Charleston Festival Edit 2021 - exclusive sneak-peek at this year's programme

Cellist Peter Adams

Cellist Peter Adams - Credit: Charleston Festival Edit 2021

We’ve got a heads-up on the talent taking to the digital stage to keep us entertained during the last weekend of lockdown 

Charleston Festival fans will be pleased to know that a bite-sized digital version of the much-loved event is taking place on what is hoped will be the last weekend of lockdown on April 9 to 11.

The exciting programme offers a snapshot of what the annual Charleston Festival, which traditionally takes place over 10 days in May, usually looks like. It’s also marks the countdown to the re-opening of Charleston’s house and galleries on May 19, which will be swiftly followed by the launch of a new outdoor stage complete with a summer-long programme of events featuring leading and emerging thinkers, writers, artists and activists. 

A photo of the garden on Day 9 of the Charleston Festival, May 2019

A photo of the garden on Day 9 of the Charleston Festival, May 2019 - Credit: Penelope Fewster

Until that time, the Charleston Festival Edit 2021 is a must for arts and culture fans in West Sussex and beyond. Conversations, readings and performances are being delivered by a stellar line-up of thought leaders, writers and artists with art, economics, film, literature, music and society in the spotlight. Stars taking to the virtual stage are James Ivory, Harriet Walter, Vera Chok, Eugenia Cheng, Linda Scott, Anita Anand, Joanna MacGregor and the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra.  

Award-winning actor Harriet Walter

Award-winning actor Harriet Walter - Credit: Taylor Jewell

‘This is the second year that the realities of the pandemic have meant we’ve not been able to gather in person for Charleston Festival,’ says Susannah Stevenson, artistic director of Charleston Festival, which was forced to cancel last year due to the pandemic. ‘But the Charleston Festival Edit is proof, yet again, that we won’t let that get in the way of sharing great performances, discussions, and ideas with our audiences.’ 

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The events premiere on Charleston’s website each evening at 7pm (BST) on the weekend of April 9 and are available to watch on-demand until midnight May 16. Here’s what to expect: 

April 9, 7pm  - The Waves: 90th Anniversary Performance 

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First up is this engaging event which celebrates 90 years since the publication of Virginia Woolf’s book The Waves, combining readings from the treasured tome alongside extracts from Woolf’s letters and diaries, with music known to have inspired her writing.  

In the performance, filmed in St Michael and All Angels Church in Berwick in East Sussex, Woolf’s words will be brought to life by award-winning actor Harriet Walter and actor-writer Vera Chok.   

Actor-writer Vera Chok

Actor-writer Vera Chok - Credit: Charleston Festival Edit 2021

Acclaimed composer and pianist Joanna Macgregor and a string quartet from the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra are providing a harmonious accompaniment with a musical score of works by Beethoven, Schubert and Bach, as well as a new composition written especially for the performance titled The Waves by Joanna MacGregor. 

Composer and pianist Joanna Macgregor 

Composer and pianist Joanna Macgregor - Credit: Charleston Festival Edit 2021

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10 April, 7pm - Doing the Numbers:  A Feminist Economics  

Did you know that globally, on average, women on average leave education at a younger age, earn less than their male peers and are given fewer opportunities during their working life? This and other economic disparities perpetuated by gender inequalities will be under discussion at this important event hosted by award-winning journalist Anita Anand and featuring international best-selling writer Eugenia Cheng and Prospect Magazine Top 25 Global Thinker Linda Scott.  

International best-selling writer Eugenia Cheng

International best-selling writer Eugenia Cheng - Credit: © Charlie JH Round-Turner, 2012.

11 April, 7pm - James Ivory: A Life with Forster 

In this session, Oscar and BAFTA award-winning film director, producer and screenwriter James Ivory reflects on the significance of E.M. Forster’s writing 50 years after the publication of Forster’s powerfully frank novel Maurice, which paved the way as a founding work of modern gay literature. As well as offering an insight into the influence of Forster’s writing on his own work, Ivory will share previously unseen telegrams that he exchanged with Forster in the 1960s when they attempted to meet in person. 

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Charleston farmhouse)

Charleston farmhouse) - Credit: Penelope Fewster

Around the time of the first national lockdown, Charleston launched an emergency appeal which attracted donations and grants from 2,673 people from around to help safeguard its survival.  

For those who haven’t visited before, Charleston is a house, garden and art gallery with an outdoor auditorium nestled in the South Downs National Park. In 2019, the East Sussex gem attracted 60,000 visitors to the house and garden, as well as its year-round programme of exhibitions, workshops, talks, events and festivals.

The festivals alone lure over 20,000 visitors annually and, in the past, have welcomed speakers including Ai Weiwei, Patti Smith, Salman Rushdie, Ali Smith, Grayson Perry and David Attenborough. 

Tickets are available to buy now at