Michael Jayston leads poetry night for Festival of Chichester

Michael Jayston
Michael Jayston

The South Downs Poetry Festival and the Festival of Chichester coincide in Chichester Cathedral on Tuesday, July 10 at 6.30pm.

A programme of poetry and music is lined up. Classic South Downs poems will be read by star of film, TV and stage Michael Jayston. Live music comes from Chichester-based classical guitarist Linda Kelsall-Barnett. Michael’s many credits include the title role of Tsar Nicholas in the Oscar-winning film Nicholas and Alexandra, Cromwell and The Merchant of Venice. He has also played James Bond on radio.

Barry Smith, who has taken over the reins as SDPF director this year, said: “Michael has a fantastic voice for recordings which also makes him perfect for poetry readings.”

Barry explained: “The South Downs Poetry Festival is an annual festival which – uniquely – spans many miles, across the length and breadth of the beautiful South Downs National Park.

“2016 was SDPF’s inaugural year with 63 events over nine days in July 2016. The debut programme included events in Lewes, Ditchling, Singleton, Midhurst and Petersfield as well as a four-day Poetry Bike Tour with poetry performances from Eastbourne to East Meon and, finally, putting on an event-filled three days over a weekend in and around Petersfield in Hampshire.

“In 2017 the festival spread out time-wise as well as geographically starting in April and running through to July. Again there were major concentrations of events in Lewes and Petersfield but also in many places in between including Steep, where a day of events dedicated to Edward Thomas was held on the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death, a weekend of poetry at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park and events at the Cass Foundation Sculpture Park, Arundel, Chichester, Brighton and Steyning.”

The festival was founded by Tim Dawes, who had many years’ experience, having previously founded and directed Havant Literary Festival. Tim has now moved to Shrewsbury but continues as treasurer of the festival.

This year is Barry’s first in charge. Barry said: “The 2018 South Downs Poetry Festival kicked off in March with acclaimed poet Tamar Yoseloff reading from her Selected Poems at Chichester Library. Since then events have taken place in various locations including tiny St Hubert’s Church in the fields in rural Finchdean.

“Over the summer, events are planned for Lewes, Midhurst, Arundel, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis, Tortington, Portsmouth and Petworth. The festival will culminate in a commemoration of the end of WW1 in Midhurst Church on November 7 when classic war poetry will be read alongside the poetry of today.

“The plan behind the SDPF is to bring together South Downs writers with significant poets from across the UK and beyond. Published South Downs poets taking part include University of Chichester writers Stephanie Norgate, who is the poetry adviser for SDPF, Hugh Dunkerley and Naomi Foyle.”

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