Hundreds have fun with dance, drama and art at Ardingly ArtsFest

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Ardingly College’s second ArtsFest has been hailed as a success after four thrilling days of music, culture and comedy.

Hundreds of young people enjoyed a range of drama, art and science performances and students from more than 30 Sussex schools attended workshops alongside Ardingly pupils as part of the college’s Enrichment Programme.

The Horne Section

The Horne Section

Schools included Holy Trinity, Cuckfield; St Peter’s, Ardingly and Central Sussex College.

Poet and festival patron John Agard, who gave a talk and poetry reading, said: “It’s a beautifully planned festival with a lovely atmosphere and it feels as if it has been running for years.”

Festival director Dr Tim Coker added: “What’s most important about to me about this week is its ability to cross social boundaries, age ranges and communities. It’s not just a festival for the posh independent school up the road, but truly for the whole of West Sussex.”

The festival got off to a rousing start on Sunday, June 22, with a Gala evening hosted by Sir John Tomlinson (the celebrated Covent Garden bass) and his guests, musicians and singers from the Royal Opera House. From Wagner to Mozart, Sir John’s powerful voice and acting thrilled and entertained an enthusiastic audience. Mezzo soprano Yvonne Howard also gave a beautiful performance of Bizet’s Habanera and, with soprano Gillian Webster, touched everyone with the Flower Duet from Lakmé. They also joined tenor Dominic Natoli, baritone Matthew Sprange and Sir John to perform Nessun Dorma.

Some 60 musicians from Sussex schools and orchestras rehearsed with the Covent Garden team and performed three times during the evening.

There was a lot to laugh about at the Comedy Night on Monday, June 23.

Bradley Walsh regaled audiences with his anecdotes during an interview with Matt Trueman from The Guardian. Then Alex Horne and the Horne Section offered a combination of superb musicianship and stand-up comedy.

On Tuesday, June 24, Ardingly was honoured for the second year running to have the London cast of Stomp run workshops with Sussex school kids. Later, in the evening, singer John O’Neill donned his David Bowie costume for his Absolute Bowie tribute show.

On Wednesday, June 25, West Sussex Music and Ardingly College joined forces for a community project. More than 500 people from 21 Sussex choirs and schools were joined by VOCES8, the College’s ensemble in residence, to perform Alexander L’Estrange’s Zimbe! Sing the Songs of Africa, accompanied by the Call Me Al Jazz Quintet.

Later, Dave Newton – voted the best jazz pianist in the British Jazz Awards 11 times – teamed up with bassist Tom Farmer, drummer Matt Skelton and vocalist Heather Cairncross. A capacity audience was treated to a selection of songs, primarily from the Great American Songbook, such as Hoagy Carmichael’s Skylark and the George Gershwin classic, Embraceable You.

Shakespeare fans were given a treat too as the Reduced Shakespeare Company performed their riotous reduction of Shakespeare’s 37 plays to 97 minutes.

Pick up this week’s County Times (July 3) to read Simon Robb’s interview with Bradley Walsh