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The Inaugural Steve Sykes Commission for New Music - Deadline Friday 30 July 2021


Our Inspiration for creating this commission


Steve Sykes 1950- 2020. Chair of Holmfirth Arts Festival 2016-2020


Steve Sykes was the dynamic and inspirational chair of Holmfirth Arts Festival from 2016 until he

died suddenly after a stroke in 2020. He steered the organisation with drive, imagination and

humour with his calm, inclusive leadership inspiring a large group of volunteers.


Steve was born and bred in the Holme Valley and never ceased to wonder at the beauty of its

landscape. Nature and music were his lifelong passions. He was an accomplished guitarist and

saxophonist who loved collaborating with others to put on live, creative events. He was a man

who calmly and quietly made things happen, encouraging and enabling musicians of all ages to

play their very best music.


Holmfirth Arts Festival – Creativity in the Landscape

Taking inspiration from its unique location in the Pennine foothills of West Yorkshire, Holmfirth Arts Festival celebrates creativity in the landscape by:

  • Commissioning new work and supporting diverse artists

  • Inspiring diverse communities to engage with the arts and their heritage

  • Caring for the environment

  • Connecting locally, regionally and internationally


Our Values underpin how we work across all aspects of our organisation including programming, commissioning and working with each other.

  • CREATE - nurture creativity in all forms

  • CELEBRATE - people and place

  • CARE – be welcoming, mindful of each other and custodians of our environment

  • CONNECT - people to each other and to the places they live


The Commission


In this first year of the Steve Sykes Memorial Commission we are seeking to commission a new piece of music that responds to the Holme Valley landscape, its people and places whilst reflecting our aims and values.


The commission is open to young and emergent musicians/composers/performers either based in, or with clear connections through work or family, to the Holme Valley.


We have no fixed idea of the genre of music that will be produced, but it needs to be appropriate and accessible for a wide ranging and diverse audience to include young people, older people and people with protected characteristics.


We are seeking a piece of new music that will be between 30 minutes and 1 hour in length. We will also consider existing new works that have not previously been publicly performed.


The commission is open to solo musicians and collaborating ensembles. 

The commissioned musician/musicians may use audio visual aids or other performance genres as part of the performance, within the offered commission fee.


The commission will include 1 performance of the new piece at Holmfirth Arts Festival at 3.30pm on Saturday 18 September 2021 at the Holmfirth Civic Hall in a double bill with experimental cellist, Slow Cooked, who created a new piece, The Drowned Giant, for the 2020 Festival.


We are particularly interested in applications from people from diverse ethnic backgrounds or that identify as having one or more protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation).



Our Offer


Holmfirth Arts Festival is offering a fee of £2000 to include VAT and all costs associated with the commission, including performance of the new work at Holmfirth Arts Festival on 18 September (see above)


Support and guidance during the creation of your commission from Holmfirth Arts Festival Director and Christopher Deering, musician/performer, long term supporter of Holmfirth Arts Festival and friend of Steve Sykes.


Billing and promotion of your commission in our 2021 Festival brochure (13,000 print run), website, social media, press and broadcast media.


Technical production of the performance of your commission at the 2021 Festival.



How to apply


Respond to our aims, themes and values.


Explain your idea and how you intend to achieve it. Explain the genre of music, the instruments to be used and the intended length of the new work.


Tell us about your connection to Holmfirth and/or the Holme Valley.


Tell us what has inspired you about the Holme Valley landscape, its people and places and how you intend to reflect this through the commission.


Explain your idea for performing the new commission at the Festival in September including number of musicians/performers, technical requirements.


Tell us about your experience as a musician/performer to date and please send samples of previous work as links and/or sound files.


Apply in writing (up to two sides of A4) or by video of up to 5 mins.  Send your submission by email to by 5pm Friday 30 July 2021.



What happens next?


We will shortlist in the week commencing 2 August and invite shortlisted candidates to an interview by the end of that week in Holmfirth (or by zoom should Covid restrictions still apply).


The interview panel will include Lesley Sykes (Steve’s widow), Bev Adams (Director, Holmfirth Arts Festival), Christopher Deering (Holmfirth Arts Festival Supporter and Musician) and Dave Calvert (Board member and musician).


The creation of the work can start as soon as contracts are signed.


We will schedule check in points with you during the process.


We expect the commission to be written by the first week of September so that the new work can be rehearsed and ready for performance at the Festival on 18 September.


Please feel free to contact Bev Adams should you have any questions.

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