Last year’s 40th Petworth Festival proved a huge success, with the box office breaking records, around ten per cent up.
This year brings another landmark anniversary, artistic director Stewart Collins’s tenth festival in charge.
“It’s funny! I can still hear ringing in my ears the comment from my colleague ten years ago ‘Here is the new artistic director!’” Stewart says.
“And there is no doubt that those ten years have disappeared… but ten years later there is no question whatsoever about me wanting to carry on. It has never crossed my mind not to want to. I hope that it hasn’t crossed anybody else’s mind either!
“The whole thing is a great joy. My team of colleagues are so professional and supportive, and the board of management are really committed to the event. It has simply grown steadily in terms of box office and sponsorship. If you look at the lines on the graph, the lines have been going steadily upwards.”
Inevitably, it’s a festival which has changed under Stewart’s stewardship: “There is no question there was a joint brief when I joined, and one of the briefs was not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
“We had a thriving festival that had been going for 30 years and was much loved. But the other part of the brief was to develop it. We wanted to bring in the widest possible audience and we wanted to take the programme outwards beyond both the traditional catchment area and the traditional things it offered.
“Given my background is very broad, I have always thought that brilliant jazz and brilliant comedy and brilliant theatre were very much the equals of brilliant classical music, and it has been my great joy to go out and bring to the festival the very best from across the board. I am aware the whole thing started very much as a classical music event but we have been delighted to reach out to other genres.”
The development of the autumn literary festival has added to the stability of the whole organisation: “It means that we have got two very, very well appreciated events, and both of them are washing their face. They are siblings. One doesn’t support the other, but the fact that they are both so successful is a big help if ever anything did go wrong.”
Running from Tuesday, July 16-Saturday, August 3, the festival will feature MILOŠ, dubbed ‘the hottest guitarist in the world’. Rock ‘n roll legend Rick Wakeman and top comedian Julian Clary also top the bill in a festival that aims to present the best in music and performance.
“Classical music has always been at the core of the festival offering, and the class of 2019 carries this tradition proudly forward with the epic bass-baritone Sir John Tomlinson, top international pianists Imogen Cooper and Barry Douglas, violin virtuosi Viktoria Mullova and Tamsin Waley-Cohen, and leading instrumental ensembles The Brodsky Quartet and vocal group I Fagiolini (who celebrate the 500th centenary of Leonardo da Vinci). The mould breaking instrumental ensemble Chineke! also makes its Petworth debut in 2019, the group being the first to feature top professionals from black and ethnic minority communities.
“Jazz artists featuring this year include the great John Etheridge, a tribute to the Jazz of Dudley Moore performed by the Chris Ingham Quartet, and the hyper energetic Ray Gelato and the Giants who headline the annual jamboree that is the Jazz in the Stables concert. This is one of three headline events planned for Petworth House’s atmospheric Stable Yard – the other two featuring blues superstar Georgie Fame, and the one and only Julian Clary.”
http://www.petworthfestival.org.uk; 01798 344576 (Tuesday to Saturday 10am-1pm).