Festival can help keep city alive

Recent editions of the Chichester Observer have covered ideas for the future of Chichester. The big question seems to be about renewal – how to keep a great city alive, accessible to all and full of places and things that people want to see and do.

Linking directly with these questions is the city’s very own Festival of Chichester, which has just come to a stirring conclusion with an open air concert at Halnaker Park given by Greek band Plastikes Karekles and a performance in St Paul’s Church by the city’s very own Chichester Symphony Orchestra.

For a month, the city and surrounding area has resounded with music, drama, talks, exhibitions, tours, films, dance and much more. Sponsored by the Chichester Observer and backed by the city council, WSCC and Henry Adams, the Festival has presented over 200 separate events, bringing thousands of people into the city, spending thousands of pounds in the city’s shops and restaurants.

The key to the way the Festival has taken off is the link between the community and national and indeed international artists and performers. One of the mantras of the Festival is that it is grounded in the community but aspires to the stars.

There have been many highlights in this year’s Festival and each festival-goer will have their own favourites, but it is possible, perhaps, to pick out just a couple of events that seem to catch the flavour of the enterprise. Both took place in the cathedral, which is at the heart of the city and at the heart of the Festival.

On Thursday 5th July, West Sussex’s very own professional orchestra, the Worthing Symphony Orchestra, and world music band Kosmos Ensemble gave the UK national mainland premiere of a major new work by an important British composer, Errollyn Wallen. Her Triple Concerto thrilled all who were present and it was a moving moment when the composer took to the stage to acknowledge the enthusiastic applause. Everyone present felt they had witnessed something very special indeed. Festival Patron Dame Patricia Routledge congratulated both the composer and the performers on their wonderful achievement.

Just five days later, the cathedral played host to another thrilling concert of a standard to grace any of the famous concert halls in Britain and abroad.

Legendary pianist Stephen Kovacevich, widely acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest living pianists, gave a free concert to a completely packed cathedral audience. Kovacevich gave one of the performances of his life with an emotional and uplifting rendition of masterpieces of the piano repertoire by Bach and Schubert. And here’s the community element – all the funds from the collection taken went towards the Cathedral Restoration and Development Trust’s ‘Raising the Roof’ campaign, a five- year, multi-million pound project to restore and renew the cathedral roof.

Perhaps what we need to breathe life into our historic city is to adopt and extend the spirit of the Festival throughout the year by ensuring we offer something for everybody, embracing community values and aspiring towards the very best in everything we do.

In writing about the 2018 Festival, I must pay tribute and give heartfelt thanks to all those who have made it possible. Thank you indeed to all the individual performers and community groups who have taken part, to all the visiting performers, to all the host venues, to our sponsors and supporters and to my fellow Festival trustees and committee, namely Phil Hewitt (Festival chairman), Jill Cook (secretary), Nick Sutherland (treasurer), Anne Scicluna (Festival trustee), Rev Canon Dr Anthony Cane (Festival trustee), Helen Watt (brochure manager), Simon O’Hea (data manager) and Jake Barlow (social media officer). Finally, a huge thank you to Gary Shipton, editor of the Chichester Observer, for his unstinting support and to our loyal and enthusiastic audiences who have turned out in substantial numbers over the Festival month.

Barry Smith (Festival co-ordinator), Marshall Avenue, Bognor Regis