OPERA / On music

Another festival? Hackney's is new, and not your hackneyed average. For a start, it puts some terrific venues back on the map, including the reopened Central Hall in Mare Street - just across the road from the Hackney Empire and fine for a big crowd - which is back in action from 9 July. There's Sutton House and Chats Palace, St John's Church and the refurbished Hackney Museum. Most of all, there is a properly varied programme of music, from Courtney Pine to the Quartet for the End of Time. In Central Hall you can hear Carmina Burana or you can catch Orphy Robinson's jazz marimba joining the Asian-Western line-up of Shiva Nova. Crystal Clear Opera makes its first London appearance with Madam Butterfly (with Fiona O'Neill, right) at the Empire. Local young musicians appear with the Hackney Youth Orchestras (definitely classical) and the Hackney Young Singer of the Year Award (definitely not).

At a time when many festivals around the country are starting to shake themselves up (watch out for sparks in Bath next year), it's good to see a London event that appears to have its feet on the ground. There are few more diversely populated boroughs in the country, and if Hackney can reflect that in its festival without falling into the traps of being patronising or going over people's heads, you can bet others will be taking notes.

Call: 081-986 9986 for full programme list and box office

(Photograph omitted)

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