Village halls and community centres springing to life in the Year of Culture

Horsham District Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure Cllr Jonathan Chowen is keen to share the early successes of the Horsham District Year of Culture 2019 and what is coming up soon.

At just three months in to our 2019 Year of Culture celebrations, I am both delighted and a little surprised if I am honest at the sheer levels of participation we are experiencing from our local communities.

People have really opened their hearts and minds to embrace the cultural celebrations not only from the larger markets towns but also particularly from the smaller outlying areas of our District.

From the outset our rally call was to “get involved” and you most certainly have!

Quite apart from our more established arts, heritage and theatrical outlets which are bustling with events, our new cultural offerings have really brought our local village halls and community centres to life throughout the whole length and breadth of the District, from Rudgwick in the north to Steyning and Henfield in the south.

When we have taken our events and activities out to outlying areas they have been incredibly well received with a lot of them sold out of tickets within days.

A Samba and Stomp Workshop for children in Colgate Memorial Hall was one of our 52 Programme of events. A free activity for children to enjoy, it sold out quickly and achieved really positive reviews.

Another 52 event, an evening of stand- up comedy with Jonny Fluffypunk at the Firebird Brewery in Rudgwick was another instant sell out.

At the Steyning Community Centre, a children’s puppet show, Out of the Hat, sold over 150 tickets. The event was so popular that the organisers are now looking to run another show in the October half term holidays.

QE 2 Silver Jubilee School in Horsham are hosting the Chickenshed Theatre Company to stage a series of sensory experience shows and the first show sold over 90 tickets in just a few days.

Coming up this weekend (Sunday 24 March) Partridge Green Village Hall is the venue for an evening of romance, football-themed drama and sixties music with the play, It is Now. The play is selling out fast so book your tickets now if you want to go along!

Before launching the Year of Culture we could never have predicted just what an appetite for culture our people had – both in terms of the organisations wanting to take part and put on something new, and individuals wanting to come along and give something new a try.

Speaking to a young man this week about the Sussex Comedian of the Year Contest he said:

“I’m not into this, but I could be, so I’m going to go along and find out.” So he is now going to Heat 3 of the contest – and at just £4 a ticket why not?

That’s exactly the type of response we want to create.

The Sussex Comedian of the Year Contest is sponsored by a local funeral company who are offering a prize for the best funeral director related joke on the night. It has got to be a first for a funeral company to sponsor a comedy competition.

I find it particularly rewarding that the Year of Culture is making culture, in its many different formats, so accessible to so many.

Taking events out to local communities certainly seems to have come up trumps.

From spoken word to puppet shows and painting workshops, classical concerts with world-class musicians and brewers holding barnstorming music nights – it is all there for the taking.

But do give us your feedback and let us know what else you would like to see or take part in – is there anything we have missed?

Looking forward to this week, we are delighted to announce that ticket sales have opened for our outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Knepp Castle. In the words of the Director Martin Hutson: “If you don’t think Shakespeare’s for you, you should book your tickets now.” The way things are going, this is set to be another sell-out!

Another great event this Saturday (23 March) is the Learn to Play Day.

The Year Culture brings you this wonderful event, hosting free piano lessons in Swan Walk from 10am to 4pm. If you have never played the piano before or have just lost touch with your lessons come on down to the Swan Walk and receive a free lesson from one of our professional music teachers. It is part of a national campaign supported by Jools Holland OBE which will see some 10,000 free music lessons held throughout the UK.

We are also set to blow the whistle this weekend on our really popular History of Football in Horsham District exhibition at Horsham Museum – there will be no extra time after 30 March, so get along and catch it while you can.

The key to searching out all the amazing activities is the Horsham District Year of Culture 2019 website. Check it out at www.hdculture2019.co.uk.

I would also encourage you to follow the Year of Culture on Twitter @HDculture2019, Instagram @HDculture2019 and on Facebook, facebook.com/HDculture2019, where you can find up to minute events listings and booking details, regular updates and live commentaries on everything that’s going on and the reactions to it.

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