MARTIN Dimery, who became creative director of the Frome Festival in 2007, taking over from founder-director Martin Bax, has announced that he will retire from his post after the 2022 festival.
He said: “Directing the Frome Festival has been immensely rewarding and I’ve been greatly honoured to have maintained the position for 15 years. Following a year off in 2020 due to Covid, we came back this year with one of the most challenging but widely-appreciated festivals I can recall.
“We felt it was important to go ahead despite Covid restrictions being maintained. The outdoor events at the ECOS amphitheatre, Marston Park and the Silk Mill were highly memorable, and having been so well received, we hope they will be a feature of the 2022 festival.
“Sadly, running a festival under such restrictions comes with a price. All major performances were cancelled at the Cheese and Grain and some events went ahead to substantially reduced capacities, which meant subsidising normally profitable shows. We also experienced a serious shortfall in sponsorship with so many local businesses closed during lockdown.
“Our 20th anniversary exhibition at Rook Lane went ahead, having been postponed for a year. Subsidy from the Frome Society for Local Study and the Frome Lottery helped to underwrite the celebrations, but most of the costs were born from our own resources. We did not qualify for the government’s Covid Support Fund or the Arts Council’s subsidy. Frome Town Council provided grant support, but no other applications were successful. For many of my years as director, the festival has been uncertain of its future, but we have always adapted and survived.”
Martin Dimery, who is also an actor, singer-musician and director, says he had been planning to retire in 2022 for a while: “The year marks the 30th anniversary of the ECOS European Festival at Frome College, which I directed, along with my good friend and colleague Mike Walker. It was the first time I’d run a festival and proved excellent training for my appointment to the Frome Festival.
“To celebrate the anniversary, I have written a stage musical, along with Frome composer David Hynds, called The Haunting of Richard III, which will be produced with a local cast. I am determined to hand the festival over in the best possible artistic and financial health and thank the chairman, Gavin Rae, and board of directors for their incredible support over the years.”
Martin Dimery first came to Frome in 1983 as head of drama at Frome College. During his time there he was also invited to establish a youth theatre at Theatre Royal Bath and directed the opening night of the Bath Festival for five years. He also briefly ran the Merlin Theatre at Frome College before moving to Millfield School in Street, managing the school’s Meyer Theatre.
In 2005 he moved into concert promotion as part -time programme manager at the Cheese and Grain hall in Frome, which he later coupled with the position as Frome Festival director.
He retired from the Cheese and Grain in 2017 after being elected as one of the first two Green Party councillors to Somerset County Council. He has also maintained a writing and performing career in his spare time. He was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts in 2020.
Martin Dimery is married to Anne who directs local productions in Frome. They have three grown-up children and two grandchildren.