The 2020 Festival of Chichester has been cancelled as the worsening coronavirus outbreak continues to wipe out the arts across the country.
Organisers were confident they had their best-ever line-up for this year’s eighth Festival of Chichester, running from mid-June to mid-July.
But it was clear the entire festival had to be pulled. Instead, the festival will come back stronger for 2021.
Festival chairman Phil Hewitt said: “It’s been the hardest possible decision, but in some ways the easiest. We had no choice: with the heaviest hearts we are cancelling this year’s Festival of Chichester.
“It has been an absolutely awful few weeks, and there is every indication it is going to get worse. The health and safety of everyone has to be our paramount consideration. It always has been.
“A festival this summer wouldn’t just be impossible; it would also be inappropriate.
“2020 would have been our eighth Festival and we had a remarkable line-up for you – a wonderful programme that will now never see the light of day, and that is a tragedy. The wider picture in the world is utterly miserable at the moment, and of course, we absolutely must take the wider perspective, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still feel very sad indeed that 2020 will be the year Chichester doesn’t have a summer festival.
“Fortunately, we are in a sound position financially; we have always been careful and it seems we might well see the benefits of that. It means that we can look forward to the 2021 festival with a degree of confidence. We are going to make it happen. Rest assured of that.
But at the same time, bringing this year’s festival to this point has still incurred significant costs.
“We would therefore ask our event organisers if they could possibly consider the voluntary contribution they made to this year’s festival as a donation to the far bigger cause of ensuring our survival. We would be immeasurably grateful – and you could be helping us hugely bring you an even better festival in happier times next year.
“Let’s all look after each other in the meantime; let’s all get each other through this; let’s fix the 2021 Festival of Chichester on our collective horizons as a ray of hope the other side of the tough, tough months we are all going to go through.
“We will be sending our event organisers much fuller details of what this cancellation means in due course.”
The Festival of Chichester is a platform for events organised by third parties.
Phil added: “You won’t be able to go ahead with your events as part of the Festival of Chichester, but if things improve and it is safe for you to go ahead with your event on your own, then please contact me in my day job as arts editor at the Chichester Observer and its sister titles, and the papers will support you fully.”
Festival co-ordinator Barry Smith added: “The cancellation of the festival is a terrible blow not just to Chichester audiences but also to those who would have visited our city to enjoy the cultural feast on offer. Of course, given the unfolding medical emergency, we have had to put people’s health and safety first and so, with great regret, we have had to pull the plug on the 2020 festival.
“Over the eight years of its existence the festival has gone from strength to strength. Starting from nothing except goodwill and the support of key organisations like the City Council and the Chichester Observer, our voluntary committee has been able to put together a remarkable and unique offering spanning a month of glorious entertainment each summer.
“Grounded in the community, the festival presents the best of local talents alongside the visiting stars. This year would have been no exception – in fact, it was shaping up to be our biggest and best yet. We shall miss the wonderful concerts, the orchestras and choirs, the jazz musicians, the authors, the poets, the films, the walks, tours, gigs and exhibitions. But we are determined that even though this year’s hard work has come to nought, we will build again, with the support of the city, another festival to be proud of next year.”