Shipley Arts Festival 2023

Rupert with The Stradivarius Piano Trio – Andrew Bernardi, Maria Marchant and Jonathan Few. Photos courtesy of Richard Greenfield

Community and enduring friendships were celebrated at the launch of Andrew Bernardi’s Shipley Arts Festival which this year was once again held at Toovey’s Washington auction rooms.

The festival celebrates the local, national and international qualities of our nation gathering a community of many of this country’s leading musicians whilst providing pathways to emerging talent. This work is recognised and supported by the Arts Council of Great Britain.

I asked Andrew about the continuing success and growing national reputation of the Shipley Arts Festival. He replied “At the Shipley Arts Festival’s heart is the inspiration of English music, in particular continuing John Ireland’s tradition of music inspired by Sussex.” The composer John Ireland is famously buried at Shipley. Andrew continues “We continue to commission new music for Sussex and the festival from many of the nation’s leading composers and musicians. This year we have asked the famous English operatic baritone and composer Roderick Williams OBE, to write the third and final movement of his Knepp Piano Trio. This piece not only references composers like Ralph Vaughan Williams and John Ireland but is also inspired by the festival’s deepening celebration of nature, especially here in Sussex.”

At the heart of the 2023 season of concerts will be Andrew Bernardi’s Stradivarius Piano Trio with acclaimed Sussex born pianist Maria Marchant and cellist Johnathan Few. They will be performing Ludwig van Beethoven’s Archduke Piano Trio in B-flat major, Op.97 and Antonin Dvořák’s Dumky Piano Trio No.4, Op.90, as well as works by Bach, Purcell, and John Ireland.

Shipley Arts Festival Director Andrew Bernardi with members of his String Academy. Photos courtesy of Richard Greenfield

One of the things I most value about the festival is how it remains generous and outward facing supporting our county’s young musicians through its String Academy who, together with Andrew and his professional musicians, performed music from the movies and Pink Floyd at the launch on Sunday evening.

Speaking on the evening Andrew said “What we have in common with our sponsors friends and patrons are our shared values. A belief in our communities and young people, and that there is a place for excellence.”

As the longest standing sponsor of the Shipley Arts Festival I am delighted that Toovey’s and myself remain at the heart of this remarkable celebration of music and community. Together with our fellow sponsors Kreston Reeves, Nyetimber, and NFU Mutual at Henfield and Chichester, we wish Andrew Bernardi and his Shipley Arts Festival every success with the 2023 season of concerts.

For more information on the forthcoming Shipley Arts Festival go to

Chalk, Wood and Water at Pallant House Gallery

JMW Turner – Chichester Canal, oil on canvas, c. 1828 © Tate 2022

As Pallant House Gallery celebrates its 40th anniversary I am returning to its current exhibition Chalk, Wood and Water.

Sussex with her distinctive chalk-cliff coastline, Weald, and the rolling lees and valleys of the ancient South Downs, is as much an idea as a place.

This beautiful, expansive, textural exhibition seeks to articulate how the Sussex landscape has inspired, and continues to inspire writers, musicians and artists lending a distinctive voice to Englishness. The exhibition charts the ways in which Sussex has been a place of creativity, exploration and retreat in the context of so many artists’ lives.

This processional show begins with Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), journeys through the 20th century and ends with the contemporary and Andy Goldsworthy (b.1956).

It is the first time that JMW Turner’s oil, Chichester Canal, has returned to the city since it was painted in 1828. On the horizon the Cathedral spire, a ship and trees are outlined against the luminous sky. The artist had strong associations with Sussex through his patron and friend the 3rd Earl of Egremont at Petworth who had invested heavily in the Chichester Canal. The canal was part of a network which drew a line through town and country connecting Portsmouth and London.

Turner embraced a new vocabulary in his art to describe his modern age. It is easy to forget that it was a vocabulary which many of his contemporaries found shocking.

Andy Goldsworthy’s 2002 installation Chalk in the Pallant H

The contemporary artist Andy Goldsworthy was commissioned by Pallant House Gallery to produce the work Chalk in 2002. This fabulous installation was made from locally quarried chalk. The naturally weathered grey outer surface has been etched by the artist using a flint to reveal the white chalk beneath. Speaking about the sculpture Andy Goldsworthy said ‘Dig a hole up North and its black and stony and earthy. So to dig a hole in Sussex and to find chalk so absolutely pristine and pure and white…was like finding the sky in the ground.’

For me the luminous, pure white line in Andy Goldsworthy’s Chalk has an invitational quality to it reminiscent of being a pilgrim in the Sussex landscape, processional like this exhibition and life.

These two works capture in very different ways what is at the heart of this exceptional exhibition – the inspiration Sussex and her landscape has given and continues to give to so many of our nation’s leading artists.

Sussex Landscape – Chalk, Wood and Water runs at Pallant House Gallery Chichester until 23rd April 2023.

Here are a few of my favourite things…

Dame Vera Lynn’s late Victorian diamond set heart shaped pendant locket

2022 saw some remarkable discoveries and sales at Toovey’s. It is always wonderful when remarkable and beautiful pieces are sold to the benefit of Sussex charities.

In The Sound of Music I love it when Julie Andrews sings “…These are a few of my favourite things.”

With many to choose from two of my favourite things from the 2022 auction season were the remarkable heart shaped diamond brooch sold for the Dame Vera Lynn Charitable Trust and the Duncan Grant Still Life in aid of The Sussex Heritage Trust.

During the Second World War Dame Vera Lynn was known as the Forces Sweetheart, a singer of undoubtable talent she became an icon of hope in the face of the sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges of the Second World War.

The heart remains one of the definitive symbols of love and Dame Vera’s large, late Victorian diamond set heart shaped pendant locket, pavé set with old cut diamonds was a fine example. The smaller diamonds accentuated the principle stone at its centre within a shimmering field. The back was glazed and hinged with a locket compartment. This beautiful jewel with it’s exceptional provenance realised £26,000 for her charitable trust.

Later in the year a still life by the famous Charleston and Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant was sold at Toovey’s in aid of the Sussex Heritage Trust.

Duncan Grant (1885-1978), Chair with Flowers. Still Life, oil on canvas

The picture was donated to the Trust by Peter Carreras, a distinguished Sussex artist and printmaker, and his wife, Greta.

Duncan Grant’s painting provides a very British voice to the influences of Post-Impressionism. It depicts a handmade jug, of the type made by both Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, filled with flowers upon a painted Bloomsbury chair. His handling of the paint and the joyous palette reflects the art he and Vanessa Bell produced here in Sussex at Charleston. Although a later work the painting made £14,000 for the Sussex Heritage Trust.

When I founded Toovey’s some 28 years ago with my Dad, Alan, we wanted to model a different way of being business where people, our clients and team, were front and centre. And where the business was at the heart of the community supporting what is good in our county. It has been great fun and these values remain central to Toovey’s. Working alongside and in support of our county’s fantastic charities, museums, galleries and communities is, as it has always been, a great privilege.

Review of the Year, 2022

Andrew Bernardi playing in support of the Chestnut Tree House

What an extraordinary year 2022 has been. As a nation we mourned the loss of HM Queen Elizabeth II and as the second great Elizabethan age drew to a close we ushered in a new Carolean era. It has been particularly hopeful to see the qualities of duty, service and affection for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, that were so admired in our late Queen, embraced and taken forward by our new King.

The war in Ukraine has brought to an end a long era of peace and economic prosperity in Europe leading to inflation, and many in our nation face hardship and personal challenges. And yet it is my experience that across Sussex the response has been generous.

There is a rich diversity of people in Sussex working for the common good in support of our communities, charities and creating opportunities for our young people. They are bringing positive change for the future.

Throughout the year I returned again and again to Arundel Castle and its gardens to find many of the charities that make West Sussex such a special place gathered, celebrated and supported after the separation which Covid-19 brought to our county and communities.

Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice supports children with life-limiting illnesses and their families. Music at their Arundel Castle dinner was provided by Andrew Bernardi. As well as bringing the finest musicians to Sussex through his Shipley Arts Festival Concerts Andrew is also passionate about supporting music and young people through his String Academy.

Arundel Castle gardener, Rose Philpot, The Collector Earl’s Garden

Sussex Heritage Trust supporters were blessed with a tour of Arundel Castle’s gardens. It’s a charity which promotes and celebrates best practice in our county’s built environment and landscape through its annual awards whilst encouraging and supporting talented young people into careers in conservation, building and horticulture.

Castle Gardener Rose Philpot led one of the tours. Rose’s story is inspiring. She discovered her passion for gardening on work experience in the castle gardens. Rose volunteered and worked in the gardens whilst she trained at Plumpton and was eventually offered a full-time job. Her career is progressing at Arundel and she has been given responsibility for looking after the stumpery, herbaceous, Round House and cut flower gardens which she speaks about with a real sense of ownership and a gardener’s delight.

Those who work for the common good in support of our communities and charities, and provide opportunities for our young people are bringing positive change for the future.

I remains to wish you all a Happy New Year.

Love Celebrated at Christmas

The Lady Chapel at St Mary’s, Storrington

They say that you can journey far by remaining in the same place and since I was nine years old St Mary’s Parish Church in Storrington has been my spiritual home. My Dad used to take me and my brother to the 8 o’clock Communion.

The Lady Chapel at St Mary’s is, for me, one of the most precious spaces in all England with a beauty all of its own. My heart misses a beat every time I enter church and glimpse it.

The banner by the artist W. Lawson sets the Christmas story in the folds of the Sussex Downs.

As you read this I and tens of millions of Christians across the country will be preparing to celebrate that very first Christmas when God came among us as a baby in a manger. Mary’s loving response to God’s calling is inspiring.

It is shared memories both of joys and sorrows which unite families, friends, communities and nations. Part of the common narrative of our nation is the Christian Christmas story.

Once again families will join with me and others at St Mary’s Parish Church in Storrington at 4pm on Christmas Eve to sing Carols and receive Christingles representing the love of God expressed in the birth of Jesus, and to raise money for the Children’s Society to support their life changing work with families and young people.

The artist W. Lawson’s Madonna and Child banner at St Mary’s, Storrington

Midnight Mass starts at 11.30pm, and I will be celebrating at the 10am Christmas Day Family Service with Communion.

All are welcome.

There has been much to challenge us this year supporting the poor Ukrainians and dealing with the effects of climate change and inflation. The human cost for individuals and families has been marked. But, people’s response has been noticeably generous and hope filled.

We often talk of value in terms of the material; by this standard, Mary and Joseph had little and yet they knew that they had been richly blessed. They shared the gift of their child with the world. This gift was so precious, so valuable that even the angels rejoiced and praised God. What was being celebrated was love.

I hope that like Mary and Joseph we will be inspired to share what we have with the world through acts of generosity and kindness, especially in these times. The message of Christmas is that hope comes out of our love and care for others. It is a joyful and hope filled message.

It remains for me to wish you and those you love a very happy and blessed Christmas.