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South East National portfolio organisations celebrate birthdays in style

  • Date: 7 August 2012
  • Area: South East
Christine Bradwell, Chief Executive of Anvil Arts

Christine Bradwell, Chief Executive of Anvil Arts. Credit: Photo courtesy of Anvil Arts

This year sees four of our National portfolio organisations - Anvil Arts, Artswork, Chichester Festival Theatre, and Pegasus - using their milestone birthdays as a hook for a fantastic season of events, activities and fundraisers.

Anvil Arts

Anvil Arts in Basingstoke is Hampshire’s largest performing arts organisation, responsible for three venues: The Anvil, The Haymarket and The Forge. This year marks 18 years of strong arts and entertainment programming appealing to all tastes, from their very first gig on 28 April 1994 at The Anvil.

The organisation celebrated its birthday with a special series of events that ran from May to July and encompassed a broad spectrum of art and culture.

To mark the occasion, Anvil co-produced chamber opera Babur in London by Edward Rushton and Jeet Thayil with Opera North and Anvil Arts Artistic Associates The Opera Group, directed by Royal Opera House Associate Director John Fulljames. The opera saw its UK premiere in June.

Christine Bradwell, Chief Executive, Anvil Arts, says, ‘The Anvil is the perfect venue. The famous acoustics enable artists and audiences to enjoy their music in the most welcoming conditions.  Whether we are presenting world renowned artists from all music genres or the latest comedy, we are ‘The People’s Palace of Basingstoke’, delighting people from Basingstoke & Deane, Hampshire and throughout the South East.’


National youth arts development agency and Arts Council Bridge organisation, Artswork celebrated its 25th birthday with a special event on 17 July at the hub, Southampton City College. Throughout its 25 years, Artswork has been committed to transforming the lives of young people through arts and culture and has been responsible for making some incredible projects possible.

At the celebratory event, Artswork launched a new Cultural and Creative Apprenticeship Programme for young people, which partners with local cultural and creative employers to enable young people to take those first steps towards a career in the arts and cultural sector and give them valuable ‘on the job’, paid, work-based learning experience. 

The event was also an opportunity to profile its ground-breaking Creative World Showcase - part of the Cultural Olympiad – which has linked young people with others around the world.

Jane Bryant, Chief Executive, Artswork says: ‘This is a very special occasion for Artswork. Over the past 25 years, we have been a champion for young people, increasing opportunities for them to experience, enjoy and develop leadership in and through the arts.  We work in and through partnerships to make it possible for high quality artists to work with young people resulting in some wonderful arts experiences.  The arts can and does make a difference to young people’s lives, particularly those at risk and from disadvantaged backgrounds.’


Pegasus was originally founded as the Oxford Youth Theatre in 1962. Today, 50 years later, the independent charity is a centre of excellence for its participatory performing arts work with young people. The venue has also built a reputation around their year-long programme of shows from visiting and resident professional artists and companies, new performances created with, by and for young people and a programme of performing arts courses for all ages.

In November 2011, the organisation launched a year-long programme of events and activities to celebrate their 50th birthday, which began with a short series of music shows from Pegasus supporter Philip Selway (Radiohead) and ends with a special production performed by former and current youth theatre members in November 2012.

Upcoming event 50-hour Pegasus Playathon will see the longest uninterrupted play-reading challenge in the theatre’s history, with 50 teams, each reading for 50 minutes, a play or act of their choice, from 12 to 14 October 2012.

Chichester Festival Theatre

Chichester Festival Theatre (CFT) celebrates its 50th birthday with a number of exciting plans: Festival 2012, their anniversary season; a fundraising capital project to refurbish and upgrade the Festival Theatre; and a commemorative book written by international bestselling novelist and playwright Kate Mosse.

Since its first opening night on Tuesday 3 July 1962, CFT has welcomed hundreds and thousands of great actors, directors and audiences including Ian McKellen, Lauren Bacall, Sam Mendes, Kathleen Turner, Stephen Fry, Derek Jacobi, Joseph Fiennes, John Gielgud, and Diana Rigg. The theatre has also enjoyed multiple successes and West End hits such as Lucy Prebble’s Enron.

This year’s Festival 2012 brings back a number of past productions including Uncle Vanya, originally part of Chichester’s first season in 1962, and The Way of the World, which was performed in 1984. Festival 2012 also welcomes back directors Philip Franks, Angus Jackson, Rachel Kavanaugh, Jonathan Kent and Trevor Nunn and actors Roger Allam, Henry Goodman, Penelope Keith and Michael Pennington.

As part of their anniversary events, Chichester Festival Theatre has embarked on a fundraising campaign called RENEW to raise a final £2 million for a £22 million refurbishment. The 18-month building project looks to sustain and improve the unique Grade 2* Festival Theatre, and enhance its significant contribution to the district and county economy.

Support includes £12 million from Arts Council England, £1.5 million from West Sussex County Council, £500,000 from Chichester District Council and £6 million in private giving donations.

Lastly, the 50th anniversary is made complete with a gift book Chichester Festival Theatre at Fifty, written by Kate Mosse, who enjoys a special connection with the theatre based in her home town. The book goes through every decade, capturing memories through interviews with key people and photographs.