Scaled-down Arundel Festival still offers enticing programme

In still worrying times and against a background of tight finances, organisers of the 2021 Arundel Festival of the Arts have come up with a scaled-down festival to be proud of, running from August 20-30.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 5:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th August 2021, 5:36 pm
Chairman Sharon Blaikie
Chairman Sharon Blaikie

It’s a cautious festival, avoiding big crowds in the town centre, but it still comes packed with events.

Chairman Sharon Blaikie said: “We are looking forward to celebrating this special community and bringing together all the wonderful contributors.”

Highlights include a music festival in Brooks fields at the back of Mill Road Car Park next to Happy’s Circus on the Meadows, Dawn Gracie’s Big Top Cabaret Show, a concert series celebrating the music of Duke Ellington and a history exhibition telling the story of Arundel in the 1960s.

There will also be a Festival series of three concerts at the Cathedral, and the Festival are working in association with The Lido who will present activities for families and children. Shakespeare At The Castle and drama from Drip Action Theatre and Arundel Players will be back as will a reduced gallery trail.

In their planning, the festival committee came up with three options: a minimal festival with just a few events online; a medium-scale festival; and a full-on festival. They’ve gone for option two.

Event liaison Frank Regester stressed it was a question of doing so in a way appropriate to all the uncertainties we are still living with.

“The previous committee resigned in 2019 and a new committee took over, and we were all geared up for 2020. But sadly we had to cancel the live festival and we put on a virtual online festival instead which went well. We kept things going last year. The same committee stayed in place pretty much but we are now living in the Covid era.”

Hence the decision this year to go with the middle-scale option: “We know we need to do something because it is a boost to the community, but we know that we need to be aware of Covid and of the challenges.”

The other challenge is financial. For two years, the festival hasn’t been able to run a big fund-raising event bringing in potentially £17,000. Sponsorship is also tight with businesses inevitably struggling at the moment.

“So that has been the background really, Covid and financial considerations. The way we have looked at it we have tried to meet those challenges. There’s more emphasis on outdoor events in large spaces and a wider range of indoor venues where ticket limits can be used to control numbers. Visitors are usually the lifeblood of our town, but they bring issues with them at the moment.”

Big musical events in the Jubilee Gardens aren’t appropriate. Instead, the festival is offering a three-day music festival, running Friday to Sunday over the festival’s first weekend in Brooks Field, behind the Mill Road car park. Murdoch’s Crazy Eyes will headline on the first night; Will And The People on the second; and Dutch Criminal Record on the last night. Timings are Friday 7-10.30pm, Saturday, 3-10.30pm and Sunday, 12-7pm. Maximum numbers are 500 – which Frank is confident will mean things will feel very spacious indeed on a large site.

Over the opening weekend, nearby there will also be Happy Circus, and then on the Sunday, after the musical festival, after the circus, vintage entertainer Dawn Gracie will take over the circus tent for her big-top cabaret.

During the week there will be a series of concerts entitled Duke Ellington Remembered, two at South Stoke barn, one in St Nicholas Church and one in the Norfolk Arms.

There will also be a series of concerts in Arundel Cathedral: “We are trying to use venues that we have not used often in the recent past, and the cathedral is an excellent venue because it is big.” The first in the series is a children’s concert hosted by the Sleepy Lagoon Orchestra on Thursday, August 26, an ideal opportunity for young listeners to experience live music and watch instrumental demonstrations. The second in the series is on Sunday, August 29, an evening by the Sleepy Lagoon Orchestra of light classics from Mozart and Beethoven through to Coates and Grainger. The final event in the series is on Bank Holiday Monday, August 30, Music for a Summer’s evening: Folksongs, Fantasy and Jazz.

Illyria theatre company will be offering Much Ado About Nothing at Arundel Castle on Friday and Saturday, August 20 and 21. Castle events will also include a picnic for Arundel residents only. Arundel Festival tickets are available from the Arundel Festival website at