Spring mini-festival of poetry in Chichester

Chichester’s Open Mic Poetry is joining forces with the South Downs Poetry Festival to present a Spring mini-festival of inspiring poetry in the settings of Pallant House Gallery and the New Park Community Centre on February 22 and 23.
Gareth WilliamsGareth Williams
Gareth Williams

​Heading the bill at 6pm on Thursday, February 23, is a programme of promenade poetry readings in the setting of the Sussex Landscape exhibition at Pallant. Sussex-based actor and singer Gareth Williams will read classic Sussex poetry by famous poets such as Tennyson, Belloc and Kipling to launch the evening. After complimentary refreshments of wine and soft drinks, the audience will be taken on a tour of the pictures, which depict Sussex in all its moods, by distinguished South Downs poets, including Stephanie Norgate, Chris Hardy and Mandy Pannett. They will read new poems inspired by Sussex and the paintings on display. Stephanie Norgate has published three acclaimed poetry collections. Chris Hardy is both a poet and a guitarist with poetry/music group Little Machine. Mandy Pannett is the judge of a major poetry competition organised by publishers Dempsey & Windle.

Gareth Williams is well-known to audiences for his million-selling single Only You, recorded with The Flying Pickets. He has also had a long career in the theatre, taking leading roles in West End musicals like Guys and Dolls, touring with the English Shakespeare Company, on television in programmes like Eastenders and on film with Peterloo.

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SDPF director Barry Smith said: “We are delighted to have this opportunity to read new poems about our county in front of the wonderful masterpieces on display. The pictures by Turner, Constable, Ravilious, Blake and Hitchens are truly inspirational. Turner’s painting of Chichester Canal is one of my favourite paintings and it’s going to be a real privilege to share poetry while the audience is viewing the actual picture. Mandy Pannett has written about the Long Man of Wilmington – so audiences can hear the poem while looking at the image. Our Pallant event is very much a performance, but at New Park the public has a chance to join in.”

The Spring mini-fest begins on the previous day at the New Park Centre, Chichester, when Guildford based poetry publishers Janice Windle and Donall Dempsey will be the chief guests at Open Mic Poetry on Wednesday, February 22, starting at 7.30pm. Aspiring poets will have the opportunity to read their new poems in the open mic section of the evening. Barry added: “Donall and Janice have very different styles. Janice is more reflective while Donall is an upfront performance poet who always hits the spot with his high impact but sometimes very emotional poems. We always look forward to the new poems written by our audience members at New Park.”

Sussex Landscapes: The Colour of Poetry, 6pm, Thurs, Feb 23. Pallant House Gallery, Chichester. Tickets £15 from www.pallant.org.uk 01243 774557; Open Mic Poetry, 7.30pm, Weds, Feb 22. Jubilee Hall, New Park Centre, Chichester. Tickets £5 on the door. www.chichesterpoetry.simplesite.com