Jess Gillam and Adam Kay to headline this year’s Petworth Festival

Classical saxophonist Jess Gillam and doctor-turned-author and comedian Adam Kay will be among the headline acts at this year’s Petworth Festival.

Thursday, 4th February 2021, 6:00 am
Jess Gillam

Festival artistic director Stewart Collins has confirmed a number of the acts heading to West Sussex this summer.

There is no confirmed box office opening date yet, but at the very least Stewart and the team are offering a statement of intent.

It remains to be seen precisely what format the festival will take, but Stewart is determined that the festival will happen in some shape or form this July, within whatever the prevailing Covid restrictions are.

Also lined up for the 2021 Petworth Festival are Isata Kanneh-Mason, Imogen Cooper, Mark Padmore and The Blues Band.

“We have put together a summer programme, maybe slightly less than usual, but we would normally know the programme by now, and this is the time of year that we would put it out to sponsors. But this year, rather than just going out to sponsors at the moment, we are telling everybody.

“We need to raise the money as we always do, but this year it is all about lifting morale as well as much as anything else.

“Everybody is still in so much doubt as to what the summer is going to look like, and we can’t promise to run the festival as we usually do, but there is certainly a chance that we will be able to run live events.

“There was a time when everybody thought we might be back to normal by Christmas, and of course that didn’t happen. And now we have got the cancellation of Glastonbury with all sorts of questions as to what might be possible. But there were events that were able to run pretty normally last summer, just with social distancing.

“So what we are saying is that we planned a 2020 festival and then had to adapt. We are planning a 2021 festival and we know that we might have to adapt again.”

But the fact that they have done it once stands them in good stead: “We will have all had a good run at it once.”

Stewart and the team are going into it all with all sorts of possible “gearings” in mind: possibly a “full-blown bells-and-whistles festival”; mark II would be a slightly reduced festival; mark III would be an online festival.

“We will do what we can. We are slightly unsure about people’s willingness to go back out; and we are not sure how much people will have been financially affected by all that has happened. So we won’t be going out there pretending that nothing has happened and that the sun is shining. We will be going out there and saying ‘We are still here’ and we will be doing as much as we can.”

The Petworth Festival’s reduced autumn outing last year managed to play, with social distancing, to perhaps a maximum audience of 15 per cent: “Hopefully this summer we might be able to do anything from 50 per cent upwards.

“But at least we now have the experience and the track record, and all the performers know the situation: that it could be a full evening concert or that it could be two evening concerts with a reduced audience at each or that it could just be online. And they are prepared for that. And our finances will change according to which version of the festival we can actually have.”

There is no box office date at the moment, but you can enjoy the launch videos on