Arundel's time to shine
PUBLISHED: 01:16 17 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:51 20 February 2013
Arundel Festival is celebrating its 34th year with a packed programme of art, theatre and opera and closes with a very special aerial event. Words: Jenny Mark-Bell
More than a dozen hot air balloons will fly over historic Arundel during the towns Festival, which starts on 19 August. In a spectacular night-time finale to the ten-day event, balloons and fireworks will light up Arundel Castle by special permission of the Duke of Norfolk.
The rest of the festivities are more down to earth, but no less exciting. Arundel Gallery Trail showcases more than 100 artists in beautiful homes and gardens around the town. The trail takes in paintings, sculptures, ceramics, jewellery and textiles and this year, some exotic visitors: life-size rhinos Fleur and Splodge, who are taking up residence in lifestyle shop Sparks Yard.
The Arundel Theatre Trail celebrates ten years of collaboration with the Festival with a variety of performances. Arundel Players and director Dorothy Olney pay tribute to Terence Rattigan in his centenary year with his comedy The Sleeping Prince. It plays at the Priory Theatre from 20-27 August. At the Victoria Institute from 22-27 August, Stones in his Pockets is a two-man show by Drip Action about filming a Hollywood epic in rural Ireland.
Bank Holiday Sunday sees award-winning multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Joni Fuller headline a concert at the Meadows. The following day, the Festival closes in an explosion of glitter. Balloons, fireworks, fancy dress and acrobats will make this a night to remember!
It would be difficult to find a more beautiful or dramatic backdrop than Arundel Castle, ancestral seat of the Duke of Norfolk. The castle will set the scene for Candlelight Operas production of Donizettis Don Pasquale on 23 August, with husband and wife opera singers Joanne Appleby and Andrew Rees providing Songs for a Summers Evening in the Barons Hall the evening before.
The magnificent Collector Earls Garden was opened by HRH The Prince of Wales in May 2008 and since then it has been enjoyed by nearly half a million visitors. The formal garden is a light-hearted tribute to Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel (1585-1646), known as The Collector and was designed by Isabel and Julian Bannerman as a Jacobean formal garden.It will be used to stunning effect during the Festival, when its transformed into Verona and Illyria for performances of Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night (25-27 August).
Outside of the festival, the annual garden season ticket allows regular visits to the landscaped grounds and gardens, including The Collector Earls Garden, between early April and the end of October apart from Joust Week (26 to 31 July).
Messing about on the river
On 13 August, the gloriously eccentric Bathtub Race is held on the River Arun and at the Black Rabbit pub. The event has been running for over 30 years and organiser Martin Harvey, who hails from Felpham, is celebrating his 10th year in charge. He says: I am proud to be keeping such a colourful, quirky and typically British event alive.
Martin got involved when he won a bath race at the Black Rabbit in 2001. When the landlord moved away, then Mayor of Arundel Don Ayling asked Martin to organise the race. I did, and in the last ten years its gone from an unpublicised race of five teams to a real Arundel Festival favourite, with 36 teams raising 2,500 for Chestnut Tree House.
Last year the competing craft included a Viking Longbath (two bathtubs end to end); a Roman chariot towed by seven Gladiators aboard beer barrel mounts; a replica of Arundel Castle defended by paddle-wielding knights and a floating tennis court complete with net, line markings and an actual game of doubles taking place mid river!
If you dont fancy getting your feet wet theres still plenty of entertainment for spectators with a bouncy castle, barbecue and family stalls. A DJ and live band will provide the soundtrack for the day.
Further along the river, The Jubilee Gardens is hosting two stages throughout the Festival. On weekdays there are workshops and family events during the day, and music in the evenings. Free concerts and performances from local talent take place over the Two Big Weekends.
On the first Monday of the Festival the gardens will be transformed into a cabaret venue. Theatre Akimbos show, The Sugar Club, features a roster of decadent delights including burlesque, drag, music and comedy. Artistic Director Glenda Harkess promises that the show will be even bigger and more sumptuous this year: It is a chance to experience the shameless and slightly sinful satisfaction that only The Sugar Club can offer - from sensuous burlesque to side splitting comedy, its a spectacle not to be missed!