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Festival forecast

Peter Maxwell Davies launched the St Magnus festival on a shoestring 28 years ago. How did the Orkneys shape one of Europe's most remarkable musical events?

Benjamin Britten once said that a good festival should involve a journey to a special place, preferably not too easy to reach and requiring a certain amount of preparation and effort. By this count the St Magnus festival in Orkney, now in its 28th year, qualifies, along with Bayreuth, Aldeburgh and Wexford, as one of the finest of Europe’s festivals, combining originality, charm, ambition and innovation. When, back in 1977, the composer Peter Maxwell Davies, now Master of the Queen’s Music, bought an abandoned house on the Orkney island of Hoy, with, as he recalls, 60 years of sheep-muck inside,…

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