Steyning Festival 2014 aims to knit the community together

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Your memories of the Steyning Festival (Saturday, May 24, to Sunday, June 8) may be a bit woolly, at best, if the organisers have anything to do with it.

Knitting ‘commandos’ are getting their needles out ready for a ‘cosy and cuddly’ guerrilla assault on the town.

“Don’t stand still too long, because anything stationary like postboxes, lamp-posts, and benches are fair game, and you might just ‘get knitted’!”,said Christine Aubrey, Chair of the Steyning Festival Committee. “The council has given its blessing so it’s all above board. The idea of the festival is to knit the community together so ‘Keep Calm and carry …Yarn.’

Knitting enthusiasts have never had it so good but they are not the only ones to have this beautiful West Sussex town in stitches this year.

Josie Lawrence, the well-known comedienne, has announced she is joining Neil Mullarkey and the rest of the famous Comedy Store players for ‘A Serious Night Out’ on the first night of the Festival (24 May). Josie and Neil are known for their quality stand-up acts but also for appearances on ‘Have I Got News for You?’, ‘QI’ and ‘The News Quiz’.

“It’s a hilarious night of improvised comedy,” said Christine. “Tickets are going fast so grab one while you can. You won’t be disappointed.”

Laughter-lovers should also grab tickets for The Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue. Back by popular demand they are reputed to be “the maddest, silliest, stupidest, cleverest, strangest and everything else-ist, as well as the funniest double act of comedians on the circuit”. Find out if you dare on May 31.

As well as highlights like Jonathan Dimbleby’s ‘Any Questions?’, the famous Theatre Trail and Julia Donaldson’s Gruffalo show, the Steyning Festival showcases events that are truly out of this world.

Those fascinated by science and exploration will not want to miss finding out about the amazing European space agency mission, Rosetta, and its planned landing and rendezvous with a comet this summer after a ten-year journey in outer space powered only by solar energy.

Discover how this remarkable spacecraft could answer how life began on Earth with space mission expert, Professor Andrew Coates on June 3.

Back on terra firma, but going to the ends of the earth, are the adventurers who explore the polar extremities of our planet. Tim Jarvis will be speaking in person about his incredible attempt to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps in the Antarctic in: ‘Recreating Shackleton’s Epic Journey’ (June 6).

Light years away from all that are the Archers, with its cosy and comfortable world of Ambridge and yet another fun night out on offer. You don’t need to be a fan of the Radio 4 soap either. Sunny Ormande, who plays the slightly off-beam Lilian Bellamy, with her penchant for extramarital affairs and G&Ts, has some hilarious tales (June 1).

James Naughtie, ‘Today’ programme’s presenter, is launching his first thriller, ‘The Madness of July’ set in the corridors of 1970s Westminster with a former spy and MP as its protagonist and drawing on his fascinating experiences as a political ‘insider’ (May 24).

Children and families are not forgotten either. Steyning Festival’s opening Parade features Samba music and drummers and giant animal costumed carnival characters (May 24, 11am, Church Street).

And, on the Bank Holiday Monday, Steyning has invited townspeople to the biggest family outdoor picnic ever on the Memorial Playing Field (11am to 4pm). The highlight will be the St Cuthman wheelbarrow race (register for this with Rob Billington:robert@rpbconsultancy.co.uk) and other wacky sports, plus a dog show (registration 11am).

More events for children? For 1- 8 year olds, Herringbone Arts also invites you to bring a picnic for ‘The Story of Little Red’, a gentle re-telling of the old Red Riding Hood fairy tale using music, puppetry and animation (May 30).

Proving that Steyning has talent, local young people are taking to the boards on June 7.

Big celebrations are in store for Steyning Grammar School’s 400th anniversary and ‘Caccini to Copland’ is one of them, with the audience enjoying ‘time travel’ via songs and arias across the centuries (May 26).

Shakespeare’s Heptet is another popular musical throw back using banjos, bass and percussion but with a modern twist. They put the sonnets of the bard to blues rhythms (May 25).

Tickets are available in person/by post from the Steyning Bookshop, 106 Steyning High Street, by phone on 01903 812062 or online at www.steyningfestival.co.uk .