St Magnus International Festival

is Orkney's annual celebration of the arts. Founded in 1977 by a group including Orkney's distinguished resident composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the Festival has grown from small beginnings into one of Britain's most highly regarded and adventurous arts events. The 40th Festival will take place in 2016.

The unique combination of world-class performance, community participation of the highest quality and the magic of Orkney at midsummer attracts audiences from throughout Britain and further afield: many return year after year.

Though musical events are at the heart of the artistic programme, the Festival also encompasses drama, dance, literature and the visual arts.

The Festival's Artistic Director since 2011 is Scottish composer Alasdair Nicolson.

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is the Festival's Honorary President and the Honorary Vice President is Glenys Hughes.

To read more about the History of the Festival click here

World Class Performances

Each year the Festival brings a full scale Orchestra to the islands together with leading ensembles and soloists. They will perform in various combinations and in different venues to present shows that are unique to the Festival.

New Work

The Festival has a long reputation for commissioning and nurturing new work. The Festival always features a number of World Premieres: ranging from work by well-established composers through to a concert with up to eight pieces of music created as part of the Orkney Composers Course.

Specially-commissioned work has also been created for visual arts, drama, film and dance projects.


The Festival makes use of various venues around Orkney, from The Romanesque grandeur of St Magnus Cathedral to the poignant intimacy of the Italian Chapel; from a converted games hall to the new purpose-built Theatre at Kirkwall Grammar School; from shoreside churches to the Stromness Town Hall.

Community Participation

Through education and community projects the Festival has built up active participation by adults and children from all parts of Orkney, often devised in collaboration with visiting orchestras, ensembles and artists.

Side by Side with BBCSO in 2013
Side by Side with BBC Symphony Orchestra - Picture: Leslie Burgher

The St Magnus Festival Chorus attracts around 140 singers from all parts of Orkney and large-scale community drama productions feature frequently.


MagFest is a strand of 'Fringe' style events and performances which is of a different character each year.

Festival on Tour

Since 2000, the Festival on Tour project has seen visiting artists and ensembles tour to Orkney's remote outer islands, giving workshops and performances for the island schools and communities.


The Festival runs a series of courses providing a unique opportunity for creators and performers to work together in developing their skills. Sessions are open to the public and the courses culminate in Festival concerts.

There are three courses: for Composers, Conductors and Writers. Sessions are open to the public and the courses culminate in Festival concerts.


St Magnus Festival is a registered Scottish Charitable Company, limited by guarantee.

The Board of Directors oversee the management of the company and an Annual General Meeting of company members is held in the Spring.

Company membership can be obtained by signing up here.

Festival Personnel


Artistic Director
Alasdair Nicolson

Festival Manager
Tanya McGill

Festival Administrator
Amy Allan

Box Office and Admin Assistants
Kira Hoffman
Georgia Leslie

Press and PR
Jane Nicolson
07887 500977

Volunteer Managers

Accommodation and Transport
Elspeth Beaton

Box Office 
Lydia Campbell

Festival on Tour
Alison Cruickshanks

Front of House
Esther Thomson

Norman Rushbrook

Ian Rushbrook

Board of Directors

Leslie Burgher

Samantha Berston
Anne Bevan
Norman Cockett
Elaine Grieve
Tanya McGill
Alasdair Nicolson
Edward Nicolson
Patricia Sinclair
Gill Smee
Cynthia Spencer
Ian Stout

Company Secretary

Tanya McGill

Charity and Limited Company

Scottish Charity No SC011666

Company No SC073825

Company Memorandum and Articles

Become a


ans support the Festival

for more Information

St Magnus International Festival, 60 Victoria Street, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1DN

T: +44 (0)1856 871445


St Magnus Festival is a charity registered in Scotland. Scottish Charity No SC011666. Company Number SC073825.

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