Arundel Festival cancelled amid hopes for virtual events instead

Arundel’s late-summer arts and community centrepiece has been cancelled – the final West Sussex festival to fall.

Monday, 1st June 2020, 6:02 am
Updated Monday, 1st June 2020, 5:08 pm
Arundel Festival 2019

Organisers are now hoping that the Arundel Festival of The Arts – the new name for the Arundel Festival – will be able to offer an online presence instead this August.

Arundel Festival of the Arts chairman Sharon Blaikie said cancellation was the only possible decision to take.

With the festival towards the end of the festival season, Sharon was keen that the committee took the time it needed to decide whether or not to go ahead in view of the “constantly changing situation”, but it was clear that that time had now come – particularly as cancelling now will cause no particular financial concerns, she said.

“In the event, we just didn’t have a choice. Our duty of care for the safety of everyone was at the forefront of everybody’s minds even before we had COVID-19. Safety was everything anyway, and then COVID made it harder to navigate, harder to mitigate.

“But at the end of the day it is the safety of everyone that counts, and it is not safe to be inviting droves of people into one town. It was the only decision and it was the right decision. With this hot weather we are already getting droves of people coming into the town anyway. Some are acting sensibly, and some are not, and it is quite frightening with all that is happening.”

The emphasis now switches to planning for next year’s festival and also to building the new Arundel Festival of The Arts brand over the year ahead.

It also switches in the short term to looking at the virtual possibilities that an online festival might create this year.

“The committee continue to work closely with individual event organisers and look forward to learning more about how some of them plan to bring their events to life virtually, so that they can provide the residents with a more detailed programme.

“The Gallery Trail will be run online from August 22 to August 31 and feature an exciting Secret Artist Auction as well as online and private views. The Hanover Band will be streaming performances by the Consonne Quartet of Beethoven’s String Quartets Op 18 across three days from Saturday, August 22 to Monday, August 24, as well as Beethoven’s Septet and Schubert’s Octet on Sunday, August 30.

Sharon, who became chairman in January, added: “Arundel Festival highlights everything that is excellent about our town, including community spirit. 2020 is the year to produce something different and we are embracing the virtual world with a showcase to include what is to come in 2021. Now more than ever, we would like you to be part of it.

“The new title is reflective of the eclectic mix of visual arts, drama, music, dance, comedy and street entertainment with exciting community events and of celebrating life, community and friendship.

“The committee and all involved endeavour to make these events sustainable, progressive and fun for all communities to enjoy, promoting a successful festival for years to come. We are working on the programme and announcements are to follow.”

“The committee are taking the opportunity to plan how the 2021 festival could look and are arranging the programme early, which all being well, will be delivered in its entirety with some exciting pre-festival stunts.”

Sharon admits the timing couldn’t possibly be worse. But the excitement remains – directed instead towards next year.

“We all recognise what a significant role Arundel Festival plays in the annual life of the town, bringing together the whole community and how important it is to nurture and optimise these events and voluntary groups and organisations which contribute to making Arundel such a special place to live, work and visit.

“The festival committee, a passionate team of local professionals, bring a wealth of expertise and connections across their multi-faceted roles, volunteering their time to making a positive difference. Together with the individual event organisers and volunteers, they work tirelessly to put Arundel on the map as a destination brimming with creativity, cultural heritage and community spirit.

“The timing of the Arundel Festival has made it harder to navigate plans in response to the pandemic, whereas the June Prefest event due to take place in the Lower Lawns of Arundel Castle was cancelled without question. Initially, it could not have been predicted how things would look in August, but we have always been aware of the severity of the situation and the massive impact this virus continues to have on all of our lives.

“Behind the scenes, the situation has constantly been under review by the dedicated, community-driven committee. This year’s festival promised inclusive and immersive entertainment with a multitude of eclectic events and activities.”

But the current crisis has ripped through the events industry.

“It is a hugely challenging time for everyone in our beautiful town; for businesses and residents alike, but ultimately the health and safety of people must always come first.

“In 2021 the festival will be back and raring to go with a bigger and better than ever before live showcase at a time when we can celebrate as a community together safely and experience events live through a series of entertainment from exceptionally outstanding and creative local talent to carefully curated national artists in the vibrant, beautiful, historic and thriving town of Arundel.

“For now, the festival committee will be bringing residents and visitors a taster of what is to come next year with a virtual showcase from the safety of their own homes!”

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