Now the home of an evil, in this bottomless, despicable pit.

There was a forest, bursting with trees. Trees!

Such gorgeous, gargantuan trees, swaying and

Towering. Covered in a thick mop of lush green

That engulfs the entirety of this sacred land.

A paradise for wildlife, countless and

Infinite; populating its leafy, verdant bowels.

And so you can hear, on any day,

A cacophony of hoots, whistles, shrieks and howls.

Splitting the jungle in half is a river—a

Roaring river. You can trace it back to

A WATERFALL! Cascading, crushing, surging—

An immense, picturesque structure with a view

To die for. A spray of white foam is flung

Into the air. Each and every droplet is

A diamond, a crystal, capturing light. It is a

Stunning sight to behold: just a touch of natural bliss!

This place was a work of art, a fabulous masterpiece,

Crafted in levels of painstaking detail: perfection!

Yet, when the people came, they tore at it,

Doing nothing but staining its reflection

Of excellence, leaving nothing behind.

Brutally unravelling each beautiful thread, ruining it,

Taking apart all that it once was, leaving behind layers of

Filth and grime: a pathetic, mournful cesspit.

And to you, dear reader, I warn you, to

Heed this. When you see the smoke and fire,

Remember what will happen. When you see

Torment, jealousy, corruption and evil, fixated desire,

Remember what will happen. For else,

One day it might be your house in the dust,

Or you, or just your pearly white bones, scraped clean by long-gone

Crows— gone brittle by age, then swept away by a gust

Of wind, to nowhere. Remember what will happen.

Meet the Adjudicators 2022

Speech & Drama and Musical Theatre: Kim Gilbert, Vivienne Redford, Rebecca Thompson, Jenny Thornton; Guitar: Helen Sanderson; Singing: Maria Jagusz; Piano: Ailsa Howarth; Instrumental: Richard Haslam; Dance: Jodie Clark

Vivienne Redford

Vivienne is Head of Speech and Drama at a large independent girl’s school in Bedford and she is also the Principal of the Redford School of Speech and Drama. For the past eighteen years, she has organised and directed a widely-acclaimed summer school for students aged 7 to 21, which culminates in a commissioned play written for, and performed by, the students who attend. Vivienne is an examiner for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, a member of the Society of Teachers of Speech and Drama and an Adjudicator member of the British and International Federation of Festivals travelling extensively throughout the UK, Ireland and the Channel Islands. She is Vice-President of the Bedfordshire Festival of Music, Speech and Drama. Vivienne is looking forward to adjudicating at the Festival and hopes that it will be a memorable and happy occasion for all those taking part.

Jenny Thornton

Jenny trained at the Guildhall School of Music and has led the Performing Arts Teams in large Comprehensives, been an Assistant Principal for Edexcel, LAMDA examiner and now enjoys running her own Performance Centre with ages from 4 years to adults delivering drama, dance and musical theatre, and also writing. Her play called “Gone” gained a Commended when performed at The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond as did her most recent play “Young Love”. She was delighted when LAMDA chose her pieces for their acting anthology. Jenny is looking forward to visiting the Royal Wootton Bassett Arts Festival and making it a very positive experience for all concerned. “Drama is a life skill…We can give our children no better opportunity.”

Rebecca Thompson

Rebecca has worked for BBC Radio Four’s Drama Department, reading and assessing new scripts and also researching Radio Four Documentaries. Rebecca studied for her Licentiate Teacher’s Diploma and has been teaching Speech and Drama privately and in schools for over 18 years. Rebecca now runs a thriving speech and drama practice in Bristol, teaching both children and adults. A voice and presentation skills coach in the region, Rebecca also teaches in private and state schools, colleges and businesses and is a facilitator for Speaking and Listening Courses in the South Gloucestershire region. Rebecca has been actively involved in theatre in the South West and is an Adjudicator for the Rose Bowl Awards for Amateur Drama and Music. Rebecca is thrilled to be returning to the Royal Wootton Bassett Arts Festival this year.

Kim Gilbert

Kim originally trained as a professional actress at GSA and studied for an LGSM at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. After acting professionally for many years in a range of TV, voiceover and theatre work, Kim has dedicated the past 35 years to teaching and directing plays and musical productions. Kim also examined for LAMDA for a number of years and runs her own drama studio which specialises in developing excellence in all forms of performance and communication. Kim has recently compiled and written a range of acting books suited for festival and audition work. Kim believes in encouraging students to participate at Speech & Drama Festivals. She feels that performing at local Festivals provides a vital learning experience for young people.

Helen Sanderson

Helen is a performer, educator, arranger, composer and creative entrepreneur in guitar studies at RWCMD. Helen’s international performing career has centred on chamber music with performances at the Southbank Centre, Kings Place and the Guitar Foundation of America. She has made CD recordings with the VIDA Guitar Quartet, James Bowman and Mark Wilde. She is founder of the music charity, Guitar Circus, and her work is regularly chosen for the Trinity College Exam Board for whom she was a consultant in 2019, and for the ABRSM. Helen was also a consultant for the London College of Music Exam Board in 2020. She has often appeared on competition juries including BBC Young Musician of the Year, Guitar Foundation of America, the Sky Arts televised series “Guitar Star” etc. She has toured extensively giving notable performances across the US and in Europe.

Maria Jagusz

Maria trained as a dancer before taking up a place at the Royal Northern College of Music where she was awarded the Ricordi Prize for Opera. Further scholarships enabled her to continue her studies at the National Opera Studio. As a singer Maria has worked as soloist for most of the leading opera companies in the U.K. and Europe She has performed with many of the world’s leading singers including Domingo, Carreras, Freni and Dame Felicity Lott. As a teacher Maria runs her own private teaching practice, and she is vocal consultant for The International College of Music Theatre in London. She is founder of MJ-UK Music and Arts. For MJ-UK she has directed Carmen, Bastien and Bastienne, Dido and Aneas, Les Miserables, West Side Story etc. Maria also works for Longborough Festival Opera.

Ailsa Howarth

Ailsa was a multiple prize-winner at the Royal Academy of Music, where she studied the piano with Max Pirani. A Norwegian Government Scholarship enabled her to study Norwegian music at Oslo University, and she followed this with a degree in Music and Norwegian at the University of East Anglia. She has taught at Downe House School, Berkshire, Cheltenham College Junior School and Dean Close School Cheltenham. Currently Ailsa teaches piano at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, as well as in her highly regarded private practice. Her performance experience includes solo recital and accompaniment work in the UK and Europe. Fear of iPads (!) led to her recent retirement from examining Diplomas and Grades for the ABRSM after 35 years.

Richard Haslam

Richard studied at Sussex University for a degree in Education, specialising in Music and also at the Royal College of Music where he gained a Diploma in Pianoforte Teaching and a Distinction in Grade 8 singing. Richard was Director of Music at Burgess Hill School for Girls for nearly thirty years where he taught to A level as well as running extra-curricular activities including Chamber groups, Choirs and Orchestras. He has recently retired from full time teaching. Richard has taught piano and singing to Diploma standard and has also been a Moderator for GCSE Music and an examiner for A Level Music. Richard examines for the ABRSM and has completed a number of overseas tours. Richard ran his own “Cantemus” for over twenty years and raised over £300,000 for charity. He enjoys singing 1st Tenor in the Stratford-upon-Avon Chamber Choir.

Jodie Clark

Jodie has enjoyed a diverse performing career across many genres appearing in commissioned work for Dance Umbrella to open the new British Library and travelling worldwide on luxury cruise liners as well as many pantomime and summer seasons both in the UK and Europe. At The BRIT School she teaches a range of techniques and writes, choreographs and directs performance work. She is a guest lecturer at Lougborough University. Jodie’s freelance engagements include teaching and mentoring under the banner of the ISTD, examining for The Urdang Theatre and Dance Syllabus and creating for various corporate events, flash mobs and pantomimes. She is an Adjudicator member of The British and International Federation of Festivals and All England Dance. Jodie has been a keynote speaker for the FA Talent ID Conference and is passionate about potential, creativity and motivation.

RWBAF Poetry Competition 2022

The Royal Wootton Bassett Arts Festival POETRY COMPETITION to be judged by celebrated Poet CERI GASCOYNE.

Ceri is a celebrated local artist who not only writes beautiful poetry, but also specialises in bespoke crafted poetry for all occasions, celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, life and many other notable events. She has a unique way with words, finding the passion and emotion to paint a picture in verse. She can make people laugh and cry, and we are honoured to have her with us this year to judge our Poetry Competition for our young and talented writers. See more on Ceri’s website:

Open to: Festival Entrants and their siblings only

Date: Sunday 20th November 2022 Venue: Royal Wootton Bassett Academy Lime Kiln, SN4 7HG

Closing Date: 4th November 2022

Age: See Year

Group Rules: Please see the instructions below

Entry Fees: £3.00 per entry – see below for payment details

Please submit your entries with your NAME, ADDRESS, SCHOOL YEAR, DATE OF BIRTH, E-MAIL and TELEPHONE NUMBER to: Mrs. Lara Farahar at: or by post to Mrs. Sandra McDowell, The Chestnuts, Cleverton, Chippenham, Wiltshire SN15 5BT.

You may submit more than one entry in your category if you wish. Payment: Cheques to be made payable to Royal Wootton Bassett Arts Festival, or you may pay by BACS: HSBC Sort Code: 40-47-16 Account No: 11400479.

Reference PY1 / PY2 / PY3 or PY4 with name please. All poems will be displayed at the festival in November. There will be a WINNER in each group with 2nd & 3rd Placings. Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals will be awarded together with a prize. Winners will also have their work printed on the web and may be invited to read their work on the day of presentation if they wish.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace on 26th November 2001. Part of a series of photographs taken to commemorate the Golden Jubilee in 2002. (Photo by Lichfield Archive via Getty Images)

The Royal Wootton Bassett Arts Festival would like to pay tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II whose loyalty and service to our nation over the past seventy years has been exemplary. We were deeply saddened to hear of her passing, and our thoughts are especially with her family at this time. Her fortitude and dedication in serving her country and the Commonwealth with unbounding spirit and devotion is to be hugely admired. Her Majesty was always supportive of the theatre and the arts and was patron of over 50 musical and cultural organisations, and over 600 charities around the world.

We feel privileged that our festival carries the name Royal. Her Majesty touched the hearts of people and was a shining example of grace and dedication to her nation. Our thoughts and prayers are especially with His Majesty King Charles III, the Queen’s successor, as he prepares to step into office. We send our heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family at this time.

The Poet Roger McGough paid tribute to Her Majesty this way:

God Rest the Queen

by Roger McGough

She spoke volumes quietly.
Is everywhere and will remain so
Our shared interest, our common currency
The nation cannot let her go.

Stars untwinkle one by one
The moon, in shock, averts its gaze
No words express the grief we feel
How we loved thee, let us count the ways.

The future, fearful, has gone awol
Life goes on but not the one we know
Though wreaths and words may wither
The nation will not let her go.

Guns fall silent, the flag lowered
She who kept us close is gone
Winter is composing a sad anthem
It will play on and on and on.

8 September 2022

Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; 21st April 1926 – 8th September 2022) 

Rest in Peace

HM The Queen at Balmoral Palace, taken just prior to Her death on the 8th September (Photo via BBC Images)

Highlight’s Concert Covid Advice

For all of you attending the Highlights Concert this Friday 4th February at The Memorial Hall, Station Road, Royal Wootton Bassett, we set out some information regarding Covid advice.

The latest Government guidelines regarding Covid regulations say that it is no longer a requirement to wear face coverings. Therefore, the public and performers have the option to choose if they prefer to wear masks or not.

Social distancing is also relaxed, and restrictions in England don’t include any limits on socialising, but it would be appreciated if people could please still respect distance with each other where possible.

PLEASE ENSURE CHILDREN ARE ACCOMPANIED AT ALL TIMES by a responsible parent or guardian, and that you are fully aware of our CHILD AND SAFEGUARDING PROTECTION INFORMATION.

We very much look forward to seeing you at the Concert on Friday when we will enjoy some of the most outstanding talent in the Festival across all disciplines.

Tickets for Highlight’s Concert, 2022

Free tickets are now available for our Highlights Concert on Friday 4th February, 2022. Register to get yours here!

The Concert takes place at the Memorial Hall in Royal Wootton Bassett. All are welcome to join us for this annual celebration of talent.

Doors open at 6pm, concert starts at 6.30pm

You can find directions to the hall here, and there is plenty of parking. Any Covid related information will be provided nearer the time.

Our new Festival and Music Chair!

We would like to welcome Julie Williams! Julie has volunteered to be our Festival Chair and our Music Chair as well!

Julie has a wealth of experience, and we are delighted that she is joining us. Julie’s background includes music , singing and performing. She has been a big band singer, has done cabaret singing, dancing and she plays the trumpet as well! Julie is a very gifted performer, and travelled the world with an all-girl big band called Ivy Benson. She ran her own performing arts school, and has performed on national tv and radio many times, as well as producing and directing many shows at the Wyvern Theatre and Arts Centre. 

We hope you join us in wishing Julie well in this new venture!