A fantastic festival that never was - Chichester

After the disappointment of cancellation sank in, the Festival of Chichester soon started to look to the future. And they are doing so with confidence.

Happier days: Festival of Chichester co-ordinator Barry Smith and Festival patron Dame Patricia Routledge
Happier days: Festival of Chichester co-ordinator Barry Smith and Festival patron Dame Patricia Routledge

Festival co-ordinator Barry Smith said: “The Festival of Chichester has very quickly achieved a vital place in the cultural life of the city. It hardly seems possible that seven years have elapsed since a group of us formed the new festival to fill the gaping void of the loss of the Chichester Festivities.

“Time has hurtled by and we were on the cusp of unveiling the eighth festival when events overtook us and it became necessary to pull the plug on what would have been a wonderful summer of entertainment.

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“I’m looking at what is now possibly a collector’s item – the only copy in print of the 2020 Festival of Chichester brochure cover design.

“And also on my desk is a printout of the festival listings – the lost festival of 2020.

“As has become our signature, it is grounded in the Chichester community and would have offered a wonderful array of the talents of the city, ranging from the massed voices of the Chichester Singers tackling Bruckner’s majestic Mass in E minor to Chichester Symphony Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Number Six, the Pathetique, one of my personal favourites. So many Chichester people would have been involved, not just playing classical music, but performing pop and rock music, leading tours or giving talks on the natural world such as the unique Bats at Breakfast at West Itchenor Pond or a Birdsong Walk at Hunston.

“The festival is a magical mix of the best the locality can offer, side by side with some of the brightest visiting national and international stars. We think this lost festival would have been one of, if not the, best ever. In addition to Jess Gillam and the London Mozart Players, the festival included Dame Penelope Keith reading from the magnificent odes of the poet Keats in the Cathedral in his bicentenary year, The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra offering an enticing programme of musical delights including Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending and Brahms Symphony No 2, Greek band Plastikes Karekles, Cuban band the Latin Bridge, award-winning poets Grace Nichols and John Agard, wonderful jazz musicians Gaz Hughes, Alan Barnes and Bruce Adams, and the Americana-tinged acoustic folk harmonies of Sussex stars, Hatful of Rain.

“So much brilliant diversity – our watchword has always been to offer something for everyone, whatever their interests or tastes.

“What will I miss the most about the festival this summer? Well, there’s all the hard graft of getting thousands of brochures out across the city and into the surrounding area of Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire, but that’s such a worthwhile activity as it results in people flooding into the city, supporting our local businesses and having a thoroughly enjoyable time.

“And there’s the festival launch on the opening Saturday on Cathedral Green. Usually the sun shines but sometimes it rains and come what may, the festival committee is there handing out leaflets while the city mayor, festival patron Dame Patricia Routledge and Kate Mosse make inspirational speeches to open the festival

“Then there’s the delight – and sometimes challenge – of attending dozens of different events, concerts, talks, films, plays, art exhibitions, gigs…..there’s such a variety on offer, it’s sometimes hard to choose which event to go to on any particular day.

“But most of all I’ll miss the joy of a city celebrating, coming together to share uplifting experiences of the arts in our unique festival.

“So, as we regret what we’ll miss this year, let’s look forward to next year when we can do it all again with Festival 2021!”

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