Ancient church in Lewes to host major arts festival

A week-long festival of music, art, history, dance and poetry will celebrate the parish church of St Anne’s, the oldest church in Lewes, which has stood at the western end of the town since Norman times.

Built within one hundred years of the conquest, St Anne’s has witnessed the Battle of Lewes, the struggle for parliamentary reform, the terror of the Reformation and the Civil War.

To raise awareness of so much history, St Anne’s will host a major festival of the arts, from July 23 to 31, building on the rapidly growing tradition of concerts and recitals, which are now held regularly throughout the year, thanks to the vision of musical director David Ollosson.

The month got off to a spectacular start with a weekend Festival of Song featuring top class soloists and accompanists; singers from the Royal College of Music and the Baroque Collective singers conducted by John Hancorn.

Music will also open the festival on July 23 with a Come and Sing workshop led by Peter Farrant followed in the evening by the Chilcott Requiem and other works performed by the New Sussex Singers conducted by Peter Farrant. For tickets call 01273 475201.

There is another workshop on Sunday afternoon with Sussex Harmony, which invites local singers and musicians to perform West Gallery Music from the 18th and 19th centuries. To book contact 01273-476837. Sussex Harmony and guests will take part in an evening service at 6pm.

Historian and Mayor of Lewes Graham Mayhew will lead a guided walk of historic Lewes on the afternoon of Monday, July 25. The Mayor will be back at St Anne’s on Monday evening to open a major exhibition of art curated by Mary Lowerson, featuring a wide range of work created by friends and members of St Anne’s. The exhibition will be open every afternoon until Sunday, July 31.

There will be a special service on Tuesday, July 26, to mark the Feast Day of St Anne and the week continues on Wednesday with an evening of dance by internationally renowned choreographer Jonathan Burrows, who will show films of his work with the composer Mattreo Fargion.

On Thursday South African born pianist Johan De Cock will give a lunchtime piano recital and on Friday evening Sussex poet Ann Segrave and friends will read from their work.

The final weekend includes a coffee morning on Saturday and Sung Eucharist and Festival Evensong on Sunday when the preacher will be the Venerable Stephen Robbins, an army chaplain for 24 years who was decorated for gallantry in Northern Ireland.

Most events during the week are free, thanks to the generosity of local businesses. Church warden Jackie Bishop said it was hoped the festival would become an annual event and that people will want to donate towards the upkeep of such an ancient church.

The Rector, the Rev Richard Moatt, said he hoped it would bring the whole church and wider community together.

To find out more about the festival click here.

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