Marking Valentine’s Day

A 19th century sailor’s shell valentine of typical octagonal form, the glazed case enclosing a geometric pattern of various shells within coloured card borders, width 37cm © Toovey’s 2021

Music is so evocative often reminding us of points of love in our lives and I am looking forward to Andrew Bernardi’s online Valentine’s Day concert this Sunday.

Over the centuries people have found ways to mark love on Valentine’s Day. Amongst my favourite expressions of love are Sailor’s Valentines.
Sailor’s Valentines were made in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Shells from the Caribbean were glued to cotton batting in intricate patterns. Contained within glazed octagonal frames they would be gifted to loved ones by the sailors when they returned home from their voyages.

At the centre of these designs you find love hearts, anchors and nautical emblems and, as you see here, flowers. It is often said that these love tokens were made by the sailors but they were actually made in the Caribbean where a cottage industry grew up, particularly in Barbados.

Amongst the best known retailers was Belgrave’s Curiosity Shop in Bridgetown which was run by the English brothers Benjamin Hinds and George Belgrave.
The brothers organised local women to create the designs using seashells. The design of the Sailor’s Valentine you see here is centred around a central flower head made from bi-valve sunrise tellin shells. The compartmentalised design includes olive shells, cowries, limpets, moon shells and small purple sea snails.
Barbados was often the last stop before the voyage home. Sailors could be away from home for years so although they purchased their valentines rather than making them the sentiment behind these exotic examples of shell art were expressions of genuine affection.

The feast of St Valentine, celebrated on 14th February, was inaugurated by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. The day became associated with romantic love in the 14th and 15th centuries.

These shell tokens of love are still made today but early examples like the one you see here are highly prized by collectors. This one was sold at Toovey’s for £2600.

If you haven’t got a Sailor’s Valentines up your sleeve for this coming weekend perhaps you might celebrate love by joining Andrew Bernardi who will be holding a Valentine’s Day concert in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society this coming Sunday 14th February 2021. The concert will be streamed live from Leonardslee House. Andrew will be supported by pianist, Maria Marchant, cellist, Jonathan Few and Classic FM’s John Suchet. Our musicians, museums, theatres and art galleries have all faced enormous challenges because of Covid-19 and deserve our support.

At Toovey’s we strongly believe in the value of building communities through the arts and heritage here in Sussex. They are vital to the life of our county and we are proud to be continuing our sponsorship of the Shipley Arts Festival, especially in these times.

This innovative online concert will bless you with stunning musicianship and a wonderful romantic program – a ‘virtual’ evening out! Tickets cost just £10 and can be purchased by visiting www.bernardimusicgroup.com.

Chestnut Tree House Supported at Toovey’s Valentine’s Celebrations

Rupert Toovey with Patricia Woolgar, Chair of Trustees at Chestnut Tree House.
Image courtesy of Graham Franks Photography

Toovey’s 25th Anniversary Valentine’s Night celebrations brought hundreds of people together and raised more than £7000 for Chestnut Tree House hospice.

Chestnut Tree’s community team provide care for children and young people with life limiting illnesses to families in their own homes across Sussex and at Chestnut Tree House. The hospice was officially opened on 11th November 2003 by Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra. It is built in the vernacular of the English Manor House on land donated by the late Lady Sarah Clutton, a person who inspired and encouraged me in so many ways. The Land was given on a 125 year lease. The rent, a dozen mixed lilies (no white ones) and a £1 coin, falls due each year on Lady Sarah’s birthday.

The children and their families have access to wonderful countryside and nature through the hospice’s remarkable wheelchair accessible, interactive Woodland Walk and Meadow Garden.

Hospices are such a bright light in our communities. They allow those with life limiting illnesses to live well whilst also accompanying and tending to their families and loved ones. And they provide the opportunity for each of us to give expression to our care for others as they depend so heavily on our donations.

Chestnut Tree House’s extraordinary services cost more than £4 million every year. With only 6p in the pound funded by government this local charity is dependent on the financial support of the people and communities of Sussex which it serves.

Chestnut Tree House is a charity close to my own heart so I was delighted that Toovey’s 25th Anniversary Valentine’s Night celebrations allowed us to come together and raise funds for this remarkable Sussex charity.

Gary Shipton DL spoke in praise of Chestnut Tree House and Toovey’s.
Image courtesy of Graham Franks Photography

Gary Shipton DL and Patricia Woolgar, Chair of Trustees at Chestnut Tree House, spoke in praise of Toovey’s and Chestnut Tree House.

Andrew Bernardi and Maria Marchant with Rupert Toovey.
Image courtesy of Graham Franks Photography

Toovey’s celebrations included a charity auction. The evening raised over £7000 thanks to the generosity of all who came and concluded with a performance of Sussex music by Andrew Bernardi and his Stradivarius Trio.

Toovey’s Directors-Tom Rowsell, Rupert and Nick Toovey
Image courtesy of Graham Franks Photography

If you would like advice on how to fundraise, support, volunteer, or to find out more about Chestnut Tree House and its work visit www.chestnut-tree-house.org.uk.

Shipley Arts Festival at Twenty

Shipley Arts Festival Director Andrew Bernardi with his 1696 Stradivarius at Toovey’s Auctioneers.

I meet up with the Shipley Arts Festival Artistic Director, Andrew Bernardi at Toovey’s Washington auction rooms. Andrew Bernardi is putting the finishing touches to the 2020 Shipley Arts Festival season. This important Sussex music festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

I ask Andrew how it all began, he replies “I met Christina Maude and Ginny de Zoete at a Charity Concert at Shipley Parish Church. The idea took shape when we all met up at Gordon Lindsay’s home and the festival was born!”
Andrew explains that 20 years on the festival’s distinctive foundations remain the same saying “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.”

Commissions and works written for the Shipley Arts Festival have included pieces by Cecilia McDowall, one of one of the country’s leading female composers, Roderick Williams OBE, the English operatic baritone and composer, Malcolm Singer, the former Director of the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music and current Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and the late John Lord of Deep Purple.

To mark the festival’s 20th anniversary Andrew and his musicians will be performing a number of Opus 20s by Elgar, Mendelssohn and Chopin, as well as works by Bach, Purcell, Beethoven and John Ireland.

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 Maria Marchant, Fuensanta Zambrana Ruiz, Victoria Greenwood, Jonathan Hennesy Brown, Bruce Martin and Christina Maude, moved us all with Elgar’s Serenade for Strings Op.20 and Bach’s Sonata Movement in C minor at the Sedgwick Park 2020 launch on Sunday evening hosted by Clare Davison.

Rupert Toovey with Andrew Bernardi

At the opening Andrew remarked “The festival has exceeded anything we imagined and hoped for at the start. There are so many magical parts to the festival and not least the Churches and great country estates which host our concerts. And all of you for being with us on our journey.”
Andrew, like me, is passionate about building communities through heritage and the arts here in Sussex.

The festival celebrates the local, national and international qualities of our nation and is building an important exchange program with supporters from China and Hong Kong.

Speaking about the festival’s sponsors Andrew says “What we have in common with our sponsors is that we care about people – that’s what we do.”
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, NFU Mutual, Wakefields and Rossana, we look forward to West Sussex continuing to be at the centre of our nation’s musical life thanks to the determination and talent of Andrew Bernardi.

For more information on the forthcoming Shipley Arts Festival concerts go to www.shipleyartsfestival.co.uk.

Building and Supporting Communities through the Arts

From left to right: Andrew Bernardi, Maria Marchant, Jonathan Few and George Robinson
From left to right: Andrew Bernardi, Maria Marchant, Jonathan Few and George Robinson

The 2019 Shipley Arts Festival opened with a concert at the Grade II listed mansion at Leonardslee Gardens.

The concert, hosted by headline sponsors of the 2019 Horsham District Year of Culture, Leonardslee House & Gardens, was accompanied by an auction and a game of heads and tails which raised £2300 for the important Sussex charities Chestnut Tree Hospice and the Sussex Arts Academy.

Guests arrived to enjoy a tour of the recently reopened Grade I listed gardens and drinks before returning to the magnificent hall where the musicians, framed by the sweeping staircase, performed a program of international music which included the Argentine composer Astor Piazzola’s series of four tango compositions ‘Four Seasons of Buenos Aires’.

It was a treat to see the Stradivarius Trio with Andrew Bernardi, Maria Marchant and Jonathan Few returning to Sussex joined by a young talent, the classical guitarist George Robinson.

I arrived to find the audience gathered in the company of Shipley Arts Festival patron, the Lord- Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper and her husband Jonathan. The music was at once exciting and sublime.

As the first session of music concluded the auction began. The audience were in generous form and the bidding rose and my gavel fell to applause.

Both of the charities benefiting from this fund-raising, care for and create opportunities for our young people.

Chestnut Tree House is the children’s hospice for the whole of Sussex, Brighton, Hove and South East Hampshire. It has in its care some 300 children and young adults from 0-19 years of age with progressive life-shortening conditions.

Chestnut Tree House Fund Raising Development Manager, Juliette MacPherson explained how important events like this are to the Hospice, not only for vital fund raising but also in building relationships and awareness of their work in our communities. It often means that families who need their help become aware of their vital services whilst others choose to make Chestnut Tree House their charity of the year.

The Sussex Arts Academy is a charity which provides access to the very best in arts and cultural education to children and young people in schools and colleges across West Sussex. They also support disadvantaged young people who would otherwise not be able to engage with these opportunities.

I have long been a passionate advocate of building and supporting communities through arts and heritage and I am therefore delighted that together with Kreston Reeves, Nyetimber, Rossanna, Wakefields and NFU Mutual, Toovey’s are once again supporting the 2019 Shipley Arts Festival series of concerts.

For more information on all the forthcoming Shipley Arts Festival concerts go to www.shipleyartsfestival.co.uk Tickets are on sale at The Capitol, Horsham box office, telephone 01403 750220 or go to www.thecapitolhorsham.com. Demand is always strong for these concerts so don’t delay!

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.

Shipley Arts Festival 2018 Launch

Shipley Arts Festival Director, Andrew Bernardi, at Sedgwick Park House
Shipley Arts Festival Director, Andrew Bernardi, at Sedgwick Park House

The 2018 Shipley Arts Festival season promises to once again bring musicians and composers of national and international standing to Sussex. At the heart of this extraordinary celebration of music is its artistic director and founder, Andrew Bernardi.

I meet Andrew Bernardi at Sedgwick Park House where the festival launch is being hosted by Clare Davison in the company of the High Sheriff of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard. Andrew enthuses “This will be one of the finest festivals to date. It’s a great reflection on all of us that we’ve grown so much together.”

The long term relationships which Andrew has fostered with his audiences and musicians through the Shipley Arts Festival are rare and have enabled an extraordinary renaissance in the patronage of music and creativity in our County.

This is expressed in the commissioning of new music for the festival. The famous composer and baritone, Roderick Williams OBE, is working on two major compositions this year. The first is a piece commissioned for the Shipley Arts Festival which has been inspired by the turtle doves on the Knepp Castle Estate here in West Sussex. The second is for the BBC Proms.

Rupert Toovey with the High Sheriff, Lady Emma Barnard

In 1965 the great patron of the arts and Dean of Chichester Cathedral, The Very Revd Walter Hussey, commissioned the choral work The Chichester Psalms from the American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. The Chichester Psalms were first performed in this country at Chichester Cathedral. 2018 marks the centenary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth and I am excited, having encouraged and spoken about this project over a number of years with Andrew, that the festival has commissioned a series of new choral settings for Psalms to commemorate this anniversary. They will be performed at Steyning Parish Church on 3rd June to coincide with the Steyning Festival. This new choral piece has been composed by Malcolm Singer the former Director of Music at the Yehudi Menuhin School and current Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. These two commissions have been made possible by the generous patronage of Mr John Snelling who has keenly supported the festival from the beginning.

Andrew says “Sussex has a rich artistic history for music especially in the early 20th century, a tradition I am keen to keep alive. We’re following in the footsteps of Sir Edward Elgar who for a time composed at Fittleworth, Ralph Vaughan Williams who gathered many of his famous folk songs and tunes from the fields around Horsham and of course John Ireland who lived at Rock Mill, Washington.”

One of the things I most value about the festival is how it remains outward facing with its String Academy for the county’s young musicians. Andrew and I believe passionately in supporting our local community and charities. This year there will be a concert and charity auction in aid of the children’s hospice Chestnut Tree House.

Andrew Bernardi and the festival are attracting national and international attention as the Shipley Arts Festival continues to grow and mature in stature. 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, NFU Mutual, Nyetimber and Rossana, we look forward to West Sussex continuing to be at the centre of our nation’s musical life thanks to the determination and talent of Andrew Bernardi.

For more information on the forthcoming Shipley Arts Festival concerts go to www.shipleyartsfestival.co.uk.

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.