Bognor Regis is gearing up for its annual Blake inspired arts festival and this year it’s bang in the centre of the town at the ever popular Regis Centre. The daytime programme starts at midday in Studio 2 and sees a dazzling array of local and national talent featuring (amongst others) Jamie Leeming (Jazz), Mikey Georgeson (Mister Solo) and local songwriters David Farnan and soul sensation Lem & The White Fire. The South Downs Poetry Festival has converged with Blakefest this year asnd is curated by local bard Barry Smith, placing jazz and poetry alongside each other, weaving in and out of the musical acts throughout the day.
In keeping with Blake’s anti-establishment spirit of personal freedom, the acclaimed Post-Punk/New Wave 1970’s pop icon LENE LOVICH headlines the theatre in the evening. THE LENE LOVICH BAND are playing a rare UK gig at BlakeFest in Bognor Regis in the midst of an international tour with The Psychedelic Furs. A ‘purveyor of Love songs for the weird’, this performance is a real coup for Bognor Regis and not to be missed as this will not just be a ‘gig’, Lovich and her superb band, headed by Jude Rawlins, are a cut above and, together create memorable eccentric dynamic ‘events’. The second headliner is ALL THINGS MUST PASS ORCHESTRA led by Alex Eberhart – a celebration of the music of George Harrison the ‘visionary’ Beatle. This 10-piece George Harrison tribute will perform an extended set of those beautiful songs by the ‘visionary Beatle’, that have touched our lives.
Mikey B Georgeson (David Devant & His Spirit Wife) has been a major mover and shaker in his invaluable involvement with BlakeFest in capacities ranging from Musician, Art Exhibition Curator, Speaker and generally inspiring those around him. This year experience his Silent Disco – an art installation called ‘’An Actual Occasion” and later him performing as ‘Mr Solo‘, an eclectic range of original, very individual, material taking inspiration from Bowie, the Beatles and Blake. A riveting and highly eloquent performer, this promises to be another highlight of BlakeFest 2018.
Vincent Gray will be unveiling and available to discuss a exciting possible sculpture for Bognor Regis, Albion Rose. Vincent recently completed a Keats Sculpture now permanently installed in Eastgate Square, in Chichester.
The evening event at The Alexandra Theatre is being opened by a talk on ‘Blake and the 60s’ by the accessible and scholarly Tobias Churton. The internationally-recognised and respected Churton, a very erudite orator, will be shedding light on Blake’s enduring contribution to our culture, focusing on the resurgence of his popular influence through the 1960s which still resonates across the arts, philosophically and spiritually.
In the afternoon, before the evening event takes over in the main auditorium, in the Studio room is an accompanying set of live music sessions headlined by the Jamie Leeming Trio – a fast-rising, exciting Jazz combo, this will be a fantastic opportunity to sample the very lyrical style of guitar playing by Jamie and creating an overall wonderful vibe to soothe the soul.
Jamie will also be accompanying the Southdown Festival Poets culminating in Sasha Dugdale’s vocalising of Catherine Blake. Joy: Poetry & Jazz with Sasha Dugdale, Niall McDevitt, Naomi Foyle , Barry Smith and Jamie Leeming (guitar). The genre-crossing compositions of Jamie Leeming (Heartsong) with strong roots in the jazz tradition, but with folk-influenced imagery and textures meet the Blake-inspired words of South Downs poets culminating in Sasha Dugdale’s vocalising of Catherine Blake.
Ciaran O’Driscoll and Margaret Farrelly with John Davies (aka Shedman) can be trusted to bring their lyrical Celtic music and humour to the afternoon. Ciaran O’Driscoll is travelling over from Ireland to perform in Bognor Regis. Probably the biggest name contemporary name in Irish literature. He has won several awards and formally recognised by the Irish Arts Council as making an outstanding contribution to Art and Literature.
If you haven’t seen Lem and the White Fire yet then you are in for a real treat. Lead singer, Lem Parker’s colourful personality shines through her strong voice which can light up any room. Backed by a band as powerful and dynamic as Lem’s vocals, with a collection of infectious, foot-stomping songs you will end this set singing along with a broad smile on your face.
The Boy Wonders formed recently to breathe live life into the original songs of lead singer/guitarist Joe Butt. Joe’s intelligent, guitar-driven pop songs are perfectly complemented and enhanced by the thoughtful guitar playing of Jeremy Hayward with a talented solid rhythm section behind them. This is one of their first gigs together and the song melodies will stick in your head long after they have packed away their guitars.
The solo acoustic songs of David Farnan are the culmination of years of writing and performing with several local bands and performers of note. David combines a wonderfully melancholic, yearning voice with soulful lyrics from various perspectives and manages to be sublimely uplifting. His accomplished guitar playing supplies a beautiful accompaniment to his thoughtful tunes.
Alongside the wonderful musical lineup there will be a graffiti art exhibition, a free Silent Disco, bitesize talks, and performance poetry
Bite-size Festival talks are provided by Dr Luke Walker on Graffiti, Ginsberg and Blake, Dr Simon Mouatt on Blake and the Divided Brain, Professor Fiona Price on Female Revolutionary Figures. Dr Naomi Foyle will be reading from a Blade of Grass an anthology of Palestinian Poetry and American Poet Tamar Yoseloff with A Practical Visionary and more.
Bognor Regis is a town poised at the brink of regeneration following similar projects in Margate, Hastings and Liverpool, possibly including a major “William Blake Theatre” (in one of the proposals), which channel local Culture and Arts to enrich their current heritage and touristic allure.
‘William Blake and the Spirit of the 60s’ @ The Regis Centre/Alexandra Theatre, Belmont Street, Bognor Regis.
Festival Director: Rachel Searle
Festival Organisers: Sedge Seymour and Olivia Stevens
Blakefest recognised as a unique cultural experience by the sea, in that it features international art, poetry, political discussion panels, and in all honesty is very pleasingly different and eclectic in its approach, utilising the artistic instincts of its Director Rachel Searle to guide them; very fitting, as it perfectly mirrors the creative magpie approach showcasing the whole spectrum of art forms.
As Rachel Searle (Director) says,
“The presence of William Blake as a resident in my home town of Felpham has always been a catalyst for me wanting to create a cultural legacy in Bognor, that both honours him but also celebrates new art and contemporary visionary artists, as well as bringing in artists that embrace his rebel spirit and political resistance. We are really excited by the acts we’ve managed to secure this year and the breadth of the programming”
Oliva Stevens (Festival Organister) says
This definitely strikes me as the festival that stimulates those parts other festivals find hard to reach, so pop along to the website to get your tickets, (which incidentally are a steal at just £15 for the whole day and evenings entertainment) and step inside this pandoras box of cultural delights!
Sedge Seymour (Festival Organiser) says
If you want to explore the work any of these performers, or if you are in the slightest doubt about attending, simply type their names into YouTube and then make up your mind. We doubt you will be disappointed by this incredibly varied, very talented, collection of artistes.
International Times (2017)
BlakeFest looks like being a really great event … well done
IMPORTANT INFO: BlakeFest 2018 is occurring over the weekend 14th-16th September with the main focus being the all-day Live Music Festival on Saturday 15th at The Regis Centre/Alexandra Theatre from noon onwards. The Fringe Events on Friday and Sunday have limited numbers and payable separately.
Event sponsored by: Chichester University & Chichester Observer