It will be a major triumph for a festival (August 22-31) which nearly didn’t happen at all, explains new chairman Bill Brennan, a key figure in the festival from its very earliest years.
“All the previous committee resigned. There was no bad feeling or anything political. They just felt they had done their bit over several years. They were a team, and they felt they should go out as a team.”
But it left the festival hanging on by a thread.
“When the committee stepped down en masse, there was a call for new committee members, and nobody put their hands up. A bit later there was a meeting, and I thought ‘If I am going to help, I should be on the committee.’ And then I thought ‘If I am going to be on the committee, I would rather run it!’
“You have heard it so often – ‘There isn’t going to be a festival this year!’ It’s a bit like crying wolf. But the fact that we didn’t really get going until early this year was a sign that things were looking a bit dodgy. We were a bit late starting because for a time there was a rather big vacuum!”
Bill suspects the various components – theatre trail, gallery trail etc – would still have happened, just in a rather more piecemeal way. But in the event, a committee did come forward, with Bill taking the chair. And now, they are ready to launch the festival at the fund-raiser on June 26.
Sparks Yard General Stores Ltd present the evening, promising there will be live music, food, raffle prizes, a gift tree and much more. Tickets are £25 and include dinner. Tickets are available from Sparks Yard (cash only), and tables of up to ten are available.
The fundraiser on the lower lawns of Arundel Castle, will start at 7pm, ending at 11.30pm. More details on [email protected]
As Bill says, this year the festival moves onto a slightly-different footing: “I don’t think there was anything sinister about the old committee going. It was an awful lot of volunteer effort.
“There was a hand-over of all the documents and the accounts, but this year the way we have decided to run things is different. It is going to be very much less hands on (from the committee). All the participants will be looking after their own events themselves. But having said that, we will still be looking after insurance and the general infrastructure of the festival.”
The festival won’t be so much staging the events as hosting them, individual event organisers retaining responsibility.
“My background is Drip Action theatre company. We have always looked after ourselves. This year everyone will be looking after themselves. I will just be keeping a hand on the tiller – one of my favourite expressions! But I have got a great team looking after the various areas. I feel, being an Arundel man for many years, this is quite a nice way to participate. We are hoping to keep up the street entertainment this year, though there might be less. Last year the team found so many performers and acts, but we don’t really have the resources this year to find so many people.”
But Bill pledged there would certainly be plenty of continuity with many festival favourites returning. The gallery trail has always been central to the festival, and the theatre trail will be back again for its 15th year.
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