In 1946 the Barnsley British Co-operative Society began the Co-operative Youth Music and Drama Festival here in Barnsley and it had continued on an annual basis for the past 74 years until 2020 when we were in the unfortunate grip of a Coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in our Festival having to be cancelled. We are, however, hopeful of a return to normality as we celebrate 75 years since our formation.

Since 1946 many changes have occurred within the Co-operative itself until in the year 2000 we saw the merger  of the country’s two largest consumer co-ops to form the world’s largest consumer owned co-operative—the Co-operative Group. At this time the Co-operative Group then undertook the organising of the Festival. However, in July 2007 the Group and United Co-operatives amalgamated to create an even larger more competitive  Co-operative Society but the responsibility for organising the Festival had already been delegated to a dedicated group of Festival enthusiasts. The Festival Committee, who ran the Festival became an autonomous Charitable Organisation  in 2006. This Committee was Chaired by Margaret Venables from that time until her resignation due to ill health in 2018. It was with great sadness that both Margaret and her husband Aubrey left the steering committee but we are proud to have them as Honorary Life members of our Festival, sharing their extensive knowledge of the Festival movement. Another long standing committee member, Marione Brown took over as caretaker Chairman for 12 months in 2018 and had hoped to remain as a committee member but after a period of ill health sadly died in 2019 – she will be greatly missed. Alison Hartley, who had been associated with our Festival for many years became our third and the current Festival Chairman.

We are proud to be still supported by the Co-operative Group (on a casual basis) thus maintaining a 75 year link between the Festival and The Co-operative Movement.  Indeed many of the trophies that are still presented today have been donated by various branches of the Co-op, past and present.. But in order to meet our ever increasing costs,   the Festival is now having to seek general sponsorship (other than solely from the Co-operative). With this in mind it was felt that the time was right to change the name of the Festival to the Barnsley Youth Music and Drama Festival (formerly Co-operative Youth Music and Drama Festival).

At present the Festival has over 100 classes competing for over 60 trophies. All trophy winners are now eligible to compete for six encouragement awards and the Drama and Music Gold Awards (new Trophies) at a special concert on the final evening of the Festival week.

The Festival Committee strive to provide young performers with a platform where they may gain the confidence to move on to greater heights and we sincerely hope that we can do this in our 75th year!

The continued success and expansion of the Festival is attributable to the continued support of the Co-operative Group (through their Co-op Community Fund donations) and our other Festival Sponsors.

We are also deeply indebted to the enthusiasm of today’s band of volunteers, our committee and the foresight of those of yesteryear.

We are always looking for new volunteer helpers to assist during Festival Week and so if you or anyone you know is  interested in joining us or if you would like to become a Sponsor of the Festival, then please contact us by email on  info@barnsley-ymdfestival.co.uk for more information or  telephone  A Dawson, Festival Administrator on 0707903171428

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the individuals, groups and schools who have supported our Festival over the past 75 years and look forward to seeing you again in the future.