Festival of Chichester will be most exciting yet

Celebrating the launch of this year's Festival of Chichester. Pic by Jake Barlow.
Celebrating the launch of this year's Festival of Chichester. Pic by Jake Barlow.

By Phil Hewitt, Festival of Chichester chairman

I love our Festival of Chichester, and I love it for a very specific reason: the Festival of Chichester really is a celebration, in the truest, sense of the word, of the city we are so lucky and so proud to live and work in.

I read the other day that Chichester is the tenth smallest city in the UK; when it comes to the arts, however, Chichester thinks and acts like it is one of the ten biggest – and that’s perhaps the reason for the growing success of Festival of Chichester.

Today we unveil the programme for the festival’s sixth year. The programme is huge, more than 200 events and a clean sweep of everything that is good and matters in this lovely city.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that the festival has done so well, but I well remember the nervousness when we staged a public meeting in the autumn of 2012 to see whether anyone wanted a festival at all, in the wake of the collapse of the old Chichester Festivities. Dozens of people turned up; dozens more couldn’t actually fit in.

That meeting, chaired by Chichester novelist Kate Mosse, got the festival off to a flyer, and it is typical of Kate that she has remained one of our most committed supporters ever since. It is typical of Kate that this year she will be celebrating her new novel with a special festival event.

People like Kate have become the backbone of the festival. It has been wonderful to offer a proper festival stage to the Chichester Singers, the Chichester Players, Chichester Symphony Orchestra, the St Richard Singers, Chichester Chorale and so many more. We are thrilled to have them; and they deserve the profile the festival can give them. It’s hardly surprising that big names have started to join us, among them this year Stephen Kovacevich, Victor Ryabchikov and Louis de Bernieres.It is great too that we have started to develop our own festivals within the festival. The Amici Concerts series genuinely adorns the festival; the Festival Artists are a magnificent addition.

But it is worth remembering that for all our success, the Festival simply couldn’t happen without my employers, the Chichester Observer. I genuinely believe there isn’t a single other newspaper in the country which supports its local festival as generously and enthusiastically as the Observer does ours – which makes me even prouder than ever to be on the Observer staff. I believe newspapers are at their best when they don’t just report but actually participate. In the Observer, we have got a very special paper indeed.

Huge thanks also to Chichester City Council, a city council with an acute sense of community and a very willing and hugely-valued supporter of the Festival of Chichester. From the outset, the city council understood exactly what we were trying to do with the festival; they have helped us every step of the way. Massive thanks too, this year, to West Sussex County Council which has also supported us generously.

The support has enabled us to plan; our superb festival committee has enabled us to put those plans into action. It has been a pleasure to work with Jake Barlow, Anthony Cane, Jill Cook, Simon O’Hea, Barry Smith, Anne Scicluna, Nick Sutherland and Helen Watt.

Tickets from the Chichester Box Office, The Novium, Tower Street, Chichester, PO19 1QH; phone 01243 816525 or 775888; website http://www.thenovium.org/boxoffice; email boxoffice@chichester.gov.uk.In person: The Novium, Tower Street, Chichester, PO19 1QH.

For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2

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