Author and broadcaster Hannah French talks about the surprise of inheriting a copy of Handel’s Messiah that set her on a trail to trace her musical roots in the local mining villages of Allerton Bywater and Kippax. Turns out it’s something of a portkey to the past that represents so much of what she does today.

Dr Hannah French is a broadcaster and musicologist. She presents BBC Radio 3’s Record Review Extra, The Early Music Show, In Concert and Afternoon Concert, and appears as a commentator and presenter of the BBC Proms on BBC2 and BBC4. Her recent book, Sir Henry Wood Champion of J.S. Bach (Boydell Press, 2019) was described as ‘utterly absorbing’. She has also featured in documentaries with Gareth Malone (The Choir: Military Wives, BBC2, 2014) and Paul Morley (How to be a Composer, BBC4, 2009).

Hannah has presented live-streamed concerts for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Oxford Lieder Festival, and made a series of short films for Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. She’s recently been heard discussing Bach and Sebald at the Folkestone Book Festival with Prof Ben Hutchinson, Cellist Natalie Clein, and actor Toby Jones; hosting an evening in conversation with Dame Emma Kirkby; and as both interviewer and guest at BBC Proms Plus events.

She’s also written for BBC Music Magazine and served on the jury for its Annual Awards. After teaching at the Royal Academy of Music for over a decade, Hannah temporarily moved to Toronto, Canada (2016-2019) where she taught music appreciation at the Royal Conservatory of Music and inaugurated the Tafelmusik Listening Club, giving concert-goers the chance to ask candid questions and explore the language we use to express musical performances. She also gave numerous pre-concert events, examining questions such as: what was it like to live in Vivaldi’s Pieta? And why do we stand for the Hallelujah Chorus in Handel’s Messiah?

Key to the North

Join us throughout the year for an aspirational series of talks and events around the Wakefield district.

Key to the North will encourage people to engage with new topics, acquire new skills and develop new creative interests. Talks, lectures and events will shine a light on the district’s and Yorkshire’s rich heritage and popular culture. Find out more at ouryear2024.co.uk

Venue opening hours

Monday : 8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Tuesday : 8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Wednesday : 8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Thursday : 8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Friday : 8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Saturday : 9:30 am - 4:30 pm

Sunday : 9:30 am - 4:30 pm

Venue Details

Find us at

Castle Garth, Pontefract, WF8 1QH