A Blog about the Wardour Castle Summer Schools 1964, 1965

Gilbert and Lumsdaine

It was Anthony Gilbert who in various ways first prompted this research. Gilbert’s interview with Michael Hall that Hall quoted in his book* was the first mention of the WCSSs that I read, and remains one of the most significant passages on the topic in the published literature. Gilbert’s look of incredulity at my lack of knowledge of events from the 1960s spurred me to the particular research of this blog, and he had repeatedly offered to talk to me about the events. When I finally contacted him to make a date for this interview, he suggested including his old friend David Lumsdaine (who Gilbert first met at Wardour) and so the recorded conversation took place in York, with Gilbert travelling there from Manchester. This paragraph is a prolix way of saying that ‘I’m very grateful’.

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Accounts for 1965

1965 Accounts

The following are excerpts from the 1965 Certified Statement of Accounts, held at the V&A (ACGB/51/1265)

It is curious that no payment was made for music hire… It is also interesting to see the insistence with which the Arts Council corrects the accounts to conform to their commitment to guarantee 5 concerts and not six. There seems to have been a close eye kept on ensuring that the support the arts council gave was transparent and not confused with overall support for the summer school. One thinks of how rarely the arts council is credited as such in today’s concert programmes, where, instead, an arts council logo appears alongside other supporters. The full amount of the guarantee was paid, since the reduced deficit was still more than double the guarantee.

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1965 budget

The V&A archive (ACGB/51/1265) contains the accounts for the 1964 and 1965 summer schools and a budget for the 1965 event. I have posted the 1964 accounts here.

One of my research questions considers ways in which these summer schools were funded, and how this reflects prestige, as well as indicating the priorities of the events. Here is the budget for the 1965 events.

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1964 accounts

The V&A archives contain the accounts for both WCSSs.

(ACGB/51/265; see 1)

The items of expenditure are fairly unremarkable:

Catering, boarding out & gratuities. £573- :- 9
Caretaker, laundry, transport kitchen and domestic wages. 275- 19- 1
Artistes’ and orchestral fees. 432- 5- :
Heating, lighting, hire etc. 155- 8- :
Stationery, printing and advertising. 461- 1- 10
Hon. Secretary’s postages. 15- 13- 3
Hon. Treasurer’s do [H.O. Young] 12- 15- 5
Chairman’s telephone 72- 7- 10
Insurance, postage & sundries 89- 17- 3
2.088- 8- 5

However, it also gives the names of the employed tutors all of whom were offered £50 and all of whom waived their fees to balance the accounts.

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Advertisement for the 1964 WCSS


15TH TO 23RD AUGUST, 1964



The Wardour Summer School of Music is essentially a new venture, which will take place in the elegant Wardour Castle, built for the Arundell family in the latter half of the eighteenth century by James Paine. Read the rest of this entry »

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Funding, the SPNM and the ICA

The archived documents for the Arts Council of England’s annual report for 1965/66 includes a brief report from the SPNM accounting for its activities, which closes with the sentence:

‘In addition to these activities, a contribution of £250 was also made towards first performances of new works by young composers at the Wardour Castle Summer School of Music.’ (ACGB/51/265, ACGB/50/1310; see 1)

The Arts Council’s annual report included the following about the SPNM: Read the rest of this entry »

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The end of the WCSSs

The end of the WCSSs

With this second Wardour Castle school the venture came to a somewhat premature end. Premature because this 1965 school ended with a riotous party that went on all night, featured large numbers of people being sick in interesting places, and, most unfortunately, involved a fair amount of minor damage to the Cranborne Chase premises. It is interesting, though, of course, idle, to speculate on how different the course of recent British musical history might have been had the Wardour Castle experiment been able to continue for a few more years. (Seabrook, Mike (1994), Max: The Life and Music of Peter Maxwell Davies (London: Victor Gollancz), 93.).

The end of the WCSSs provided the impetus and the space needed for Gilbert, Lumsdaine and Banks to start the SPNM Composer Weekends, where composers continued to gather and which are of vital significance to understanding British music in the latter years of the 1960s. Although this blog is concerned with the two WCSSs, my wider research project seeks to detail the SPNM Composer Weekends.

Research into the Composer Weekends will also address the significant lack of literature about both series’, the scarcity of which privileges the Manchester-three.

But if the Wardour Castle schools thus saw the first germination of a phase of Max’s life and career, they also signalled the end of another: the 1965 school, with its nauseous and drunken conclusion, was the last time the so-called ‘Manchester School’ of composers did anything of any significance together.


After the second of the two events, Max, Goehr and Birtwistle had finally taken their places as fully acknowledged new leaders of British music, and were at last taken seriously as such. Max’s own last work on the school was typically generous: ‘This will be remembered’, he said, ‘for the arrival of Harrison Birtwistle.’ (Seabrook, Mike (1994), Max: The Life and Music of Peter Maxwell Davies (London: Victor Gollancz), 94.)

There is a further practical reason for no further Wardour Castle Summer Schools, since Birtwistle left in 1965 for Princeton (where Maxwell Davies had been) on a Harkness, the fellowship during which Punch and Judy was composed. 1 Stephen Pruslin had also been at Princeton until 1963.

Northcott confirms the reasons for the end of the WCSSs:

(LS100049, 1:53’28”)

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Dr Michael Hooper

I am a performer and musicologist.

For details of my activites and to hear recordings please visit: www.hoopermusic.com

This is the blog for my research into the two Wardour Castle Summer Schools, which took place in 1964 and 1965. One of the motivations for this research came from my doctoral studies of the music of David Lumsdaine. Over the period of that study (2004-2008) I became increasingly aware of how little published material exists that details events in the music life of the 1960s. This blog charts some of the research that I am undertaking to contribute to the documentation of that time. It is one part of a research project that also seeks to detail the SPNM Composer Weekends that were founded by Anthony Gilbert, David Lumsdaine and Don Banks and which ran from 1967.

For those who took part in these events, this blog no doubt appears woefully lacking in information – addressing this issue is the motivation for the blog. So, post comments or email me with the information that you think I ought to know.


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