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 41st Festival will take place in 2017.

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.

To read more about the History of the Festival click here

Hear about the Festival on BBC Radio Programmes, Music Matters and Open Country.

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. Typically over 400 members of the local community perform at the Festival each year. This includes events such as the Festival Chorus performance with the Orchestra, the Johnsmas Foy which showcases local drama and writing, music workshops with leading professionals, large-scale community drama productions and regular 'Side by Side' events where young local musicians join the professionals in full-scale Festival concerts. Recently the Festival has been involved in pioneering work on more inclusive forms of music-making for those with complex needs.

Through 'Festival on Tour', the Festival send musicians to take part in concerts and workshops in the outer islands, schools and care homes and over the years the Festival has provided a platform for the rising generation of Orkney music stars to have their first taste of large scale performance. In addition over 250 people volunteer to help make the Festival happen, either behind the scenes or front of house. You can read more about our current Community and Education work here.

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


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


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


Festival Director
Alasdair Nicolson

Festival Manager
Charlotte Rendall

Bethany Alexander

Production Assistant
Shona Pew

Box Office Manager
Leslie Sinclair


Festival on Tour
Alison Cruickshanks

Front of House
Esther Thomson

Steven Bruce

Ian Rushbrook


Board of Directors

Leslie Burgher

Hayley Green
Samantha Miller
Alasdair Nicolson
Edward Nicolson
John Rendall
Cynthia Spencer


Glenys Hughes

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, 13 Albert Street, Kirkwall, KW15 1HP

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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