When the University of Winchester decided not to hold the popular Writers’ Festival in 2020, director Sara Gangai took the opportunity to create a new event with a fresh new, now virtual, programme.
You’ve probably seen our Spring issue cover artist Don Lavelle painting life on High Street, in the grounds of Winchester Cathedral or in a tucked-away corner of the city. That’s because he spends six days a week in Winchester, working in all weathers, and has done for many years, always finding something new to capture on canvas.
“Before I retired I was a chemist,” he says, “and that scientific part of me lends itself well to making sure the paintings are spot-on architecturally and that everything is in proportion. But it’s always the people in them that bring them to life. I regularly ask someone interesting-looking to pose for me for a few minutes so I can add them in.”
Meet Simon Claridge from Claridge Fine Art on Southgate Street, whose dazzling diamond-dust art works have been snapped up by celebrities the world over.
They’re the sort of thing you can easily imagine hanging in a celebrity pad (Rod Stewart, Claudia Schiffer and Nick Faldo all have ‘a Claridge’). But they’re brilliantly executed too, and would be equally at home on a Winchester wall.
Julian Eardley knew he wanted to be an actor as soon as he was old enough to climb onto a stage. As Theatre Royal Winchester’s ongoing pantomime dame he has performed in more silly frocks than he can remember, and this year takes to the stage once more as Dame Dottie in Beauty and the Beast.
“Playing a dame is rather like taking on the maternal role in a pantomime but with a good measure of feisty comedy thrown in,” he says. “Because there is so much audience participation, every show is different and that adds to the fun of it. You just never know what might happen on stage.”
“Hat Fair is a bit like letting your cheeky cousin loose in Winchester,” says festival director Andrew Loretto. “It’s playful, it’s fun and it’s full of surprises, but most of all it empowers local people to celebrate and re-imagine where they live.”
Celebrating the street theatre and music that have added colour to the city for centuries, Hat Fair was conceived as a busking festival in 1974. It’s now the UK’s longest-running festival of outdoor arts, and attracted over 53,000 people last year with 120 live performances.
Ask the Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, what he enjoys most about his work and he’ll tell you it’s seeing Christianity making a difference in the community.
“The message of Christmas is that Jesus came to be part of everyday life and show us how to live for God and for others,” he says.