Three festivals contributed to the part that music played in the county. The longest established (from1968) was that arranged by Haddington Community Council. Concerts ranging from popular music to classical, and recitals by gifted young people and professionals, were a significant part of this fortnight of events at the end of May and beginning of June. In 1997, Peter Antonelli decided that, in all this wealth of instrumental performance, the piano was suffering from neglect, so an East Lothian Piano Festival, non-competitive, at which pianists can air their skills and receive an expert adjudication began that year.
In Dunbar, since1988, Dunbar Traditional Music Festival took place in various public houses in the town, sponsored by Belhaven Brewery. Occurring at the end of September, it was well supported by the public and attracted attention from exponents of traditional music from far and wide.
The Bridge Centre Music Project
In 1992, the innovative Bridge Centre Music Project was launched in Haddington by the rock star, Fish, and by Peter Wishart, from the Scottish group Runrig. From the initial group of 20 at the launch, by the end of the period, there were approximately 100 young people involved in six days of activities every week. The aim was to provide young people like these with the opportunity to participate in the making and recording of music, with practical guidance and tuition in all aspects associated with this. The emphasis was on creativity. The project drew together young people, aged 12-18, from varying social backgrounds and established useful links with secondary schools as well as community-associated groups in the county. Apart from learning musicianly skills and playing in bands, additional advantages were the development of self-confidence and self-esteem and a sense of collective responsibility. It reflected in a very real sense the development of music teaching in the schools which from the beginning of the period, had moved from the received wisdom of the singing class to the perception of a wider musical world where children could discover instruments and invent their own music.
Haddington Music Festival
There was a fourth festival, organised by the Haddington Music Initiative, a group of volunteers from all sectors of the community who were interested in music. This was the Haddington Music Festival, which took place for the first time in 1998. Increasingly, some of the young people involved in the Bridge Centre Music Project helped with the organisation of the Festival. A programme of events featuring a variety of bands gave concerts over a period of three weeks in August and September. The Festival culminated in the Battle of the Bands, a competition that became something of a national event, attracting bands from all over Scotland. The ultimate winner received recording time in Castlesound Studios, one of Scotland’s top recording studios, situated in Pencaitland.