Festival finale

A month-long programme of a hundred Festival of Chichester events came to a triumphant conclusion on the final Saturday with a concert at a favourite festival venue, St Paul’s Church. The local Chichester Symphony Orchestra thrilled with a rendition of Sibelius’s Symphony No.2 while cellist Pavlos Carvalho led the way through Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations.  

Elsewhere the final weekend saw performances of Neil Simon’s Rumours and the classic comedy Come on Jeeves by Pergola Theatre in the wonderful landscaped gardens of West Dean College. There was an entertaining Guitar Soirée with Linda Kelsall-Barnett and her daughter Zoe at Christchurch, while the Parnassian Ensemble gave an evening of Baroque Treats at Fishbourne Church. Not to mention Olivia Stevens & Co. in full flow at the Chichester Inn, which has hosted a mini-season of rock, indie, jazz and blues gigs!

It was a fitting conclusion to a fantastic festival – the tenth since it was launched in 2012 to replace the Festivities. It was tremendous to also be part of the District-wide Culture Spark. This year has seen an eclectic mix of the best of Chichester’s community organisations performing to top standards, supplemented by the visiting stars. We even had a violin worth over four million pounds, brought to us by the Stradivarius Piano Trio.

This year we were delighted to host two world-class orchestras with the London Mozart Players headed by Jess Gillam and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with cellist Leonard Elschenbroich at the Cathedral.  Spoken word was very strong as we welcomed three legendary poets – Grace Nichols, John Agard and Roger McGough – as well as international best-selling novelist Elly Griffiths. Top jazzers Julian Stringle and Dominic Ashworth excelled at the Assembly Room as did folk star Andy Cutting at Graylingwell. The Fringe hosted an innovative multi-media puppet drama, Astra, which highlighted several controversial themes including eco-concerns and gender identity.

There were so many great events from art exhibitions, walks and tours, bat walks, bumblebee identification sessions and the taste of the county with Scrumptious Sussex. We even aligned with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations led by Chichester City Council.

Planning is now underway for 2023. We’ll be back next summer with another scintillating programme of very special festival events. Dates are: Sat 10 June – Sun 9 July 2023.

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Finally, I have to say goodbye to all the wonderful people I’ve worked with on the festival over the ten years of its existence as this festival is my last as the coordinator.

It hardly seems possible that a decade has passed since Phil Hewitt from the Observer, Dr. Anthony Cane from the Cathedral, Felicity Masters from WSCC library service, the then city mayor Anne Scicluna and Roger Redfarn and myself representing the arts got together to launch the very first festival on less than a shoestring. We actually had nothing except the will for it to happen, a vision of what it might become and the support of the local press. I think it’s safe to say it took off with a bang and it’s still flying high ten years later. Long may it continue.

My very best wishes to you all

Barry Smith

The picture shows performers from the Poetry & Jazz Café with poets Stephanie Norgate, Barry Smith, Grace Nichols, John Agard and Jeremy Page at the Assembly Room.