Kenilworth Arts Festival returns to the enchanting Tudor Stables at Kenilworth Castle this year, when folk duo Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker – supported by Toby Hay – take to the stage on 27th September. The Tudor Stables provides a beautiful setting for folk music, boasting pitch perfect acoustics and mesmerising surroundings. Concerts in this 500-year-old building deliver a truly unique musical and historical experience.
Watch John Smith deliver a soaring performance of ‘Save My Life’ at the venue in 2017.
The Tudor Stables has witnessed the comings and goings of war, peace, and a lot of horses. John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, built the stables during his short tenure as owner of Kenilworth Castle between March and August 1553. Dudley was executed soon after, following a failed plot to place his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey on the throne after Edward VI’s death. The Crown resumed ownership of the castle until Elizabeth I granted it to John’s son, Robert Dudley in 1563. The Earl of Leicester made extensive changes to the castle over the next twenty-five years in his bid to impress the queen on her visits to Kenilworth.
The Parliamentarian regime demolished sections of the castle in the midst of the English Civil War. Only the Leicester Gatehouse and the Tudor Stables remain habitable today, the rest a glorious ruin. The castle attracted tourism throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly after the publication of Sir Walter Scott’s tragic novel, Kenilworth, in 1821. English Heritage increased public access to the castle in 1984 and restored the Tudor Stables to house historical exhibitions.
Kenilworth Castle has hosted its fair share of musical entertainment over the years. Most famously, perhaps, Robert Dudley spent an enormous £60,000 entertaining Elizabeth I during her stay in July 1575. Spectacles of music, masques and dancing were complemented by jousting, hunting and bear-baiting, while an elaborate water pageant on the lake stood out as the showpiece event. These lavish festivities, which partly inspired Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, have been understood by historians as Dudley’s extended marriage proposal to Elizabeth. Scholars have yet to confirm whether July 1575 also represented the very first Kenilworth Arts Festival.
We hope a more diverse range of guests enjoy our 2018 edition of the festival- we also talked Lewis out of the bear-baiting idea. The Tudor Stables at Kenilworth Castle is steeped in heritage and, now free from its equestrian duties, represents the ideal location for a night of music. Renowned Scottish folk musician Rachel Sermanni previously captivated crowds here, while John Smith’s gravelly voice reverberated around the room in 2017. This year, Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker play an intimate one-off concert in the Tudor Stables that will see them return to their stripped back duo set-up. It is sure to be a special occasion, and one not to miss.