Charleston prepares for a busy summer with a Designer and Makers’ Fair and a garden festival

Picture by Penelope Fewster
Picture by Penelope Fewster

The 30th Charleston Festival may be over, but there is a whole feast of delights ahead for the summer months.

Quite apart from a range of workshops and talks, and many more weeks in which to explore the fabulous twin exhibitions in the new gallery, there is a return of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the UK’s premier all-male theatre company. They will be presenting an open-air performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7.30pm on Wednesday, June 12, in full Elizabethan costume, music and dance. Bring a chair, a blanket and a picnic. Tickets are £18 to £20.

The programme in the Hay Barn continues with a summer Designer and Makers’ Fair on June 22 and 23. Tickets are £5 each and anyone who attended the Frost Fair last autumn will know what a spectacular event this promises to be. Some 30 carefully chosen exhibitors will be selling beautifully crafted goods including ceramics, textiles, jewellery, basketry, bags, woodenware, stationery, prints and papers, homewares, clothing, kidswear and artisan produce. From 11am to 5pm both days. Book your ticket early.

Garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith curates a two-day Festival of the Garden on July 13 and 14. Forget the RHS Hampton Court flower show – here on your doorstep in the idyllic setting of Charleston are some of Britain’s top gardeners, including Cleve West, Rachel de Thame, Andy Sturgeon and many others.

This is a mouth-watering two days, opening with Charleston’s head gardener Fiona Dennis describing how she researched the restoration of the garden from the paintings of its early inhabitants. Fiona will lead after-hours garden tours too.

From Derry Watkins describing her search for unusual plants and Jinny Blom discussing garden husbandry versus wildness, there are Cleve West and Green MP Caroline Lucas waving the banner for allotments, and director of the Garden History Museum Christopher Woodward explaining how Virginia Woolf found inspiration in plants.

Tom Brown is about to take over the gardens of West Dean from Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain. What are the challenges of taking on a legacy and how do you make your mark on a garden which has been so shaped by its former keepers? The three will reveal all.

TV presenter Rachel de Thame and psychiatrist Sue Stuart-Smith will talk about the healing powers of a garden and Tom Stuart-Smith’s subject will be walled gardens and the feelings they evoke.

Brighton-based Andy Sturgeon, winner for the third year running of Best in Show at Chelsea, will describe how he does it – using strong design, natural materials and innovative planting.

Tickets for individual events are £10/£12. An all-day ticket is £30 or £50 for both days.

There are workshops and talks throughout August on a whole range of subjects.

September 15 sees the return of world famous pianist Melvyn Tan for the second in a series of Music and Word events. He will be joined by the Skampa Quartet in a performance of Janacek’s Intimate Letters, inspired by the composer’s love letters to a married woman. The words will be spoken by actress Juliet Stevenson.

Visit Charleston.org.uk to find out more.