Chichester – much-loved for its stunning Cathedral, picturesque villages and charming coastline – has also been celebrating a momentous year of arts and culture, writes Abby Smith
This year has seen some significant anniversaries of the area’s most cherished attractions including 60 years of Chichester Festival Theatre, 40 years of Pallant House Gallery, 30 years of Chichester Cinema at New Park’s International Film Festival, ten years of The Novium Museum and the Festival of Chichester, and impressively, 200 years of the Chichester Canal Trust.
Inspired by these anniversaries, Culture Spark 2022 was launched to bring together artists, musicians, community groups and organisations from across the Chichester district to create a season that showcases work by local creatives and gives everyone a chance to enjoy wonderful cultural festivities.
The Culture Spark season kicked off in early spring at a series of First Spark events held at iconic venues in Chichester, Midhurst and Selsey. Curated by Culture Spark’s creative co-ordinator, Caroline Sharman-Mendoza, the events gave audiences a taste of what to expect for the rest of the year, from large-scale celebrations to intimate community activities.
“Culture Spark 2022 has been a true celebration of the incredible array of local talent and community spirit in our corner of West Sussex,” says Caroline. “Visitors and residents alike have enjoyed an extraordinary summer of amazing art, colourful parades, parties, picnics and live performances as part of our season of culture. Local school children and community groups have been integral to our celebrations, participating in events such as our artist-led lantern making workshops to create wonderful willow lanterns, which all featured in the magnificent Carnival of Lights in June. Some 1,500 people took part in this event, carrying a sea of lanterns through the city of Chichester. The beautiful lanterns have since gone on to appear in trails and events across the district.”
We The People
As well as showcasing Chichester’s world-class cultural offering, Culture Spark has created an opportunity to thank the army of volunteers who support the area’s heritage and arts communities and local charities. In May, a photographic exhibition entitled ‘We The People’ launched at Petworth House before touring the district at other venues including Chichester Festival Theatre.
“This unique exhibition gave visitors the chance to see large scale photographic portraits of local volunteers and discover their stories through audio clips,” Caroline explains. “Without these volunteers, many of the organisations we are celebrating this year would be unable to remain open, so I am absolutely delighted we were able to recognise the important role they play as part of Culture Spark.”
As this spectacular season of culture draws to a close, there are still a number of events planned over the next month including a special exhibition at The Novium Museum, literary talks and displays.
The Art of Chichester: 60 Years of Creativity
Forming a key part of Culture Spark 2022, this free exhibition at The Novium Museum in Chichester explores the arts, culture and heritage of Chichester city centre and the surrounding area. Spanning 60 years, from when Chichester Festival Theatre first opened in 1962 to the present day, the exhibition includes professional and amateur work across all art forms. The exhibition runs until 25 February 2023.
Denmans Garden, Artist in Residence
Visitors are invited to immerse themselves in a breath-taking exhibition of works at Denmans Garden in Fontwell by their inaugural artist in residence, Sue England. Featuring a range of pieces in various media, this free exhibition reveals the artist’s creative process and interpretation of the changing seasons of this unique garden. The exhibition runs until 20 October 2022.
Kate Mosse at Chichester Cathedral
Literary lovers can look forward to hearing from best-selling local author, Kate Mosse, as she discusses the story behind her new non-fiction project ‘Warrior Queens and Quiet Revolutionaries: How Women (Also) Built the World’. Featuring thousands of trailblazing women throughout history, the book tells the moving story of the author’s great-grandmother, Lily Watson, a famous and successful novelist in her day who has all but disappeared from the record. The talk will take place in the stunning setting of Chichester Cathedral on 13 October 2022, tickets cost £10 per person.
Caroline adds: “It really has been a very special season to be a part of with a plethora of events across the district. Culture Spark has not only brought together our many cultural and community organisations, but has also shone a spotlight on the wonderful offering of arts and culture we have here. Many of the events have been free to attend, giving everyone an opportunity to take part in activities and hopefully inspiring new passions and sparking new conversations. I’d like to say a very big thank you to everyone that has participated in Culture Spark 2022 including our wonderful sponsors Stagecoach and Rathbones.”
To discover more about Culture Spark and related events visit thegreatsussexway.org/culture-spark-2022/