FRIENDS gathered to celebrate the life of theatrical great Patrick Garland in a place he held dear – Chichester Cathedral.
A memorial service was organised by firm friend and actor Simon Callow, who said: “We did not meet until the late nineties. When we did we plunged into a bubble bath of anecdotes.”
And a bubble bath of anecdotes is an accurate description of the service on Monday afternoon, as his friends and family paid tribute to Mr Garland.
With recitals from those who knew him best, it was a rare glimpse into the life of a man who had mastered theatre, poetry, television and film.
What also became clear is that he loved Sussex and his time at Chichester Festival Theatre.
Mr Callow, playwright Alan Bennett, actresses Patricia Routledge and Dame Eileen Aitkins, and of course Patrick’s widow Alexandra Bastedo paid tribute to Patrick.
The location of the service was important, as it was where Mr and Mrs Garland were married 33 years ago.
She said the cathedral was ‘so much a part of our lives’, so it seemed a fitting to hold place to hold the service.
Mr Callow spoke movingly of his friend: “One of the most remarkable, accomplished generous figures ever known in the English theatre in my lifetime.
“He was the most engaging brilliant, informed, delightful man anybody could hope to meet.
“He was very much a man of the theatre but also of the world. He was an altogether extraordinary figure.
“Patrick was the friend of friends. Patrick made friendship into a sublime art. If you were with Patrick’s friend you were surrounded by love and wit and constant communication, and so the whole of the congregation here including many, many close friends and some of the most distinguished people in the British theatre have come to give thanks for his life.”
His friend Alan Bennett read an extract from his play which was directed by Mr Garland, but before that, he described his friend.
“In a profession which is not always without self seeking, Patrick stood out as the most magnanimous of men,” he said. “Always ready to share credit and to give credit to others, he was generous, unrivalrous, and above all fun.
“My lasting memory of him was him telling an anecdote and not really laughing but shouting with laughter.”
Actress Dame Eileen Atkins read an extract from The Diaries of Virginia Woolf, as she said their mutual love of the author is what began her friendship which Mr Garland.
She read an extract where Ms Woolf is walking through the countryside, as ‘Patrick did love the Sussex countryside’.
Patricia Routledge spoke of her work with Mr Garland, and gave a biblical reading from Mr Garland’s preferred translation of the Bible - The King James Bible 1611.
There was music from the cathedral choir, and bands which Mr Garland worked with and enjoyed, including The Pandora Band, The Copper Family, The Bastedo Band and Mr Garland’s godson Simon Mulligan.
The Very Reverend Nicholas Frayling, Dean of Chichester, lead the service, and addressed friends and family of the former Chichester Festival Theatre director.
He said before the service, in the cathedral’s refectory, someone had said the service was ‘what is sure to be the best show in town this afternoon’.
And it certainly was.
Mr Garland’s work at Chichester Festival Theatre
Patrick Garland was artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre 1981 – 1984, and again from 1991 – 1994.
During these periods, he directed the following plays:
Festival Season 1981
The Cherry Orchard
The Mitford Girls
Festival Season 1982
On the Rocks (with Jack Emery)
Goodbye Mr Chips (with Chris Selbie)
Festival Season 1983
As You Like It
Festival Season 1984
Forty Years On
The Merchant of Venice
Festival Season 1991
A Room of One’s Own (also adaptor)
Festival Season 1992
King Lear in New York
Vita & Virginia
The British in Love
Festival Season 1993
Forces Sweetheart (also adaptor)
A Song in the Night
Festival Season 1994
Janet Bakose, Theatre Manager at Chichester Festival Theatre, worked with Patrick Garland during both of his periods as artistic director at Chichester.
“Patrick was a lovely man who was very sociable, with a mischievous sense of humour,” she said. “Even though he moved in very glamorous circles, his exceptional skill was to make everyone feel that they were of equal importance and he valued the opinions of all his staff. He was very generous with his time and was adored by everyone who knew him.”