It's taken guts to stage the 2021 Festival of Chichester

There are many fine adjectives to describe the Festival of Chichester.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2021, 4:46 pm
Ensemble Reza

But it was that maesto of the cello Pavlos Carvalho who phrased it most succinctly at the conclusion of a sublime strings concert at the Assembly Room in the heart of the city.

Turning to the organisers of the 2021 Festival he praised their courage and guts for going ahead with the event.

The roar of approval of the audience would no doubt have been louder had numbers not been so severely restricted by social distancing rules and the muffling effect of face masks.

Jenny Bathurst

Inwardly, though, we could not have agreed more.

This elegant Georgian city built on the foundations of Roman grit, may beat with poetry, book signings and plucked violins to a tempo composed by Tchaikovsky more than a century before - but its determination not to be cowed by a pandemic should never be underestimated.

This year's Festival, concluding on July 11, has gone ahead - and it is magnificent.

Streamlined and simplified though it inevitably is, every facet of it is a class act.

At the very moment that Ensemble Reza was producing the most beautiful of music, Team England was playing the beautiful game against Germany - and both were triumphs for all involved.

The night after, I was privileged to hear the remarkable Jenny Bathurst at Chichester College talk about her new book - a collection of her first 12 months of lockdown diaries published online by the Chichester Observer.

She was speaking to Festival chairman Phil Hewitt - who is also the arts editor of this and all its sister titles and brought her diaries to a wider audience. The irony of the venue was not lost on her. This very room was where she should have sat her A Levels a year before - an academic event violently snatched from her by Covid.

There was no self-pity. She radiated positivity and gracious confidence. Her book will raise money for charity - period poverty which afflicts so many young women.

It was another example of that glorious sense of generous community that makes Chichester the special place it is.

Phil, of course, was one of those referred to by Pavlos on the first night - that brilliant lead member of a distinguished committee that had shown courage to make this year's Festival the occasion that it is; to ensure that despite everything a sense of the normal remains tangible and fresh.

This committee of eight has continued to meet monthly by Zoom throughout the pandemic, eight people representing so many different strands of Chichester - the newspaper, the Cathedral, the city council, education, local business, and the performing arts. Co-ordinator Barry Smith is, of course, the bedrock of the programme.

So a huge round of applause to them. To everyone who has participated.

And, of course, to the great people of Chichester and beyond who have turned off their TV viewing of both Wimbledon and the Euros and stepped out to be part of this fragment of magic.

None of it would have happened without their guts and determination.