Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Little Arts Festival reports Big Success

At the beginning of September the Little Arts Festival organising group produced an interim report, on the 2016 festival outcomes, for the three local parish councils that supported the project. Warbleton Parish Council, Heathfield and Waldron Parish Council and Horam Parish Council all strongly backed the festival from its infancy, and each pledged a grant to help kick-start the fund-raising and project development process. This was an interim report because the organising group are still gathering feedback and completing all the project financials. What is already very clear is that the festival was both well attended a nd enthusiastically recieved. Right up until the box office opened, no one could know what the audience respons e would be to a new venture with such a diverse programme of events - more than 40 activities packed into just ten days. So the attendance outcomes are a credit to the artistic quality on offer. The average attendance across all the ticketed events was over 80%. The big ticket events - Live Radio Play (left), Hits of 1966 and Big Little Gig - achieved more than 90%. And the literary talk, 'an evening with Henrietta Garnett', reached 115% of the original ticket allocation. The workshops and classes were all well attended as were the free to attend activities such as the Family Creative Day, Craft in the Making, Poetry Cafe, Rhetoric talk, the Art Exhibitions and the Open Garden with a Little Art. Those who attended clearly appreciated the range of arts on offer and many commented on the transformation of the Dunn Village Hall, and the themed bunting and posters that signalled all the event locations.

Locally Grown

The aim was to involve as many as possible of the local arts groups, artists and performers, from and including all the areas surrounding Rushlake Green. In Bodle Street there was the Craft in the Making day in the village hall and the Poetry Cafe in the White Horse.

Crafts in the Making: Wood-turning; Quilting; Basketry; Woolcrafts.

At Turners House in Turners Green there was a very successful Open Garden with a Little Art, and at the Chantry (where the walls were also decorated with pieces by local artists and crafts people) there were charcoal drawing classes by John Tyson and early music concerts by the Pastores Ensemble and guitarist Peter Lay.

Open Garden with Art; Early Music

In Horam there was the Horam Manor Farm art and craft weekend; and at the Horam Centre an art exhibition, a photography exhibition and drawing classes by John Tyson. While at Vines Cross there was an Open Studio and Craft Workshop by Marian Parkyn and a Pottery throwing workshop by Susie Samsay-Smith. And at Warbleton there were events such as Mad Jack Fuller in the Black Duck and and concerts in the Church by Sussex Harmony and the Warbleton Community Choir.

Pottery; Choral Music

Meanwhile at Rushlake Green, the Dunn Village Hall had a packed programme with everyrthing from a Live Radio Play by the Village Players and music gigs including the Brass Band, Hits of 1966 and the Big Little Gig; to a series of art exhibitions, a Family Creative Day, two literary talks, a floral design demonstration and a theatre workshop - with the Arts Cafe opening up throughout. There were also history walks around the village, a book swap in Osborne House and who could forget Chris Liddiard and his friends Busking for Breakfast in the Stores.

Live Radio Play rehearsal; Hits of 1966; some bloke busking; Book Swap; Family Creative Day; Art Shows; Big Little Gig, the transformed Dunn Village Hall.

Little Festival - Massive team achievement

The individual events and activities that made up the festival were led by more around 20 'Festival Makers', with an estimated 340 artists, performers and supporting group members and helpers working together to deliver the events on the day. The Festival Makers helped to shape and deliver not only their own projects but also the overall programme content and the way the festival week was put together and promoted. But full credit should go to the core Festival Organising Group that created, organised and led the delivery the Little Arts Festival, and without which the project could never have reached fruition. Having started with the core group of just five members, the group expanded in the final weeks to include:

Chris Liddiard - Founder, design guru and Creative Director
Sophie Douglas - Artistic Director and social media guru
Ian Collett - Treasurer and lead on sponsorship and advertising
Louise Philps - Secretary and lead on Friends membership
Nigel McKeeman - Chair and project director
Josephine Durkin - Admin and lead on Ticketing and box office
Jonathan Austin - Technical manager
Sue Bowers - Production manager

These brief descriptions do nothing to fully reflect the massive amount of tireless work involved, across all aspects of the festival, for all concerned. A little team that did something really special for the local community.


Truly a community thing

From distributing programmes and putting up posters, to front of house, room-settting and clearing up, people from across the local community came out in force to offer their help.

The Little Arts Cafe, became a feature both at the events themselves and also as part of the 'Open House' art shows and activitoes throughout the week. And the Cafe was made possible by ther many voluneers involved - which included teams provided by the Village Hall Committee and the Village Players.

Lin Collins led an army of bunting makers in a series of sewing bees. The result - more than 120 metres of immaculatey sewn bunting, ready to deck out all ten festival venues in and around Rushlake Green, creating a highly distinctive theme abd identity for the festival events.

Where possible, the idea was to create things, or ways of doing things, that would have an enduring value. To enable the hall to be used flexibly, with continual transitions between stage performances, exhibitions, cafe events and workshops, the Little Festival Team constructed a new set of moveable exhibition panels that can be stored for re-use by future community projects.

Moveable panels created multiple space formats, including the Arts Cafe

Making a mark

Many people have commented on the effectiveness of the Little Arts Festival promotional campaign. Founder Chris Liddiard was the genius behind the distinctive three-colour logo and bunting imagary which became the hallmark of the project. It was reflected on the cover of the festival programme, on the posters, in the hand-made bunting, the flags in the hall, and even in the festival You-Tube music promo. Simon Waters and his team at Orchard Landscapes kindly volunteered to trim the 230 foot triangles into field behind the hall, and professional drone pilot Nick Marsh of then volunteered to film the scene from the air and even edited together the final You Tube clip featuring Chris Liddiard's composition 'Painting a Picture', which can be seen and heard on

Mowing, Rock Legend, Drone Pilot, Little Arts Logo

Where next

Many are asking: "so will the little festival happen again next year?". The short answer appears to be: "not for at least two or three years". This is simply because of the Herculean amount of time and energy demanded of all concerned. But the Little Arts Festival group is exploring the idea of creating some sort of informal collective, made up of artists and arts groups that contributed to the festival, which could stimulate and encourage local arts events and initiatives that would appeal to the audiences that flocked so enthusastically to the festival week. The festival team will provide updates on litte arts project developments via the Little Arts Festival website and work will also soon begin on a full gallery for pictures of the festival week, so all good quality pictures will be welcomed. You can also continue to follow the project on facebook.


Have your say

If you attended the festival, you can really help by filling out one of the Little Arts Festival 'Have Your Say' forms. The organising group are very keen to learn what worked well, what can be learnt for the future and what other ideas people have for local arts projects. Also - and this is important - the more feedback the festival is able to show, the better the chances of success if there's a need to go back to local funding sources to support a future community project. So please download and return the 'Have Your Say' form below now. Right click and 'save as' the image, then simply print out, fill out, and return as shown on the bottom of the form.