Dame Penelope Keith will celebrate Keats for the Festival of Chichester

One of the highlights of this year’s Festival of Chichester will be the appearance of Dame Penelope Keith at Chichester Cathedral on July 6.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 6:05 am
Dame Penelope Keith
Dame Penelope Keith

Famed for her roles in the classic TV sitcoms The Good Life and To The Manor Born, Dame Penelope will be helping celebrate the bicentenary of the great Romantic poet John Keats, whose statue resides in the city at Eastgate.

Festival co-ordinator Barry Smith said: “When the final episode of To The Manor Born was screened, it is estimated that over 22 million people tuned in to watch the programme! We won’t be able to accommodate that number of people in the audience at the Cathedral, but we do hope to bring together as large an audience as we can given the Covid control measures in place for safe social distancing.

“It will be a great delight for Chichester audiences to welcome back Dame Penelope, who has appeared on several occasions headlining at Chichester Festival Theatre. She has a very distinguished record on stage and on screen with BAFTA and Olivier Awards to her name.”

Poetry and Music is presented by the South Downs Poetry Festival and is supported by the international Keats-Shelley Memorial Association, which also runs the house in Rome where Keats died at a young age while seeking relief from his tubercular symptoms.

Dame Penelope will be reading a selection of the poet’s renowned odes and other poems, including perhaps one of the most famous poems ever written, Ode to a Nightingale.

Barry added: “Also on the programme is rising star Russian pianist Elena Toponogova, who will perform musical interludes by Chopin, Schumann and Liszt to suit the mood of the readings.

“The idea is to weave together a blend of words and music to explore the many different facets of Romantic inspiration. We’re pleased to include several other writers known to Chichester audiences, including the poet and playwright Stephanie Norgate and eco-aware poet, the current head of the MA in creative writing course at Chichester University, Hugh Dunkerley. I’ll be chipping in too with a few of my poems drawn from my forthcoming collection Performance Rites, to be published by Waterloo Press.”

Barry added: “The statue of Keats by Lavant sculptor Vincent Gray has rapidly become one of the city’s best-loved landmarks. Visitors and passers-by love to pose on the bench with the poet and have their photo taken. The South Downs Poetry Festival is running a series of events to commemorate Keats’ bicentenary, including a video film on YouTube, Celebrating Keats: The Bicentenary, which is a virtual event on the Festival of Chichester programme and can be accessed by logging on to the festival website.”

Poetry and Music with Dame Penelope Keith, Tuesday, July 6, 7pm, at Chichester Cathedral. Tickets £10 via https://festivalofchichester.co.uk/ or the Novium box office www.thenovium.org/boxoffice