New festival planned at West Dean

Camping is to be allowed at West Dean Estate for the first time in its history as part of a new three-day festival to mark its 40th anniversary.

Called simply West Dean Festival, the event will be based around making and creating and is billed as a ‘magical escape for all the family’ where people can enter ‘a world of mysterious and engaging flights of fancy’.

Organisers promise a ‘cross-generational celebration’ of music, performance, storytelling and creative making and the new event would run from midday on August 26 until August 29.

People will be allowed to bring their own tents or indulge in upmarket camping known as ‘glamping’ with teepees and yurts available to hire.

College principal Robert Pulley said the aim was to create a small and intimate festival attracting between 2,000 and 3,000 over the weekend, with 1,500 people camping.

He said the festival’s ethos was to bring the college’s reputation for its short courses to a wider audience and to involve the community.

“Making has been at the heart of what we do for the past 40 years and is a central part of the reason why Edward James set the place up,” he said. “Although there is a renewed interest in making in all it’s forms, it’s been part of everyday life here for us.

“Bringing the college and the estate together is the primary reason for developing this, it is bringing the two sides of the foundation together in a celebration of what we do.”

The festival will comprise three key areas: textiles, art and word and 3D making, where festival-goers can take part in a variety of one-hour or whole day workshops including jewellery making, book binding and making, poetry and papier mache, with plenty of opportunities for children to take part in performances and workshops.

All the action will take place on the grass area in front of the college, and will include music performances, which are being organised by Marlon Richards, the son of Keith Richards.

Other people involved in devising the programme include Greg and Kate Mosse and the college’s head of short courses, Alison Baxter.

Mr Pulley said the festival had been two years in the making, well before he was aware of last year’s Vintage at Goodwood, and was based on the model of the Port Elliot Festival in Cornwall which he was introduced to through his friend Marlon Richards.

“We know people love coming here and we have had people saying it would be wonderful to come here and camp and so we have developed something which will allow people to come here and spend the weekend enjoying this beautiful place,” said Mr Pulley. “Here at the college we have 5,000 short-course students every year who enjoy this place and this is much more accessible.”

He said the idea of involving the three generations was very important and as part of this the college was working with West Dean Primary School on several projects.

Mr Pulley said there was a real buzz about the event which involved a great team of people. He said everyone had been very inspired by the estate’s founder and his ideas.

For details www.westdean.org.uk