Bognor choir festival expands for its big return

Choirfest organisers
Choirfest organisers

After huge success last year, Bognor’s Choirfest doubles in size and duration for 2018, bringing together a wealth of choral talent in a spirit of non-competitive musical celebration.

Will Hackett, one of the organisers through Bersted Arts, will welcome nine choirs to Bognor’s Regis Centre over the weekend of March 3-4 when they full be hoping for full houses for the public performance each evening.

“Bersted Arts run Bersted Community Choir, and the idea initially was about identifying opportunities for them to perform,” Will says. “We had entered into smaller events in Chichester, but they were quite competitive, and we wanted to try to find opportunities to sing that just didn’t have that pressure. We thought it was putting some people off. A lot of people want to come to sing to forget about the pressure in their lives. We wanted people to be able to show what they can do but to do it in a much less pressurised environment and so last year we thought we would create something that would give lots of people that opportunity. We developed the idea of a choir festival with Arun Arts at the Regis Centre, and that was March last year.

“For that we had five choirs and it ran on a Saturday and went very well. We had some great feedback from the choirs and the audience. It was very well structured and everyone seemed to get a lot out of it and we had lots of people making inquiries about a follow-up. And so it is going ahead this year, bigger and better. We have gone from one day to two days and we have gone from five choirs to nine.”

The choirs taking part are Inspirations from Littlehampton; RAFA 381 from Bognor; the Igloo Choir from Wickham; Get Singing, part of Chichester Festival Theatre; The Ditchling Singers; Arun Sounds from Bognor; Chi Choir from Chichester; Art of Dance and Fitness adult choir from South Bersted; and Bersted Community Choir.

“We could have taken more. We could have had ten. We did have another choir, but they had to drop out. But I think five per day is about right in terms of timings and managing the event. Some of the choirs are actually quite big.”

The whole event will be about fun and the joy of singing together: “It is over the afternoon and into the evening. They arrive and they have the chance to network and then go into rehearsals and all the choirs will get the chance to sing together, and then they all come back and sing in front of an audience.

“We were really taken aback by the success last year. We didn’t expect it to be so successful in its first year. We thought it would be much more of a slow burner, but without blowing our own trumpet, it was well organised, and also being in a choir is a very popular thing. If you are not involved and you see the fun that others are having, it makes you want to take part. Some people coming along are really nervous, but then very quickly they are really hooked. Some people at first are lacking in confidence and then they really come out of their shell and love it. It is also a really good thing socially, a great way of meeting people.”

As for what happens next, Will says it will be a question of seeing how this year’s second Choirfest goes, but if all goes well, then it may well be a question of expanding over two weekends or even looking at a bigger venue: “The intention was always to grow this steadily, and in the future, we might not necessarily keep it to Bognor.”

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