POLDARK star Jack Farthing will recite poetry at an international music festival in one of Sussex’s most beautiful villages.

The actor, who plays George Warleggan in the BBC drama, is appearing for the first time at South Downs Summer Music International Festival in Alfriston later this month.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” says Emily Holland, one of the violinists with the festival’s artistic directors the Benyounes Quartet. “Jack’s parents live in Alfriston and we’ve only just heard that he could come due to his busy schedule, so we’re really excited.”

Jack, 33, who also starred in the 2014 movie The Riot Club and in the ITV series Blandings, will appear on the stage as the tenor Nicky Spence performs O Albion with pianist Jeremy Young, Fraser Kelman on the oboe and the Benyounes Quartet, the new artistic directors of the festival, which runs from July 24-29.

Other artists appearing at the festival include composer and jazz pianist Kit Downes, cellist Philip Higham, flautist Jonathan Rimmer, who will perform with the Alfriston Ensemble, pianist Gen Li, the Aronowitz Ensemble, cellist Kim Vaughan, Scottish oboist Frazer Kelman and London-based vocalist, violinist, songwriter and composer Alice Zawadzki.

Previously known as Alfriston Summer Music, this is the first year the festival will be directed by the award-winning Benyounes Quartet, formed in 2007 at the Royal Northern College of Music and now one of the most engaging, dynamic and successful young quartets to have emerged from the UK in recent years.

They recently released their debut recording – Mozart Piano Concertos with pianist Jeremy Young on Meridian Records and are part of a collaborative recording of the complete works for string quartet by Mendelssohn, released by Champs Hill.

The winners of the 2012 1st International Sandor Vegh String Quartet Competition in Budapest and second prize winners at the 2014 Orlando International String Quartet Competition,  the quartet founded Quercus Ensemble, a mixed chamber music group based in Northern Ireland, in 2012. The quartet works regularly with Shobana Jeyasingh Dance and has collaborated with award winning jazz group Empirical, performing in the London Jazz Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and appearing on their album Tabula Rasa.

This season, the quartet will curate a series of concerts in collaboration with Women of the World Festival, which explore neglected female composers, and has taken on the directorship of South Downs Summer Music after its founders, Daniel Bhattacharya and Jeremy Young, decided to step down after 10 years.

“The Benyounes Quartet have played at the festival a few times, then when Daniel and Jeremy were thinking of handing over they, they did not want the festival to finish,” explains Emily. “This is a really nice thing for a quartet to do. It’s an honour to invite people we have played with and perform things we can’t perform during the year.

“This year for the first time, we have a quartet in residence, the Freeman Quartet, who will play the final classical concert of the festival. It’s a great opportunity for them to play a new repertoire.”

The decision to rebrand it as the South Downs Summer Music International Festival was madein the hope of attracting audiences from further afield and to better reflect the calibre of the musicians and performances”. Its aim is to continue to bring world-class artists and promising young talent to its audience and provide insight and education in the science of music. Previous performers at the festival have included Dame Felicity Lott, Katherine Stott, Julian Bliss, Karine Georgian, Li Wei Qin, Jennifer Pike, Benyounes and Heath String Quartets, and in recent years has branched out into poetry and music events, inviting Sir Andrew Motion, Michael Pennington, and Prunella Scales and Timothy West. 

“The rebrand is to change perceptions because it has been seen as a village festival and so people did not realise the quality of the musicians coming,” says Emily. “It has all the charming atmosphere of a village festival but with international musicians. And there’s a free gin and tonic to boot!”

South Downs Summer Music International Festival takes place from Tuesday-Sunday July 24-29 at St Andrew’s Church, The Tye, Alfriston, and Lullington Church, Lullington. Visit southdownssummermusic.co.uk.

Concerts of the South Downs Summer Music International Festival:

Alfriston Ensemble with Jonathan Rimmer (flute)

St Andrew’s Church, The Tye, Alfriston

Tuesday July 24, 7.30pm

Tickets £15

On the programme: Capriol Suite by Warlock, Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 2 and Schubert’s String Quartet in D minor ‘Death and the Maiden’.

Benyounes Quartet with Philip Higham (cello)

St Andrew’s Church, The Tye, Alfriston

Wednesday July 25, 7.30pm
Tickets £15

On the programme: Haydn’s String Quartet in G major op.76 no.1 and Schubert’s String Quintet D.956.

Jack Farthing, Nicky Spence (tenor), Jeremy Young (piano), Fraser Kelman (oboe) and Benyounes Quartet

St Andrew’s Church, The Tye, Alfriston

Thursday July 26, 7.30pm

Tickets £15

On the programme: ‘O Albion’ – music and poetry with Poldark star Jack Farthing. Programme to include ‘On Wenlock Edge’ by Vaughan Williams.

Top: Jack Farthing, and below, as George Warleggan in the BBC’s Poldark/picture: BBC/Mammoth Screen

Above: the Benyounes Quartet

Below: Nicky Spence

Above: Kit Downes

Below: Jonathan Rimmer

Above: Gen Li

Below: Alice Zawadzki/picture: Monika Jakubowksa

Above: Lewis Wright

Below: Tom Poster/picture: Jason Joyce

Alice Zawadzki (vocals), Lewis Wright (vibes) & Kit Downes (piano)

St Andrew’s Church, The Tye, Alfriston

Friday July 27, 7.30pm

Tickets £15

The programme is to be announced.

Aronowitz Ensemble: Magnus Johnston (violin), Tom Poster (piano), Pierre Doumenge (cello)

St Andrew’s Church, The Tye, Alfriston

Saturday July 28, 7.30pm

On the programme: Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in C minor op.66 and Schubert’s Piano Trio in E flat op.100.

Gen Li (piano)

St Andrew’s Church, The Tye, Alfriston

Friday July 27, 1pm


Ben Li is the Hastings International Piano Competition prizewinner. On the programme: Debussy’s Etude No.10 Pour les sonorites opposees, Prelude No.10 La cathedrale engloutie and Images Book 2, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata op.31 no.3 in E flat major and Prokofiiev’s Piano Sonata No.3 op.28 in A minor.

Fraser Kelman (oboe) & Kim Vaughan (cello)

Church of the Good Shepherd, Lullington

Saturday July 28, 3pm


The programme of this microconcert is to be confirmed.

Young Musicians Concert

St Andrew’s Church, The Tye, Alfriston

Sunday July 29, 3pm

Performed by the Freeman Quartet, the festival’s Quartet in Residence 2018. On the programme: Haydn’s String Quartet op.20 no.5 and Smetana’s String Quartet no.1.