Blakefest 2023 celebrates William Blake’s time in West Sussex

This year’s celebration of the poet and artist William Blake is being held on December 1 in Felpham Church, Bognor Regis, not far from the cottage where Blake lived during his time in Sussex.
Janine Booth - contributed picJanine Booth - contributed pic
Janine Booth - contributed pic

Blakefest 2023 is bringing together a cast of performers and experts to illuminate the life and work of one of the country’s greatest literary and artistic figures.

The panel of guests includes the broadcaster and artist Tamsin Rosewell, the Brighton-based jazz duo, Sloth in the City, performance poet Janine Booth and Poetry in Motion, the jazz/roots/poetry trio which features Charlotte Glasson on saxophone, Chris Hardy on vocals and guitar and wordsmith Barry Smith. Jointly organised by Blakefest and the South Downs Poetry Festival, the event celebrates the time William Blake spent in Sussex and his links with Felpham.

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Blakefest director Rachel Searle said: “We’re really excited to be doing our first fully live event in Felpham since the 2020 lockdown. It’s been four years since our last live event in the place where William Blake wrote Jerusalem. This time we are celebrating William Blake’s 266th birthday with a musical evening of jazz and poetry. We’re particularly excited to be welcoming back the enormously talented, multi-instrumentalist jazz artist Charlotte Glasson. Charlotte will be mesmerising in her unmissable jazz set with the poet and guitarist from music/poetry ensemble Little Machine and the velvet-voiced South Downs poet Barry Smith, a tour de force and lynchpin of the revitalised Blakefest 2023.

“We’re thrilled to present headliners Sloth in the City, just catching guitarist Andrea Martelloni between international engagements. His partner in the duo, Betty Accorsi is an Italian saxophone player, multi-instrumentalist and composer currently based in Brighton. She studied classical saxophone, piano and composition at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatoire in Milan.

“The event begins with a talk by Blake expert Tamsin Rosewell in front of the stained glass Blake windows in Felpham Church. The audience will then be served refreshments before the words and music take flight in the nave with performance poet Janine Booth who regularly performs around the country and occasionally beyond. Alongside several books of her own work, Janine’s poems have been included in numerous anthologies and journals.”

SDPF director Barry Smith added: “William Blake lived in the Sussex seaside village of Felpham near Bognor Regis from 1801-1803, where he saw visions of angels, was inspired to write the words of Jerusalem and was later acquitted at his trial for sedition in Chichester. It’s a tremendous honour to be celebrating the great radical poet and artist in his local church.”

Blakefest 2023: Celebrating Blake in Sussex, Felpham Church, PO22 7P, Friday, December 1, 6.30pm (doors 6pm), free – register interest with Eventbrite Celebrating Blake in Sussex.