The first Royston Arts Festival was held in 1982 under the directorship of Richard Lambert.

 In 1983, a year before his death, the composer Gordon Jacob CBE, visited the festival to attend a concert celebrating his life work. That year the festival held a Henry Moore exhibition, showing 56 of his graphics and a concert hosted by the BBC newsreader Richard Whitmore.

1985 saw the Master of the Queen’s Music, Malcolm Williamson, premiere Songs for a Royal Baby at the festival. He was joined at the festival by another renowned composer, Elizabeth Poston.

In 1988 the festival featured the Pro Arte Guitar Trio a year after they formed. They are now recognised as one of the world’s leading guitar ensembles. That year also saw an evening of Indian classical music and a talk by Jonathon Gash, creator of BBC1’s hit detective series ‘Lovejoy’.

One of the highlights of 1993 was the Welsh storyteller Daniel Morden who has since completed residencies at the Royal National Theatre and the Barbican Centre in London and has adapted traditional stories for the theatre, television and radio and in 1995 the journalist, broadcaster and novelist Claire Raynor proved a large draw.

Over the turn of the millennium the festival took an nine year break until it was revived in 2007.

2008 saw the internationally-renowned trumpeter Alison Balsom gracing the festival concert and in 2009 the National Theatre’s Staff Director Robin Belfield returned to Royston to run a voice workshop.

In 2010 the award-winning children’s author and illustrator James Mayhew ran a series of workshops and Yellowtale Theatre Company brought Shakespeare to the festival. 

2011 saw a visit from the pianist Cann Twins and a sell-out workshop with novelist Sarah Harrison.

The Daleks came to Royston in 2012, as did one of Britain’s favourite poets Wendy Cope, the nu-folk duo Megson and BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist Clare Hammond. The following year Aardman Animation’s Will Harding showed nearly one hundred people how to make Shaun the Sheep and Gromit. In 2013 Meera Syal (comedian, novelist etc etc) did a one off Q&A and we created a Small Royston map for people to place their models on. 

Six year’s after she last played the festival, 2014 saw Alison Balsom return the very week her album Paris topped the classical charts. Royston’s Heroes and Villains were everywhere, including those featured on a permanent art trail, created for the festival by local children and Glazed Creations.

20 September to 5 October 2024