Expanding WemsFest about to hit the streets

WemsFest is half as big again for its second outing, with last year’s 40 events expanding to 60 in a programme determined to broaden the scope.

WemsFest is half as big again for its second outing, with last year’s 40 events expanding to 60 in a programme determined to broaden the scope.

Mark Ringwood

Mark Ringwood

Festival director Mark Ringwood is delighted with the way the Emsworth/Westbourne-based festival established itself so quickly last year.

And he is delighted to let it grow for 2013.

“It all started because there were people in the community that wanted to give something back to the community. We felt that having a festival would be the way to do that.

“Little did we know the first baby would have a sibling. It was conceived to see if it could be an annual event, but it has now also got the siblings of the P G Wodehouse festival plus next year’s 70th commemoration of D-Day.

“WemsFest is primarily an arts festival, but we want to try to engage with all sections of the community, from young to old. It’s a juggling act really. We still have not got it completely right. We are still needing to do something for the early-to-late teens, but that’s for year three.

“For a first year, last year went extremely well. What was good about it was that people were coming to do and see things they might not have thought about doing somewhere else, but they were doing because it was on their doorstep. It certainly put WemsFest on the map, though there are still people for whom the penny hasn’t yet dropped that WemsFest is Emsworth and Westbourne put together.”

Year two (September 13-29) sees significant geographical expansion. Emsworth, Westbourne, Southbourne, Stansted, Chidham, Thorney Island and Bosham are all venues – and Mark is delighted with the programme that has come together, particularly The New Jerusalem, a musical play written about the exploits of Stansted House incumbent the Rev Lewis Way, directed by Pamela Howard and presented in co-operation with Chichester Festival Theatre and University of Chichester.

“It will probably be running in London next year. There is a bit of kudos attached because of the people that are putting it together. It is a production that has got some excellent components.”

Theatre features strongly across the programme generally.

Amanda Waring brings her one-woman show For the Love of Chocolate to The Pavilion (Stansted); there will also be an evening of Ghost and Haunting stories, plus Andy Bumfrey’s one-man tour de force The Inevitability Game and a post Edinburgh Festival production of The Maids.

The community theatre company Rogues and Vagabonds has emerged from 
last year’s WemsFest and will present The Racton Follies 2 and a production for children, The Reluctant Dragon which will tour the area, both directed by Westbourne playwright Julian Sluggett.

And Chidham and Hambrook village hall is being used for the first time – the venue for two costumed performances of The Mikado by Emsworth Community Singers, and two one-act plays, Bed Among the Lentils and Anorak of Fire.

Music embraces Mick Jagger’s brother Chris, and his band, Ronnie Lane’s old band Slim Chance, punk-popsters The Pirhanas, acoustic bluesman Doug Macleod, Congolese band Congo dia Ntotila, Sean Taylor, traditional Scottish band A9, blues boogie-woogie player Ben Waters, pop-rock band Kempes, the WemsFest Celebrity String Ensemble, Ric Sanders and Vo Fletcher, Fusion in Blues, Christopher Beaumont, George’s Regis Jazz Band, Village Voices and an illustrated talk by the author of Last Shop Standing.

Elsewhere the voices of Oyster Opera combine with a three-course supper at Nicolino’s, and Westbourne physicist Neil Williams will talk about all things physics.

Events returning from last year’s WemsFest include the Team Quiz, WemsFest Hash, Family Bike Ride and Treasure Hunt with Afternoon Tea, a comedy night with Brain Damage and Krysstal, Wayne the Weird, Tea with Roger Redfarn and actress Michele Dotrice, a family barn dance, and the Full Moon Mountain Bike Ride.

Visual arts include two exhibitions by Hermitage-based multi-media artist Sam Millington, The Living Trees, and a pop-up Art Gallery at The Emsworth Centre.

Tickets available from: Bookends, 7 High Street; www.wegottickets.com; www.wemsfest.com