Yorkshire playwright and author Alan Bennett (pictured) will present the world premiere of a new work at the annual Harrogate International Festival 2001. A collaboration with the Medici String Quartet, the event is entitled Hymn and Bennett himself will take centre stage for two performances only on Wednesday and Thursday, 1 and 2 August.

The concerts will open with Dvorak's American Quartet, known to be one of Bennett's favourite pieces. This will be followed by three short Russian compositions from the Les Vendredis movement - so called because the composers involved always met on Fridays. The trio of works are Liadov's Fugue, D'Osten-Sachen's Berceuse and Kopylov's Polka.

Bennett will then present his new Hymn project, set to music by the film composer George Fenton. The author describes Hymn as a "series of prose pieces about my early experience of music - the hymns I learned as a boy, the violin my father never managed to teach me and the concerts I went to in Leeds". The work will also be aired in London later on this year.

Born in Leeds, Bennett's writing career took off via the legendary Beyond the Fringe revue with fellow Oxford graduates Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. The show later made it to Broadway, launching successful careers for all the players involved. Bennett's television monologues Talking Heads made him a household name, although he is also the author of acclaimed film scripts such as An Englishman Abroad, Prick Up Your Ears and The Madness of King George.

The Harrogate International Festival is a multi-arts event that takes place over 17 days in the summer. Other highlights of this year's programme include a Michael Nyman (the Festival Composer in Residence) premiere and performances from winners of the Leeds International Piano Competition.

- by Gareth Thompson