Michael Jayston leads poetry evening

Michael Jayston

Michael Jayston

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Michael Jayston, star of the Oscar-winning film Nicholas and Alexandra, will head the readers at the South Downs Poetry Festival at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton, on Thursday, July 21, starting at 7.30pm.

The evening will feature readings from the works of William Blake, who lived in a cottage at Felpham, where he wrote his piece, Jerusalem. That poem alongside many other Blake favourites will be brought to life by readings from Michael Jayston and theatre actor Emily Rose Smith.

Michael Jayston’s career has included working alongside some of the greats of the British arts industry, including Sir Laurence Olivier in the classic film of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Other co-performers in the West End include Peggy Ashcroft in Ibsen’s Ghosts and Petula Clark in the musical The Sound of Music. His television roles include Only Fools and Horses, EastEnders and Doctor Who.

Spokesman Barry Smith said: “We wanted to support the brand-new South Downs Poetry Festival by putting on something spectacular. As William Blake is probably the most famous poet to have lived and worked in the area, he seemed the best choice. We are delighted that Michael Jayston is able to bring his dramatic skills to Blake’s visionary poems.”

After the Blake readings, the evening continues with performances by contemporary Sussex poets Stephanie Norgate, James Simpson, Alan Morrison and Barry Smith.

Barry added: “The idea is to put the voices of the present alongside the past, to get a modern take on things and see connections and contrasts between the imaginations of yesterday and today. It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to recruit a distinguished panel of Sussex poets to share their latest writing. I’m sure the evening will be highly stimulating, very entertaining and offer lots of food for thought.”

The evening will also showcase Linda Kelsall-Barnett on classical guitar. Green and Pleasant Land – South Downs Poetry Festival, Weald and Downland Museum, Singleton, P018 0EU, Thursday, July 21, 7.30pm. Ticket £10/£8 (to include cake) from Cloisters Shop, Cathedral; www.chichestertickets.co.uk; 01243813595; or www.sdpf.org.uk.

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