The North London Festival of Music, Speech and Drama was founded in November 1920 by a group of eminent North London musicians, composers and educators including Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and Dame Clara Butt. The Festival was launched at the Northern Polytechnic Institute in Holloway Road, at a time of significant growth in Music Education. The Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was formed the same year, Gustav Holst’s ‘Planets Suite’ had its first complete public performance and Ralph Vaughan Williams composed ‘The Lark Ascending’. Valuing excellence from the beginning, great musicians such as Dame Myra Hess, Sir David Willcocks and Sir Colin Davis have helped steer the festival through various challenges and changes. The festival has run annually since 1920, apart from a gap during the Second World War.
The festival is affiliated to the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM). (Previously the affiliation was to the Schools Music Association (SMA) of Great Britain, but the SMA is now part of the ISM.)