Much loved Hastings Musical Festival Director Molly Townson has died aged 75, it was announced last night.
Molly inspired generations of people of all ages and in 2017 was awarded the coveted Order of 1066 Award in recognition of her work and influence.
People were shocked and saddened by the news with many turning to social media to pay tribute to Molly.
Judy Atkinson, a Musical Festival winner, commented: “She was the kindest person, so inspirational and generous, saw the best in everyone.”
Sue Adams said: “A truly inspirational woman. Her enthusiasm and support took you with her. I am singing with the enjoyment I have because of her and I am sure I am not the only one.”
Ann Hohenkerk commented: “Molly was not just a wonderful teacher, an inspirational musician, and someone who was so passionate about our young performers.”
Emma Burnett said: “So shocked and saddened by this. Being on the singing committee with her for many years was a privilege, she was such a warm, kind generous, giving lady who made everyone feel welcome and supported and she had such a wonderful passion for music and singers of all ages.”
Fiona Osborne said: “Molly was an amazing lady and it if wasn’t for her, I would never have been brave enough to sing at the festival.”
As well as her untiring work for the Hastings Musical Festival, Molly also helped to establish the Hastings Piano Concerto Competition.
For Molly, Hastings Musical Festival was very much a family affair, going back to the early 1930’s when her mother, Marjorie Symmons, won the Bronze and Silver Medals for singing. Molly entered classes in all sections of the Festival while she was growing up, and her two daughters, Melanie and Emma danced, sang and acted their young years through the festival. Her son Wesley entered Original Verse and went on to become a successful musician, recording many albums under the name John Wesley Harding.
The festival, which takes place in March, is now in its 112th year.
Molly lived in and around Guestling for much of her life and her family has strong connections in Rye. Her great grandfather owned Fletcher’s House, by St Mary’s Church, concerting it into a tea shop for his daughter Lily Symmons, Molly’s grandmother.
Molly attended Rye Grammar School from 1954 - 1961.