Festival of Chichester stalwart stands down

The Festival of Chichester committee has started planning for the 2023 festival – without co-ordinator Barry Smith who has stepped down after playing a crucial role in the festival’s first ten years.
Barry SmithBarry Smith
Barry Smith

Barry said: “It hardly seems possible that a decade has passed since a group of concerned citizens gathered at a public meeting held in the City Council chamber to discuss what could be done to replace the Festivities (which had gone into liquidation). The thought of a summer without a festival prompted a determination to act and so the first Festival of Chichester committee was formed. Crucially, we had the support of the local press in the form of the Chichester Observer, the city council in the person of the then mayor, Chichester Cathedral, the West Sussex Library Service and local arts groups. So, chairman Phil Hewitt, vice-chairman Anne Scicluna and members The Rev Anthony Cane, Felicity Masters, Roger Redfarn and myself, as co-ordinator, set about devising a plan to establish a festival that would last. And here we are, ten years later, celebrating one of our best festivals ever, having survived a pandemic, gone virtual for a year and rebuilt things as public confidence returned. We can now look forward to future decades of festival fun, but it will go on without me as I am stepping down from my role as the co-ordinator.

“What a fantastic year it has been. We’ve had wonderful concerts in the Cathedral with top-class orchestras and soloists in the form of saxophonist Jess Gillam with the London Mozart Players and cellist Leonard Elschenbroich with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. We had some wonderful poets reading for us in 2022, including the Queens Gold Medal for Poetry winners Grace Nichols and John Agard together with Liverpudlian Roger McGough. The strength of our festival has always been that it is grounded in the community but welcomes national and international stars to share the summer with us.

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“So what are my abiding memories of a festival decade? So much to choose from, but I certainly recall with pleasure discussing writing poetry in Pizza Express with former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion before he gave a memorable reading in Edes House while the Cathedral bell-ringing practice was in full swing! He was a good sport and timed his delivery to make the most of the accompaniment. I remember enjoying an ice cream at the City Cross with Stephen Kovacevich, who is, in my opinion, one of the world’s greatest living pianists. I loved welcoming two of my folk music heroes to the city – Martin Carthy to play at the Assembly Room and his daughter Eliza singing at atmospheric St John’s Chapel.

“I shall miss sharing plans for 2023 with my friends on the hardworking festival team, Phil Hewitt, Anne Scicluna, Nick Sutherland, Simon O’Hea, Katie Bennett and the Rev Dan Inman. Good luck for the future – I’m sure it will be great!”

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