Blakefest 2021 offers Petworth celebration of poet and artist William Blake

This year’s celebration of the poet and artist William Blake is being held on September 11 in Petworth House.

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 8:11 am
Updated Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 8:12 am

Blakefest 2021 is bringing together a cast of performers and Blake experts to illuminate the life and work of one of the country’s greatest literary and artistic figures. The panel of guests includes author and film-maker Tobias Churton, poet Karen McCarthy Woolf, stage and screen actor Gareth Williams and classical guitarist Linda Kelsall-Barnett.

Jointly organised by the South Downs Poetry Festival and Blakefest for the National Trust’s country house Petworth House, the event celebrates the time William Blake spent in Sussex and his links with Felpham, Bognor Regis and Petworth. This year’s theme is Visions.

SDPF director Barry Smith said: “We are absolutely delighted to bring together three organisations with the joint purpose of highlighting Sussex’s cultural contribution to the world of books and paintings. Audiences can explore the visions in the pictures and words of William Blake in the magnificent surroundings of Petworth House.

“The event begins with a complimentary glass of prosecco in the North Gallery where a number of Blake’s famous paintings, including his depictions of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Spencer’s Fairy Queen, can be viewed amongst the treasures.

“Then, in the stately splendour of the Marble Hall, people can sit back and listen to a stimulating mix of words and music, with author and Blake expert Tobias Churton, stage and screen actor Gareth Williams, award-winning poet Karen McCarthy Woolf and classical guitarist Linda Kelsall-Barnett.”

Barry added: “William Blake lived in the Sussex seaside village of Felpham near Bognor Regis from 1801-1803 where he saw visions of angels, was inspired to write the words of Jerusalem and was later placed on trial in Chichester for sedition after an altercation with a soldier outside an inn.

“Acquitted at his trial in the Guildhall in Priory Park, Blake returned to London to continue his artistic career. On his death, The Earl of Egremont purchased several of Blake’s important paintings from his widow, Catherine. They have remained in the collection ever since.

“We hope people will be inspired and entertained as Tobias Churton explores the nature of Blake’s visions, Gareth Williams reads Blake’s poetry and Karen McCarthy Woolf puts the notion of vision into a contemporary context, with musical interludes on guitar played by Linda Kelsall-Barnett.

“Blake’s own words will be brought to life by celebrated actor Gareth Williams, who has starred in the West End, toured with the English Shakespeare Company, filmed Peterloo with Mike Leigh and sung with the Flying Pickets on a chart-topping single, Only You.

“Gareth will read Jersusalem and poems from the Songs of Innocence and Experience, including The Chimney Sweep.

“Blakefest is also championing two designs by Sussex sculptor Vincent Gray for commemorative statues for Bognor seafront.”

Blake in Sussex: Visions, Saturday, September 11 2021, 6.30pm (prosecco reception 6.15pm, doors 6pm), Petworth House, Petworth, GU28 0AE. Tickets £15 available from the Novium, Tower Street, Chichester, PO19 1QH. Tel. 01243 816525;