Tuesday July 30 2019

This month’s featured acquisition is a silk scarf designed by John Piper showing an image of Snape Maltings Concert Hall. The scarf was produced in several different colours and most probably sold in aid of the Snape Maltings Rebuilding Fund.

Detail from the Piper scarf, 1969/1970.

The Snape Maltings Concert Hall was opened by the Queen on 2 June 1967 but suffered a devastating fire on the first night of the 1969 Aldeburgh Festival. Support was immediate and by August the Rebuilding Fund was launched. Appeal from Snape leaflet:

An appeal for £112,000 to complete the rebuilding of the concert hall, incorporating some necessary improvements, and to extend artistic activities at Snape, autumn 1969.

Piper was just one of numerous friends, artists, musicians, businesses and other supporters who helped raise money for this cause, by donating artworks or money, by giving concerts or helping in any way they could.

Britten wrote to Piper from The Red House on 16 Nov 1969 ‘My very dear & generous John, I know I’ve already thanked you on the telephone, but I do (perhaps it’s sentimental) want to write how very much we do all appreciate your generosity over those silk-screens. It is really marvellous & touching of you to have done this for us – apart from the sorely needed cash, it is wonderful to think that our dear, loyal old subscribers can have the chance to have these lovely things, so reasonably and specially. … Thank you my dear John’.

The same illustration of Snape Maltings was reproduced on cover of the 1970 Aldeburgh Festival programme book.

Britten is in all likelihood writing about Piper’s donation of the artwork for the scarves. This was not the first, nor the last time Britten’s friend helped raise money for artistic causes linked with Aldeburgh.

A 1954 calendar was produced by the Friends of the Aldeburgh Festival, sold in aid of the Festival. The calendar featured 12 lithographs of East Suffolk coastal scenes and churches donated by artists John Piper, Prunella Clough and Mary Potter.

1954 calendar.

In March 1961 Christie’s held a sale of art, books and manuscripts to raise money for The Festival Improvements Fund, particularly to complete improvements to the Jubilee Hall and to buy a property in which to hold exhibitions. John Piper was among the many artists, authors, composers and collectors who gave items for sale, on this occasion a watercolour of the Piazza di San Marco, Venice as well as a significant number of works used in the 1959 Associated-Rediffusion production of The Turn of the Screw.

Catalogue for the 1961 auction at Christie’s.

Ten years later Piper donated two of his costumes designs from the 1953 production of Gloriana to another sale of artwork at Christie’s held on 29 October on behalf of The Aldeburgh Festival.

He also designed a series of Christmas cards sold in aid of the English Opera Group – the company launched in 1947 by himself, Britten, and librettist Eric Crozier – to support their work presenting and commissioning opera in English.

Christmas Cards.

These are just a few of the many fundraising initiatives held over the years to raise money for the work of the Aldeburgh Festival and to further artistic activities and musical education in East Suffolk, and John Piper just one of the many supporters.