TWO Totnes churches are staging an eclectic range of events and concerts for the inaugural Totnes Festival.

St Mary’s Church in the High Street and St John’s Church in Bridgetown will feature world music, classical, jazz, organ, folk, storytelling and puppet shows during the 10-day extravaganza.

The church programme will kick off with the Totnes Matronal on the feast day of St Mary on Monday August 15, when a procession will assemble at The Plains before heading up through the town centre led by the figure of the Virgin Mother made by local artist Lu Christie.

The procession will wind its way to the Market Square for the festival’s official opening, followed by a Pilgrim’s Feast of bread, raisin cakes and beer at St Mary’s Churchyard to mark the festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

There will be music in the church all afternoon including the ethereal and mystical melodies of Hildegaard of Bingen.

Later that evening, organist Richard Lester, former associate organist at Buckfast Abbey, will perform a concert at St John’s Church featuring Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor, together with Frescobaldi’s compelling ‘Fiori Musicali.

The concert will also feature Totnes choir St Mary’s, directed by Mike Gibbons, who will sing the Gregorian plainchant of the Fiori Masses.

From 1pm to 2pm on Tuesday to Friday August 16 to 19, St Mary’s Church will host a series of lunchtime recitals featuring leading local organists who regularly play at the church, including Ian Curror, the former organist of Royal Hospital, Chelsea; Andrew Millington, former director of music at Exeter Cathedral; and Peter King, formerly of Bath Abbey.

Tuesday brings a journey into another world at St Mary’s with ‘Fairytales for Grown-Ups - the Grateful and the Dead.’

World renowned for his playful performances, Ben Haggarty will lure the audience into the richly metaphorical world of a full-blooded fairytale for grown-ups.

Children however, should head over to St John’s where Peter’s Puppets will be performing three shows a day on the festival Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mike Gibbons, director of music at the churches, said: “We are delighted the new Totnes Festival has been created and is happening over the St Mary’s Matronal Festival.

“There’s been a brilliant response from all the local performers who are being showcased in both churches and we’re looking forward to a really enthusiastic turn-out from South Hams resident and visitors at some great and very original and unusual events both inside and outside during the week.”

Other church concerts include the classical string chamber music group ‘The Haldon Quartet plus one,’ ‘Briony Greenhill and Friends’ who play a mix of folk, jazz and improvisation; a jazz night featuring ‘Jazzient’ sax and guitair duo together with performance poet Julie Mullen; and the debut of the Torquay Symphony Orchestra’s brand-new Contemporary Music Ensemble.

The two churches will also play host to a variety of other events including the video premiere of ‘The Talking Forest,’ a story created and written by local children.

Featuring more than 100 puppets made, animated and narrated by the children who wrote the story, Talking Forest conveys the children’s thoughts on climate change via spectacular live puppetry.

Palestinian singer, composer and instrumentalist, Rasha Nahas, will fill St Mary’s with soulful sounds from the Middle East on Friday August 19; while three local artists Russell Harris, Samar Zeki and Mark Beford will present an inspired fusion of poetry, storytelling and live Middle Eastern Music at St Mary’s on Sunday August 21.

Devon storytellers Lisa Schneidau, Katy Cawkwell and Ronnie Conboy will tell of ‘The Wounded King: Fragments of Arthur for our times’ - Fragments of Arthurian legend that reflect the times we are living through now, woven together with song and hope and humanity.

For the churches’ full programme visit