The London International Festival of Early Music is one of the largest and most inclusive early music festivals in the world. The festival began in 1973 and was first hosted at the Royal College of Music. The event moved to the Royal Horticultural Halls, and Greenwich, before finally finding its home at Blackheath Halls, in London’s oldest surviving purpose-built cultural venue.
The festival attracts a network of vibrant artists, early music enthusiasts and supporters. In 2020, we were faced with unprecedented challenges posed by Covid-19, and were required to adapt and innovate to achieve LIFEM’s goals. We took an innovative approach to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, and welcomed world-renowned concert artists and a global audience to our first digital festival – LIFEM:Digital.
After a hybrid festival in 2021, both in-person and digital, we’re excited to present a full-blown event this year, welcoming performers, exhibitors and early music enthusiasts from the world over.
At the heart of LIFEM is our world-famous early music exhibition. More than 70 exhibitors come from all around the globe to exhibit; makers, publishers and early music societies gather for the three-day event. It’s a hub of early-music activity with makers, professionals, amateurs and early-music lovers being able to share their knowledge and learn the newest and most exciting developments in the early music world. Exhibited instruments include (and are not limited to!) recorders; baroque and renaissance winds (flutes, crumhorns, cornamusen, bassoons, oboes, rackets, shawms, gemshorns, pipes); early brass (cornetti, trumpets, sackbuts, serpents); early bowed strings (viola da gambas, baroque violins, baroque violas, baroque cellos, violones); early plucked strings (lutes, chittarones, theorbos, guitars, mandolins, viheluas, harps, lyres); early keyboards (spinets, harpsichords, fortepianos, clavichords, organs) and an array of early percussion instruments.
In addition to the exhibition, LIFEM welcomes international, world-class artists to perform at the festival each year. Recent artists and ensembles have included Solomon’s Knot, Fretwork, Mahan Esfahani, L’Arpeggiata and Michaela Petri to name but a few. Since 2020 LIFEM has been championing new works for early music instruments, and commissions a new piece each year for a world premiere performance at the festival. In 2020 the acclaimed viol consort Fretwork performed The Tudor Pull by John Paul Jones and in 2021 the enigmatic duo, viol player Liam Byrne and lutenist Jonas Nordberg, performed Angel Waters by Errollyn Wallen.
LIFEM wouldn’t be complete as a festival without its programme of performance platforms, makers’ demonstration recitals, workshops, talks and our new initiative since 2021, Festival evensong. LIFEM also hosts two biennial competitions running in alternate years; our very own Early Music Young Ensemble Competition (which will be held this year) and the Moeck/Society of Recorder Players’ Solo Recorder Competition. The winner of each competition wins a cash prize and is invited back to perform at the following year’s LIFEM.
The biggest and most important development in LIFEM’s most recent history is its charitable status. LIFEM became a charity in July 2020 and welcomed Susannah Simons, Tony Millyard, Carolin Barnfield and Chris Butler as its inaugural trustees. LIFEM’s charity mission is to advance the education and appreciation of early music through its annual festival and other outreach projects and events. LIFEM is busy looking to the future and is currently planning new initiatives including education and community projects.
To find out more about LIFEM, continue to browse our website, and for further information, please contact our Festival Producer, Ann Barkway (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can support LIFEM and our charitable mission by becoming a Friend of LIFEM.