The 2016 Steyning Festival provided the perfect prelude to the remarkable celebrations of Her Majesty the Queen’s official 90th birthday last weekend.
The festival was the largest ever held in Steyning. It represented three years of hard work by a dedicated team of volunteers under the chairmanship of Christine Aubrey. This biannual event gathered leading authors, musicians and artists.
I asked Christine Aubrey what has been at the heart of her vision for the Steyning Festival. She replied “Bringing the community together – to provide something for everyone.” At moments of great celebration it is often the Arts which bring communities together.
Sara Bowers and the Steyning Bookshop once again ensured a remarkable literary line up.
The festival included Theatre Trails, walks on the Downs and the Art Trail. Star attractions included Craig Charles, Steve Knightley, Vince Cable, The Comedy Store Players, Frank Gardner, Alison Weir, Cressida Cowell and Steyning’s very own Julia Donaldson of Gruffalo fame!
My own contribution was to bring the Steyning and Shipley Arts Festivals together with Steyning Parish Church to put on a performance of one of the finest classical works ever written, Bach’s Mass in B Minor. The Bernardi Music Group and The Choir of Our Most Holy Redeemer St Thomas More were conducted by David Bevan. This work is one of the greatest pieces of music in the Baroque canon. It was an exceptional performance which was both reflective and alive with great vigour and energy. It blessed the sell-out audience. It really was a fitting celebration of the Christian feast of Corpus Christi which marks the Institution of Holy Communion.
Steyning Parish Church is at the heart of its community and this was reflected in the generosity of those attending concerts and events throughout the festival with some £2000 donated towards the tower restoration fund through retiring collections. Estimates for the urgent restoration are upwards of £150,000 and all contributions are most welcome.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th Birthday was celebrated with a service of thanksgiving at Steyning Parish Church, led by the Revd. Fr. Neil Roberts. The Rt Revd. Mark Sowerby, the Bishop of Horsham, reflected on the role of the arts in bringing our community together and the richness with which they bless our lives. He spoke movingly of the Queen’s contribution to our nation’s life and identity.
After the service Steyning’s community gathered outside the church and the Festival Big Top, on St Cuthman’s field, to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday with music and picnics.
I was interested to know what the highlight of the 2016 Steyning Festival was for Christine Aubrey. She smiled and exclaimed “The pleasure of watching everybody enjoying themselves!” This generosity of spirit has been evident throughout this wonderful event and Christine Aubrey and her team of volunteers are deserving of our thanks and congratulations!
By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.