Each year I visit the Charleston Festival with a friend who introduced it to me some fifteen years ago I think. She’s been going there even longer. It’s changed quite a bit over the years, from a small tent with a car park for about eighty cars, to a marquee that seats around five hundred, a huge book sales tent, refreshments galore and a car park that now takes up several fields. Ticket sales have also gone up accordingly, but then again they do manage to get plenty of big name speakers. It just feels a little less intimate these days.
Anyway, C and I love our annual jaunt and we usually take a picnic, spread a blanket on the lawn in the lush walled garden and drink prosecco until it’s time to go into the tent for the next talk. In past years we’ve gone to a number of sessions but this year there we settled on the one, a talk on Leonardo’s anatomical drawings.
C’s husband has a penchant for interesting cars, and this year she offered to pick me up from Lewes station in the latest model, so we could arrive together in style at Charleston. We love giving the boys at the entrance a bit of a laugh. In the old days, if you arrived in a flamboyant motor they directed you to the decent car park (rather than the muddy field). These days all the car parks have a proper surface and even lighting, so no wellies required.
When C pulled up at Lewes station, my first thought was: would there even be space for my bag? After about ten minutes we’d managed to wedge the bags in, wedge ourselves in, get the door done up with a press stud that required herculean strength and gymnastic bendiness, get the engine started (without the need for the choke) and get going, all under the smirks of onlookers. And me with a bad back! I was only a tad nervous, being only a few inches off the ground and every other vehicle on the road making it feel like we were in a go-cart. Once at Charleston however, we gathered our cool and posed for a couple of pics…
We then had a sunny picnic (much better weather than the morning suggested) and managed to blag some decent seats in the marquee (C persuaded a kind usher that since over thirty ‘reserved’ seats were still empty five minutes before the start they could afford to release a couple to us!)
It wasn’t the greatest of talks we’ve been to at Charleston, with two books being promoted and the feeling that the two sets of authors hadn’t really discussed what they were going to cover, and the compere wasn’t quite in control so there was only time for two questions at the end. (The questions from the floor are often a key part of the entertainment.)
Before leaving we took a peek around the newly-developed barns and new gallery building, and had a last mooch through the garden. The barns complex has cost over £5 million – here’s an old blog post from the Charleston website which explains the thinking behind the development.
The journey back to Lewes on the A27 was a tad hairy, but we survived!