John and Cleo celebrating John’s 75th birthday in a concert at The Stables, 2002

In 1969 the renowned Jazz musicians, John Dankworth and his wife, Cleo Laine created a charity named the Wavendon Allmusic Plan whose aim was to break down the barriers, real or perceived, between classical music and all the different genres of ‘popular’ music; and to do this by presenting every possible type – so long as it was excellent of its kind – under one roof. They converted the stables block of their home, The Old Rectory in Wavendon, Bucks, into a small concert hall and The Stables Theatre was born, holding its first public concert on the 6th February 1970.

The Stables soon acquired an international reputation and for the following decades has hosted performances by some of the world’s greatest musicians. However, by the late 90s the leaky structure of the building had come to the end of its life so, with support from the Arts Council of England and generous donations from individuals such as Jim Marshall of Marshall Amplification it was replaced by a 400-seat theatre which first opened its doors to greet the millennium in the Spring of 2000.

For the Dankworths, who later became Sir John and Dame Cleo, one success story was not enough. John had always felt that the grounds of their lovely home would make an ideal venue for summer concerts. The large garden already had a raised bank that could serve as a performance area and, in 2000, John commissioned an elegant fabric pavilion that would cover the stage and provide seating for some 200 people. In June and July that year a series of weekend concerts were held and the profits used to fund a second charity, The Wavendon Foundation, which the Dankworths had founded the year before. These ‘Music in the Garden’ concerts continued each year until 2015.

Sadly, Sir John passed away in February, 2010 – 40 years to the day after the first Stables concert. However, several years earlier he and Dame Cleo had gifted some of their land to The Wavendon Foundation. This was sold in December 2017 – helping to meet the ever-increasing demand for housing in Milton Keynes – and the proceeds from this sale will now endow the charity so that it can continue its work into the foreseeable furure. The charity’s main objectives are to support individuals, organisations and other charities who are engaged in musical education and the other performing arts and for the relief of poverty in those areas.