Feature: Chichester’s summer of cultural sizzlers

Thursday, 7 July 2011 11:49 AM

Bridging the gap between old world and new, the delightful city of Chichester is a cultural treat. Traditional tea rooms sit beside gorgeous Georgian buildings, while on the other hand the city is home to a thriving arts and theatre scene. Whichever way you turn or whatever direction you enter from, the city’s rich history is evident everywhere. The spires of the prominent Norman Cathedral can be seen for miles around over the rolling Sussex Plains, while stunning 18th century town houses line the compact streets.

Only an hour and a half’s drive south from London, Chichester is another world, where formality is hailed and the pace of life slows right down. And as a varied number of cultural events are taking place over the summer, we thought we’d give you the lowdown on this incredible city where time has stood still. Enjoy!

Soon to finish
Renowned for its impressive line up of music, comedy and art, The Chichester Festivities is 17 days ofof concerts and seminars, now in its 37th year. But with only three days left before it ends, you might have to hurry to get in on the action! Although you’ve just missed the incredible folk talents of Sheffield’s very own Kate Rusby, the unique Zic Zacou are playing tomorrow – a group of nine musicians dressed as engineers who play tool box instruments! And on Friday the first lady of musical theatre, Elaine Paige will be singing an ensemble of jazz classics.

All manner of creativity
The 100 acre West Dean Gardens is an area of landscaped greenery just outside the city in the heart of the incredibly beautiful South Downs. Between August 26 and 29 it will be home to the West Dean Festival - a celebration of all types of art. There will be storytelling, writing workshops, cook-a-thons, dance shows, live music and many other activities! You’re also free to walk around the manicured grounds at your leisure...

Mexico’s finest
Istanbul, Dublin and now Chichester. The major exhibition of the works of Mexico’s most famous artists will be arriving in town in two days time. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera have attained a mythological status since their death in the 50s. Passionate companions for a quarter of a century, their affairs and separations are chronicled in their iconic paintings. The exhibition at the Pallant House Gallery will end in October.

Livestock show
The British have a way of keeping anachronisms alive and worshipping them like relics of the past. Nowhere is this truer than the Rare and Traditional Breeds Show. Taking place in the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum (a collection of beautiful historic buildings) the event will feature more than 500 rare breeds of cattle, sheep, pig, goat and poultry. This is Crufts for livestock, so prizes will be at stake! It’s a very popular event and great for the family.

The weekend festival
If you happen to be holidaying on the south coast this weekend, or feel like doing something but don’t know what, head to Chichester for an extravaganza of Mediterranean proportions. MedFest is being held at West Dean Gardens as a celebration of the 21 countries that edge into the Mediterranean Sea. There will be flamenco performances, culinary demonstrations, a greenhouse showcasing 40 different crops and a vast selection of food stalls.

Theatre lovers rejoice! Chichester has it all, from world famous actors descending on the city, to open air shows held in the glorious South Downs. Until July 16 catch Top Girls at the Minerva Theatre, a unique story of powerful women throughout history celebrating the promotion of a high flying 80s career woman. Then, from July 21 to August 20, the one and only Ian McKellen (who played Gandalf in Lord of the Rings)will return to the city after a break of several decades in a gangster comedy set in 1960s Naples.
But the cream of the crop has to be the open air shows of Great Expectations and Snow White held in the stunning Tudor ruins of Cowdray Park!

Fiery delight
For three days, West Dean Gardens will again host another fantastic festival between August 5 and 7, but this time in the form of a Chilli Fiesta! See how many fiery peppers you can eat with the Scotch Bonnet, Thai Bird’s Eye or incredibly (and we mean incredibly) spicy Ghost Pepper. They’ll be delicious food, live music and salsa dancing too.

Places to stay
For a small city, Chichester certainly doesn’t lack in accommodation! One of the area’s most atmospheric options is the Bailiffscourt Hotel; an old fashioned stone and wood affair with gorgeous oak beams, fireplaces and a four poster beds. Budget travellers might want to consider the four campsites nearby, such as Wicks Farm. Numerous pubs also offer rooms such as the Nags Head and Swan Inn. And as they serve great food and fantastic local ales, they are our favourite by far!

Chichester is a beautiful southern English city with old world charm and a flourishing art scene. Perched on the south coast with a warm summer climate, it makes a perfect cultural weekend away!

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