World premiere of a Sussex cantata inspired by a Sussex landmark

The world premiere of a Sussex cantata inspired by a Sussex landmark will be performed at Boxgrove Priory.

The Long Man of Wilmington
The Long Man of Wilmington

Entitled On Windover Hill; Music of the Sussex Landscape, the piece has been inspired The Long Man of Wilmington and written by Nathan James. It will be performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Harlequin Chamber choir and conducted by Amy Bebbington on Saturday, March 7 at 7.45pm.

Spokeswoman Rachel Poulton said: “From Blake to Belloc and Turner to Palmer, the curves and sweeps of the South Downs have inspired poets, painters, printers and writers for centuries.

“Now, composer Nathan James, with support from the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust and Arts Council, joins this host of artists, having spent three years researching and writing a nine movement cantata based on the ancient hill figure the Long Man of Wilmington. Standing boldly on the hillside overlooking the village of Wilmington in East Sussex, the Giant has been a source of mystery and myth for hundreds of years. The first drawings of the Long Man appeared around the mid-eighteenth century, but it is thought he dates back even further.

“There is a theory that the Long Man of Wilmington is actually a woman which has been of great interest to Nathan who has really championed female artists and has included many female writers/poets in his cantata. He also promotes female artists inspired by the Long Man on his website.”

In his choral and orchestral piece Nathan presents the many theories and ideas put forward over the years. Using a range of ancient and modern texts set to music he constructs a dialogue between the past and the present.

Accompanied by members of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the choir will sing words of the past, including those written in 550 AD and taken from the Book of Taliesin; ‘I’ve been a multitude of shapes before I assumed a consistent form.’

Other movements will use words from more modern texts, which include lines by female Sussex poets Grace Pursglove and Amy Sawyer, who both wrote about the South Downs’ mystical call.

Special guests, journalist Cole Moreton, author Justin Hopper, poet Peter Martin and BBC presenter Emily Jeffrey will read extracts from texts that help to place the Long Man within his environment.

Nathan said: “I have been excited to discover the many different ways the figure of the Long Man has inspired people through the years.

“Through my research I have also met an incredible group of people including artists, poets, authors and fellow musicians, who have interpreted the Long Man in their own unique way more recently.

“I’m delighted that through various collaborations, my new cantata has been the driving force behind some new creative ideas that will be presented together with the premiere of On Windover Hill on March 7.”

Tickets are available from