The competitive Festival movement was already well established when the second world war broke out in 1939. Torbay had a large number of evacuees attending school for half a day only, and the Youth service backed by local residents and businesses arranged activities to occupy the children in their spare time. As a result in 1940 the first Festival was held. It’s founder Bill Coysh used his musical background and business contacts to organise just 5 classes.

By the early 1950’s it was the largest Festival in the South West, and it has continued to grow to what we see today, with the three main disciplines of the Performing Arts ; Dance, Speech and Drama and Music. We offer a wide range of classes to all ages from Lieder to Barbershop choirs; Piano recitals and Jazz quartets to School orchestras and pop groups; from dramatic Shakespearian scenes and Poetry recitals to Television news-reading; and from Ballet to Tap and Highland fling to Street dance via Classical Greek.


Our competitors are overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, children and young people. The advantages they gain are enormous:

  • an opportunity for an amateur to perform in front of a professional, and to learn and improve from that process;
    an opportunity to pace themselves against others of similar abilities;
  • an opportunity to increase their repertoire by watching their peers;
  • an opportunity, especially for younger children, to grow in confidence by performing on a public platform;
  • an opportunity to use amateur performance as a springboard into the professional arts, whether as an artist or a teacher;

The majority of performers, of course, will not go on to a professional career; however they will become the educated audiences of the future, supporting our opera houses, theatres and concert halls throughout the country.


The Torbay and South West of England Festival is a member of the British and International Federation of Festivals, one of over 300 festivals throughout the United Kingdom and Channel Islands. There is a strong overseas festival movement in the Republic of Ireland and there are affiliated festivals in Hong Kong, Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Sri Lanka, the United States and Zimbabwe.

Our Festival has a high profile within this wider festival movement; and is active both at national level, and within the South West Regional Forum of the Federation.

Further Education Grants

Incorporating The Bill Coysh Grants Fund In memory of Bill Coysh

Hon. Secretary 1941-1959, Chairman 1959-1977, Vice President 1977-1987, and

The Pamela de Waal Fund In memory of Pamela de Waal

Committee 1956-1980, Vice Chairman 1980-2011, Vice President 2002-2011


Higher Education Grants

Competitors are invited to apply for a grant for the next academic year if they:

1. are resident in Devon and
2. have been a regular competitor at the Festival, and
3. have obtained a place at a principal school of music, drama or stage dance for further training.

Applications should be made in writing as soon as possible, but before 31st August.

Applicants must send full particulars of themselves, their training to date, their participation in our Festival, and a copy of the letter of acceptance from the school or college concerned. An application to one fund will be considered an application to both. Any grant awarded is intended to be used by the recipient for the purchase of essential items related to their training, e.g. reference books, ballet shoes, music etc.

Junior Teaching Grants

State Schools are invited to apply for a grant for Year 6 or below towards specialist teaching in the performing arts for the ensuing term if the school is:

     1. situated in Devon and
     2. has a history of entering the Festival.

Applications should be made in writing as soon as possible but before the end of the term immediately before the term when teaching is intended to start.

All applications to:

The Chairman
Torbay and South West of England Festival
6 Thorne Park Road

Successful applicants will be notified as soon as possible after the committee has met to consider applications.