Culture - on paper it seems is a readily understandable word and everybody knows what you mean when you say ‘culture’ – don’t they? However culture is a slippery term. The more you think about it and discuss it the more you realise that it means different things to different people.

So how do you get a flavour of what we mean by culture? Are there common elements which we all mean when we talk about culture? If 2019 is the Horsham District Year of Culture what is it that we will be doing? What are we going to be celebrating and focusing on? What better way to find out what culture means than to go out and ask people across the district about what culture is and what it means to them?

‘Culture is’…is a short film which shows, describes and talks about what people told us about culture within the Horsham district. Not surprisingly each person came up with a different definition – landscape, music, language, poetry, tradition, people, the past, ritual, sculpture, dance, participation, identity, love – the list could almost be endless. Everybody and everything in the film is from or within the district of Horsham.

Culture is… opens with the beautiful poem recited by Hilaire Belloc’s great grandson, Charles Eustace, called The South Country, Charles and Rachel Eustace are the owners of Shipley Windmill – bought by Belloc in 1906 which has been handed down through the years. It’s famous, not just for its iconic looks, but also because of featuring in the BBC mystery series Jonathan Creek.

The sweeping vistas of the landscape include Chanctonbury Ring bordering Washington and Wiston, a prehistoric Hill Fort and part of an ancient ridgeway (The South Downs Way) with a long history of connection with other places and cultures. St Mary’s House in Bramber features, a 15th century timber framed house which is in Simon Jenkins’ book ‘England’s Thousand Best Houses’ and which hosts a wide range of musical events across the year and is featured along with the beautiful Stopham Bridge, thought to have been built c.1422.

The Capitol, Horsham’s theatre, is featured within the film. The building was reopened by the Queen in 2003 following an extensive refit. It has premiered many theatrical productions; most recently adaptations of David Walliams’ work Gangsta Granny and Awful Auntie.

Matt Charman is a screenwriter, playwright and producer and began his career in Horsham, where he grew up with his first play being shown at the Capitol. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2015 film Bridge of Spies directed by Steven Spielberg.

Talking to camera from his dressing room, Jack Lane is currently on tour with his own one man show Wisdom of a Fool, a beautiful tribute to Norman Wisdom (who lived in West Chiltington). He is experiencing huge success with his show, and hails from Horsham.

Music features a lot and the district has a long history of talented musicians and inspiring music which continues today. Horsham Battle of the bands has been running since 1993 and has always been an outlet for young bands wanting a chance to show their ability.

Andrew Bernardi, director of the Shipley Festival, donned his tails to perform in a wildflower meadow in Knepp Estate for the film, and is one of England’s most versatile and successful violinists; he also took a very exciting ride on a safari buggy. In 2014 Andrew lead the acquisition of the 1696 Stradivarius violin which he uses.

Mark and Lou Bradbury from Little Notes enthuse about how using music to engage with young people across the district and instill a love of music is so important. They feature in the film at Chesworth Farm which also hosts skylarks, barn owls and llamas – but was once the home of one of Henry VIII’s wives, Katherine Howard.

The wonderful UK Beatbox Finalist Krystal Gob is Dom McMachon who puts a lot of his success down to working with people at QM studios in Horsham. QM Studios, which is featured, is a professional rehearsal and recording studio in Horsham open to all.

Community was mentioned numerous times by people in the film and the Head teacher of Kingslea Primary School, Alexis Conway, features as does the whole of Year 4 who were stars when it came to the filming and were asked to do six takes of the same shot!

A sense of community is also present when it comes to religion in the Horsham district with the Reverend Mark Betson giving us his thoughts on culture from the tranquil location of St Georges, West Grinstead with people and landscape featuring highly.

Charles Harries from the Blue Idol, the 17th century half-timbered cottage and Quaker chapel at Coolham, is still a Friends Meeting House today but also acts as a guesthouse for travelers and hosts music and activities as part of the Shipley Festival. The famous Quaker, William Penn, met and worshipped here with the Warminghurst Quakers, before he left for America and the founding of Pennsylvania which takes his name.

When it comes to celebrating the land, Nyetimber sparkling wine has done just that. Having been set up in West Chiltington since 1988, Nyetimber is a world renowned sparkling wine producer with numerous awards to its name. Head winemaker Cherie Spriggs puts some of this success down to the wonderful soil of green sand and chalk which the vines are planted in.

Lee from Two Tribes Brewery talks about culture meaning creativity in flavour and that making a beer with a distinctive taste is his passion. Two Tribes also involves culture in its often eye catching can and bottle designs and certainly get creative with marketing being the only beer producer using QR codes with a link to Shazam to suggest the ideal playlist to drink your beer to – time to get absolutely cultured!

Where there’s drink there’s also food and Bills Restaurant features during the food segment. Bills is located in the old town hall which is Grade II listed and used to be the county’s assizes and saw the last ever hanging. It also has connections to the notorious Acid Bath Murderer – John George Haigh – when the building was used as a magistrate’s court. Underneath the town hall are still some jail cells – not in use…

Sculptor Hannah Stewart who created Iggy the Iguanodon makes a fleeting appearance in Lintot Square Southwater in reference to the fossilised remains discovered there in 1920.

Silversmith Luna Russell, who uses her craft to take things from the past to create beautiful things for the future, works out of her tiny Billingshurst studio and links culture to marking out people’s identity.

From small one person industries to big global industries with the Horsham district based Creative Assembly a BAFTA and Ivor Novello award-winning studio based in Horsham. Home to over 500 talented creatives covering 36 nationalities the studio is currently celebrating 30 years of game development, being one of the largest and oldest studios in the UK. Featured in the video is Creative Assembly’s Lead Technical Artist, Jodie Azhar, who is a BAFTA Breakthrough-Brit and UK Ambassador for Women in Games. Jodie used to go to Millais School and is an advocate for the incredible artistic talent and creativity within the games industry.

The smiling faces of the Broadwood Morris Men light up the screen and with their flamboyant costumes and dances take their name from Lucy Broadwood who lived at Rusper in the 19th century and was a fervent collector of English folk customs and traditions from around the area.

Steam engines and vintage vehicles mingle with motorbikes from Wiston Steam Rally together with the variety of characters that give their time and love into keeping these machines running.

Arthur is 95 and still volunteers at the Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre keeping the art of besom making alive. Culture for him is traditional woodland crafts and skills and the hands on approach to making things and utilising natural products.

Mass participation is also something that Charlie Langhorne knows a little bit about with his company Wild in Art creating ‘big bonkers’ public art which enhance events and allow thousands of residents and visitors alike to discover the wonderful world of creativity in a truly memorable shared experience. They’ve created elephants and giraffes and also the London 2012 mascots.

The last shots of the film, the sweeping landscape and striking architecture of Shipley Windmill, which serve as a reminder that this district has its heritage and roots in its proximity to the South Downs while the words of Belloc echo the fact that culture involves stories and for stories you need people.

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