2018 BlakeFest

'William Blake and the Spirit of the 60s' @ The Regis Centre/Alexandra Theatre, Belmont Street, Bognor Regis.

The people who came were part of a unique cultural experience by the sea! Blakefest is a multi disciplinary arts festival featuring international art, music, poetry, talks and guided walks. Blakefest 2018 is bigger and brighter than ever before, and in 2018 we shed light on Blake’s influence on the 1960s spirit of rebellion and freedom. Headlining in the theatre were 80's new wave rebels THE LENE LOVICH BAND as well as the ALL THINGS MUST PASS ORCHESTRA - a celebration of George Harrison the visionary Beatles music, performed by a 10 piece band.  Come and be part of the festival that stimulates those parts other festivals find hard to reach!

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In the unlikely location of the West Sussex seaside town of Bognor Regis a cultural stirring is occurring. 'The William Blake and the Spirit of the 60s' event (including live music performances/poetry/art/talks) is the centrepiece of the 3-day celebration of the life and work of William Blake (1757-1827) who is nowadays recognised as a visionary poet, artist, engraver and prophet despite dying unrecognised and close to poverty in 1827.

BlakeFest 2018 occurred 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.

Blake lived in the village of Felpham, on the outskirts of Bognor, from 1800-1803 where he saw visions of Angels, was inspired to compose the text which is known as, and widely-celebrated as, 'Jerusalem' and also ended up on trial for assault and sedition after an altercation with soldier outside a local drinking establishment. In a letter to John Flaxman from 1800, Blake wrote that "Felpham is a sweet place for study because it is more spiritual than London. Heaven opens here on all sides her golden Gates; her windows are not obstructed by vapours; voices of Celestial inhabitants are more distinctly heard, & their forms more distinctly seen; & my Cottage is also a shadow of their houses."   After a successful 2017 event this year's collection is once again spearheaded by local resident and Blake-enthusiast Rachel Searle to gather together different artistic streams to celebrate William Blake.

Blake's work has spread like through the generations, persistently inspiring groups of artists beginning with The Ancients including Samuel Palmer, George Richmond and Edward Calvert, who all studied directly under Blake until his death. The Ancients inspired the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, notably Dante Gabriel Rosetti, who resided, for a time, in Bognor and acquired a manuscript book of Blake's "from an attendant at The British Museum" which he obsessively studied and laboriously copied out. Modernists such as James Joyce clearly show Blake's influence and his influence also inspired such 60's Beat Generation poets and performers as Allen Ginsberg, Michael Horovitz, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison and Patti Smith.

BlakeFest 2018 - Line-up

BlakeFest2018 was an exciting fusion of Arts in various forms headlined by acclaimed Post-Punk/New Wave Legend, Lene Lovich.  Lovich and her band were 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 was a real coup for Bognor and not to be missed as this was not just a 'normal gig', Lovich and her superb band, headed by Jude Rawlins, are a cut above and, together create memorable eccentric dynamic 'events'.

Second on the bill were the 10-piece All Things Must Pass Orchestra. This George Harrison tribute takes in a range of songs by the 'visionary Beatle', many of which are ingrained in popular culture.  George Harrison ‘The quiet Beatle wrote some of their greatest songs.  Bob Dylan said of him ‘He inspired love and had the strength of a hundred men. He was like the sun, the flowers and the moon’.

The evening event at The Alexandra Theatre was 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, was 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 were an accompanying set of live music sessions headlined by the Jamie Leeming Trio - a fast-rising, exciting Jazz combo, this was 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.

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.

Surreal Man and the Nutter in the Shrubbery: Ciaran O’Driscoll and Margaret Farrelly with John Davies (aka Shedman)

Irish wit and wisdom meet itinerant poet Shedman for an hour of scintillating poetry interspersed with lyrical Celtic sounds from Margaret Farrelly.

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 was 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.

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.

Alongside the wonderful musical lineup there was a graffiti art exhibition, literary walk plus re-enactment, a free Silent Disco, bitesize talks, performance poetry 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.

Mikey B Georgeson has been a major mover and shaker in his invaluable involvement with Bognor BlakeFest in capacities ranging from Musician, Art Exhibition Curator, Speaker and generally inspiring those around him.  As an Artist he recently gave a talk to the Royal Geographic Society Conference on his nonbifuracedman installation at Bognor Regis Library, BlakeFest 2017. 2018 was no exception, contributing an art installation ‘'An Actual Occasion' reflective of Dancing with Albion.

Vincent Gray was unveiling, and available to discuss, an exciting possible sculpture as another part of the Bognor Regis Regeneration, Albion Rose. Vincent recently completed a Keats Sculpture now permanently installed in Eastgate Square, in Chichester.

Bite-size Festival talks were 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.

'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, Olivia Stevens and Simon Mouatt