Those were the days: 1978: John Betjeman comes to Buxton to help campaign to save the opera house

Margaret Millican with poet Sir John Betjeman during the campaign to save the Buxton Opera House

Margaret Millican with poet Sir John Betjeman during the campaign to save the Buxton Opera House

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With the Buxton Festival opening on Friday at the Buxton Opera House, it’s worth recalling that both owe their existence to some dedicated people.

In 1976 Malcolm Fraser, then a lecturer in opera at the Royal Northern College of Music, visited the town and came across a recently-closed cinema and discovered it had begun life in 1903 as a theatre designed by the great Frank Matcham and conceived the idea of an opera festival.

The only problem was it was semi-derelict. Enter Margaret Millican, chair of the local tourist board, who secured public and private funding, enlisting support far and wide, including the Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, with whom she is pictured here. In 1979 the restored theatre opened with the first Buxton Festival.