Wilde festival wins funding – but not in time for anniversary

Oscar Wilde holidayed in Worthing with his wife and two sons - and wrote The Importance of Being Earnest while here
Oscar Wilde holidayed in Worthing with his wife and two sons - and wrote The Importance of Being Earnest while here

Lottery funding of £9,700 has been awarded to Worthing WOW for an Oscar Wilde project.

The money has been warmly welcomed by the team but comes too late for the planned 2017 festival, which would have concentrated on the major literary figure’s connections to Worthing.

The charity has been disappointed by the lack of support from Worthing Borough Council but trustees say the lottery money allows them time to properly prepare for a big festival in 2018.

Melody Bridges, artistic director, said: “We’re delighted that our charity has been awarded National Lottery funding to enable our celebration of Oscar Wilde.

“I’m currently preparing the educational workshops for local primary schools – it’s a very exciting time.

“The news is good, however we still don’t have all the funds we need to run the festival this year.”

Instead for 2017, Worthing WOW will be running Oscar Wilde school workshops, a one-off Wish You Were Here film event at the Dome on April 23 and probably a one-off Oscar Wilde event in July.

A statement issued by the trustees said: “Following three brilliant festivals, 2014 to 2016, we’re taking a well-earned pause in 2017, to return in 2018 with a festival Oscar – and Worthing – would be proud of.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t be busy in the meantime. We have a number of exciting projects planned in 2017, including educational Wilde-themed workshops, a special Wilde Write Night and a 30th anniversary screening of Wish You Were Here.

“We’ll also be busy behind the scenes planning and raising funds for a spectacular 2018 Oscar Wilde Festival – ensuring it genuinely is worth waiting for, and an event worthy of such a famous former Worthing resident.”

The Wilde: Worthing Rediscovers its Lost Connection project will include researching and celebrating the town’s connection to the writer.

This year marks 120 years since Wilde was released from Reading Gaol, following his scandalous imprisonment on charges of gross indecency.

Three years earlier, he had holidayed in Worthing with his wife and two sons. During this time, he wrote his last, and perhaps most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest.

Over 2017 and 2018, Worthing WOW will uncover the town’s hidden heritage and create a comprehensive picture of the Worthing that Wilde would have experienced in 1894, through a trail around Worthing Museum, an exhibition at St Paul’s and a series of educational walks, talks and packs for schools.

Visit www.worthingwow.co.uk for more information.

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