The Origins of MADhurst
From the first festival in 2010, The Midhurst Music, Arts and Drama Festival (MADhurst) has been about sparking local creativity, and bringing the Midhurst community together in new ways. These two strands are woven throughout the annual festival, summarized in the tag-line "celebrating creativity, developing community”.
For several years there had been an annual May Day Carnival in Midhurst, organised by the local branch of the British Lions, in collaboration with the Town Council. In 2007 Marco Frankland, a local music producer, and singer Paula Groves (PJ) included a "Midhurst’s Got Talent" competition in the carnival. Even though it poured with rain that day, for some young performers it was a transformational experience, demonstrating the range of creativity bubbling just under the surface.
In the following year (2008), with the support of the Dreams Come True Foundation, the May Carnival became bigger and bolder, with an evening concert organized by Marco Frankland, and MC'd by Marco and John Barrett of the Rotary. The weather was fine, and the whole event was a great success. However in 2009 there was a financial crisis, funding was hard to find, and there was no Carnival.
Meanwhile, Father Marcus Ronchetti had been actively promoting various forms of community collaboration in Midhurst. He writes that when he arrived in Midhurst in 2007 he found a delightful town, a great church, and lots of very friendly people. Even though on the surface it all seemed fairly quiet, he found that it was in fact a very active little town, with many different clubs, groups, societies and organisations engaged in a wide range of activities.
However, Fr. Marcus also observed that many of these groups never came together. In fact many didn't even know of the existence of some of the others. He felt that the community was missing out on all the extra energy that would come from more contacts between and among the many busy groups and networks in the town. He didn't realise it at first, but this exactly mirrored Marco's experience with creative. talent.
Like many good ideas, the MADhurst concept was born in the pub! Some time during 2009, Father Marcus (who had been, among other things, a founder member of the Beach Dreams Festival in Shoreham) was sitting with several people, including Mike Fry, Ruth Benton (the landlady of The Wheatsheaf), Sean Kearney (a member of a local band called ‘Boomslang') and Steve Morley (a Town Councillor and photographer), chatting about community life in Midhurst.
They felt that even though there was no Carnival that year, there was a huge opportunity to embrace its whole ethos, and to link it with other activities to include a wider cross-section of our community. As the friends explored this idea further with Marco Frankland and John Barrett, they were joined by David and Trina Duncan, who contributed their exceptional organizational and financial management skills. MADhurst was born.
They held an open meeting, and elected the first MADhurst Committee. This included: Father Marcus (Chair), Ruth Benton (Vice Chair), Susan Coulter (Secretary). and John Barrett, Steve Morley, Mike Fry, Trina Duncan, David Duncan and Marco Frankland as members. Quite quickly They also recruited some very hard-working associate members, including:, Alan and Maggie Gibson; Alistair Gibson; Heather Ongley (of Cowdray Heritage Trust) and Ted Liddle. In addition, Jeanette Sutton and her art students at Midhurst Grammar School (now Midhurst Rother College) developed the MADhurst logo. Doon Muir designed the website, and Marco set up a MADhurst Facebook page.
The 2010 MADhurst Festival was off to a flying start!
In order to draw in as much creative talent as possible the Committee extended the Festival over nine days, and involved all the arts. It took a year’s planning, but the Grammar School let the Committee use some space in Capron House for an office and workshop, money was raised, public meetings were held, and many people got involved. The Town Council was engaged in the process, and provided support to the Carnival procession as before. Midhurst Parish Church was also very involved and helpful.
The Festival was again blessed with sunshine, and people came out in droves. There was music in the town square, a samba band, a “poetry pie and a pint” evening of bawdy comedy at The Wheatsheaf, and many concerts and art events. There were also several very popular and well-used “street events”, such as three pianos for people to play, organised by Alistair Gibson, and open canvases at three different locations on which people could paint, organized by Wayne Osborne. Paula Groves’ ‘Midnight Pearl’ was the headline act in the final concert, and it was all concluded with a huge firework display!
The Committee, with their many partners, had done it! They had founded a festival!. They had developed a "brand". And, amazingly, they had balanced the books!
The first MADhurst Festival had been a great success. However, according to Fr. Marcus, the lasting legacy, and in fact the point behind it all, has been the growing relationships and inter-connections among the various organizations in the town, and the imaginative engagement of so many wonderful local people in co-creating a cross-community event.