In its nine outings so far – every other year since 1996 – the floral celebration has raised more than £1m for the Chichester Cathedral Restoration and Development Trust, for which it is comfortably the biggest event in the calendar.
When it first began, some people feared it would be too much of a disruption to the life of the cathedral; others said it was a waste of tens of thousands of flowers. But in its very first outing, the festival made a huge return on its floral investment and has gone on to win widespread acclaim ever since for the beauty of the spectacle it presents.
Sally Atkins, flower festival manager, is delighted at the way it is all coming together this year, particularly with the inclusion of the Aldingbourne Trust and Brinsbury among the scores of flower-arrangers. She said she was particularly keen to show it absolutely wasn’t an activity for a small, elite bunch: “I want to get across that it really isn’t as elitist as some people believe. It really is for all ages and abilities. I also really want to get the whole city behind the event.”
This year’s festival runs on May 29, 30 and 31, taking as its theme The Music Makers (10am-7pm, Thursday and Friday; 10am-6pm, Saturday).
The designer is Jose Morum-Pound who promises her theme will deliver ‘a stunning array of creative, imaginative and beautiful flower designs, interpreting 12 centuries of music, from pop to plainsong, classics to jazz, sacred to secular’. And just to make the tenth Festival of Flowers even more special, gardening expert and TV presenter Charlie Dimmock has agreed to be the festival patron.
Also adding to the prestige of the occasion, the internationally-renowned French iris grower, Richard Cayeux of Gien, has produced a unique new hybrid especially for Chichester Cathedral, which has been named Cathédrale de Chichester. The iris is a stunning yellow and white colour and will be on sale during the festival.
For the flower-arrangers, many of whom return for festival after festival, part of the fun is the family atmosphere the whole thing generates, Sally said: “It really is almost like a large family. People come together to offer their skills and their expertise from all over, and it is actually great fun. It is hard work, but it really is good fun as well.”
And it is all in a great cause.
“We raise the money for the Restoration and Development Trust, but it really is such a huge event that it does take two years to organise it. It really is two years in the planning each time, but it is lovely that so many people take part and help raise money for our beautiful cathedral.”
Adding to the excitement, the arrangers will be adding a touch of showbiz glamour to the occasion this year. One of the key displays will take its inspiration from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, for which the festival has managed to borrow a Technicolor Dreamcoat which was worn on stage by one of the show’s most celebrated Josephs, Jason Donovan.
Tickets on www.chichestercathedral.org.uk or 01243 813595. Ticket prices are: single – £12; family – £24; Thurs/Fri late entry (after 4pm) – £10; Sat late entry (after 3pm) – £8. You can also buy in person in the Cloisters shop at the cathedral.