Aberdeen International Youth Festival

Aberdeen International Youth Festival, formerly the International Festival of Youth Orchestras, was a performing arts festival and one of Scotland's major international cultural events, which ran from 1973 to 2017.

Native Australian performers at the festival

Each year the festival brought over 1000 young people in performing arts companies and music groups from across the globe. It provided a showcase for their talents, bringing them together with professionals and artists.

As well as the ticketed events the Festival staged a parade, open-air performances and a fringe programme in community venues.

A programme attracted over 30,000 people to more than seventy events throughout north east Scotland each year. Concerts, dance shows and galas in Aberdeen were held in venues such as His Majesty's Theatre, The Music Hall and The Lemon Tree as well as smaller venues such as churches (such as Queen's Cross Church, Aberdeen) and also featured a touring programme taking events to rural venues.

The AIYF programme included symphony orchestras and steel bands, song recitals and jazz, traditional music, world music, ballet, contemporary and traditional dance. The festival also produced an opera, (Opera Garden) as well as performances developed by the participating companies working together over the course of the Festival.

In November 2017 it was announced that Aberdeen City Council was to cease funding the event. In March 2018, it was announced that the festival was to be wound up.[1]



The event began as the International Festival of Youth Orchestras. In 1973, at the invitation of the British Tourist Authority, the festival moved to the UK and established a base both in Aberdeen and London for five years. Due to the facilities and support in the City of Aberdeen and its university, the festival was able to expand to incorporate all forms of dance, jazz and choral music.

Internationally renowned guest conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Carlo Maria Giulini, Walter Susskind and Leopold Stokowski, were invited to conduct the Festival Orchestra - a specially created orchestra, which was invited to appear at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and also played at the opening concert of the Edinburgh International Festival in 1978 (the first youth orchestra to appear at The Edinburgh Festival).

Due to the success and support from both the City of Aberdeen, local businesses and growing audiences, in 1979 the management focussed the event entirely in Aberdeen and the north east of Scotland. Nicola Wallis, who had been associated with IFYO since 1973, was appointed Director in 1980, with Roy Hendry Thomson as Marketing Director, and the name of the Festival changed to the Aberdeen International Youth Festival. Nicola Wallis ran the Festival until 2003, when she became the Chief Executive of the Voices Foundation. In 2003 the Festival established a full-time office base in Aberdeen and a new Chief Executive, Stephen Stenning was appointed in May 2003. Developments during this time include the creation of Grampian Youth Orchestra. In November 2007 Stewart Aitken, formerly Artistic Director of Wigan Pier Theatre Company became the Chief Executive.

International Festival of Youth OrchestrasEdit

The International Festival of Youth Orchestras was created in the late 1960s by the late Blyth Major, Music Director of the Midland Youth Orchestra and Lionel Bryer, later Chairman of the International Youth Foundation. They conceived the idea of bringing together youth orchestras from all over the world at a festival using music as a unifying bond to promote international understanding. The first International Festival of Youth Orchestras was held in 1969 in St Moritz in Switzerland.

Opera GardenEdit

Opera Garden was the Aberdeen International Youth Festival's Opera Project. Named after the Aberdonian opera singer, Mary Garden, the project aspired to continue her work, providing new challenges and performances for young singers.

Conceived by Artistic Director Gidon Saks, the project brought together young singers from across the world and in three weeks produced a full-scale opera production. Opera Garden staged Così fan tutte, Eugene Onegin, Don Giovanni, Carmen, The Magic Flute, Falstaff, The Turn of the Screw and Hansel and Gretel.

AIYF Dance SchoolEdit

The Festival's Dance Summer School ran for 25 years[when?] and welcomed teachers from major schools and companies worldwide including the Paris Opera Ballet School and the Kirov and Bolshoi companies.

A Dance Summer School was held annually as part of the Aberdeen International Youth Festival. The school offered an intensive course in dance for students aged 12–16, a performance course for advanced level students in full-time training for a career in dance, a music theatre course and a 'taster day' for younger dance students.

Some notable people that have appeared at the festivalEdit


Patrons of the festival included -


  1. ^ "Aberdeen International Youth Festival to be wound up". BBC News. BBC. 23 March 2018. Retrieved 27 April 2018.

External linksEdit