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Terror helped Bella hit the high notes in musical career

Award-winning folk singer Bella Hardy says being terrified as a child by Buxton International Festival helped to start her musical career.

The Peak District-based musician, who grew up in Edale, starting singing at the age of 13 in the Cambridge and Sidmouth folk festivals before gaining a Masters degree in Music. But it was during one of her trips to Buxton Opera House while at school that the drama of musical theatre inspired her to think about a career in the industry, she said in a break from teaching the Festival’s Kaleidoscope Community Choir. 

Bella, who established her reputation when her first original composition earned a BBC Folk Award nomination ten years ago, saw a spine-tingling production of Judith Weir’s The Black Spider in the 1991 Buxton Festival. 

“I remember coming to see an opera, one of the first pieces of musical theatre I’d seen, in Buxton Opera House where goldfish were swimming round the proscenium arch,” said Bella, who is a regular on radio and television, and sang solo to a sold-out Albert Hall at the Proms. 

“We also came with school to the pantomime. It was a tradition, including getting snowed out of Edale when we couldn’t get back!” 

But it was watching her sisters taking part in the Festival’s version of The Black Spider – described by the composer as a cross between a video nasty and an Ealing comedy – which really made an impact: “I remember my sisters were in a thing called Black Spider. You could say Buxton Festival inspired me by absolutely terrifying me.” 

Bella has written and recorded with everyone from Beautiful South founder David Rotheray to folk luminary Eliza Carthy, and performed with the great Mary Chapin Carpenter on her 2016 UK tour. Her seven-week residency in the Chinese city of Kunming was arranged by the British Council and the PRS For Music Foundation, and resulted in the 2017 recording and release of Eternal Spring - an album of songs and poetry made in collaboration with Chinese singers and musicians. 

The Kaleidoscope Choir has about 40 members from Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire who meet just for the joy of singing. Some sessions are in lunch hours so members can fit it in with work. “I’ve done a lot of teaching with community groups,” said Bella. “Community singing is very important. Singing in general is just fantastically good for the soul. It helps us express ourselves and connect with people. It’s an amazing way of knitting people together. You are literally in harmony with the people you are standing with.” 

For more details about the Kaleidoscope Choir, contact Celia Kelly at To find out more about Bella’s music, go to

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