Centenary celebrations for Chichester's Priory Park!

Richard Plowman
Richard Plowman

The Friends of Priory Park and Priory Park Festival combine for ten days of birthday celebrations in the Park from September 22-30.

100 years ago this September the Park was given by the 7th Duke of Richmond and Gordon to the people of the city, for their leisure and as a perpetual memorial to the fallen in the First World War. Both aspects will be marked in a ten-day programme, starting with a jazz and blues opening night party and with the celebrations culminating in a special drum head service.

Highlights include a parachute jump by RN Raiders, a re-enactment of the 1642 Siege of Chichester, a display of vintage Rolls Royces, a record-breaking attempt at the world’s biggest teddy bears’ picnic and vintage bowls, hockey and cricket matches.

Evening events will include sky-watching with the South Downs Planetarium and also the world premiere of Chichester Community Theatre’s new play The Hawkhurst Gang, by Chichester playwright Greg Mosse, in the Guildhall.

The festival will conclude on Sunday, September 30 with a poignant tribute to the 350 men of Chichester who gave their lives in the First World War. A drum head service will take place in the morning including the 100 choir, conducted by Emily Barden, and a waterfall of poppies, made by local schoolchildren, cascading down the Park’s mound. This will be followed in the afternoon by a special Evensong, a blessing of the Park and the unveiling of the restored 1918 dedicatory plaque.

Chairman of the Friends of Priory Park Richard Plowman said: “A wide range of projects and activities has been developed to help people rediscover the Park’s rich history and to raise awareness of the benefits offered by this vital green space in the heart of Chichester. Most of the events are free of charge and there is something for all the family to enjoy. We are very grateful for the support of patron the 11th Duke of Richmond and Gordon, Natures Way Food, Spirit FM, The Chichester Observer, Chichester District Council, Chichester City Council, Chichester City Band and The Rotary Club of Chichester.”

Joining forces with The Friends of Priory Park is New Wave Music’s Robin Bextor, who has combined the Priory Park Festival (September 21-23) with the birthday celebrations.

“We want to build on the success of the past two years of the Priory Park Festival, but with the park itself celebrating such a special birthday it would have been crazy not to join forces with the Friends. This year’s music festival is therefore smaller, making way for a host of other events, but I can promise great fun for all. Acts include The Hoosiers, Jim Cregan, Johnny Mars, as well as a wealth of local talent.