From 20th to 29th August this year, the Midhurst Arts and Drama Festival (MADhurst) will celebrate its seventh successful year of bringing the local community together in a creative extravaganza.

Although the focus is on celebrating local creativity, almost all Midhurst and local community groups are involved in one way or another, co-creating the community spirit of this thriving little town. Individuals participate as members of the committee, as part of a wider, and growing, group of volunteers, or just by enjoying the varied programme, which has something for all ages.

Like many good ideas, the MADhurst concept was born in the pub! Some time during 2009, Father Marcus Ronchetti, recently arrived as Vicar of Midhurst (and formerly a founder member of the Beach Dreams Festival in Shoreham) was chatting with friends in a local pub about community life in Midhurst. Father Ronchetti had found that Midhurst was a very active little town, with many different clubs and societies engaged in a wide range of themes, but surprisingly these groups rarely came together and many did not even know the others existed. This limited community spirit.

The friends agreed that there was a huge opportunity to embrace the existing Town Council carnival ethos by drawing in the wider community. The idea was born! The friends explored it further with local music producers, and within a few months the first MADhurst took place, and has grown every year since.

Local organisations involved in all kinds of cultural activities participate actively in planning events for the festival, whether evening or lunch-time concerts, workshops or exhibitions. Many more participate in the Town Council’s Carnival parade on August Bank Holiday or have stalls or performances at the Grand Finale, also on August Bank Holiday. The West Sussex Library Service supports the Short Story Competition.

Local businesses join in as sponsors, or provide raffle prizes, make special promotions, provide delicious food at the Grand Finale, help with design and printing of publicity or ensure security. The Parish Church has expanded its involvement by hosting a concert, convening an ecumenical service and, very importantly, providing the teas at the Grand Finale. There is also an active fringe of events planned by others during the same week, which adds to the excitement and variety.

The first MADhurst Festival was a great success, and it has since grown into a hugely popular annual event. It was even mentioned by The Times as one reason to move to Midhurst! Its purpose has always been to celebrate Midhurst as a great place to live, work and visit: it seems to be achieving just that.

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