The Festival was founded in 1972 in response to a comment by art critic Conrad Wilson, who had remarked that “Perth was an ideal festival city without a festival”. Since then the event has grown in stature and broadened its base with the intention of offering “something from everyone”. The Festival is now a limited company with charitable status.
In recent years the Festival has focused its attention on higher profile artists. This has been made possible through the generous assistance of the Festival sponsors and supporting bodies, most notably The Gannochy Trust, Perth and Kinross Council and the Scottish Arts Council. The financial and other help of local businesses has also paid a central role in helping the Festival develop its ambitions; as has been the growing support of trusts and foundations.
The opening of Perth Concert Hall in September 2005 has had a huge positive impact on the cultural life of Perth and has provided state of the art facilities for both artists and audiences alike, and made possible imaginative programming all year round. The Hall is a great asset to Perth and especially to the Festival. The artists performing at the 2006 Festival were most impressed with the facilities available there. There is no doubt that Perth is being noticed around the world as a vibrant cultural centre, and Perth Festival of the Arts is delighted to be one of the flagships of the city’s widening cultural programme.
Festival audiences are now coming from all over the UK and abroad. In the last five years the Festival has had record audiences year on year. These larger audiences coincide with the Festival’s ambitious policy of booking high profile artists. In recent years these have included Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Lesley Garrett, Ann Sofie Von Otter, Ladysmith Black Mambaso, Van Morrison, Elaine Paige, John Williams, Dar O Briain, Julian Clary, Paul Merton, Sir David Frost, Jools Holland, Calvin Harris, Bill Wyman, Joan Armatrading, the Stranglers, The Reduced Shakespeare Company, Ian Rankin and many more. A full list appears on the Festival website.