Free festival at Phoenix Centre in Lewes

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Over the past six years the Phoenix Estate in Lewes has evolved from a declining industrial estate into a thriving cultural centre.

Cheap rents and large spaces have fostered a diverse and fascinating artistic community which is still unknown to many in the town.

For the casual observer who can only see the run-down buildings this may be a surprise. But behind the facade it is estimated that 5,000 people a month of all ages and backgrounds use these community, arts and small business facilities.

The success of the Phoenix Artists Quarter is not just a local story. World class bands and top international acts have performed on the estate. Many high profile commissions have been created there, including installations for the Olympics, performance pieces for national and international festivals and merchandise for shops such as John Lewis. The estate even featured on Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces as William Hardy converted a caravan in his studio.

From noon until 8pm on Saturday, August 31, the Phoenix Artists Quarter will open itself up in the form of a free festival, to show the town what is actually going on.

It promises fun for all the family with open studios, live music, children’s activities, delicious food and much more.

There will be a unique opportunity to visit the Starfish Community Youth Music Project (open 12-5pm) and The Dance Academy (12-3pm) to see what goes on behind the scenes at these much-loved organisations.

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A few highlights not to miss include a visit to Paul Harrison’s studio, described as more mind-boggling than Willy Wonka’s factory, while an inflatable 360 degree cinema will be showing a spectacular world of sound and vision with shows created by artists on the estate.

The Foundry Gallery will be staging an exhibition from 12 -5pm called: ‘Don’t Forget to Breathe’, with stunning paintings and drawings by Emily Ball, Michelle Cobbins and Jenny Shaw, while Zu Studios will be hosting a range of free activities for all the family from a laser and ultraviolet-lit games room to free interactive workshops, a bouncy castle and live music from local bands.