Hailsham Festival Extra 

March 1st and 2nd, 2024

The Grove Theatre, Eastbourne

String – the Musical

with John Bowler, narrator.

String – the Musical is a brand new, specially-commissioned musical set in Hailsham and the surrounding area and is probably the most ambitious project the festival has undertaken in its 17 year history.

String – the Musical was performed in October 7th and 8th, 2022 as part of Hailsham Festival Extra

These new performances will take place at the Grove Theatre, Eastbourne on March 1st and 2nd, 2024

Hailsham Festival of Arts and Culture is held annually in September and is now entering its seventeenth successful year. The festival represents a celebration of both professional and amateur  talent, creativity and imagination centred in the market town of Hailsham and its surrounding area with events including art, music, dance, drama, creative writing, poetry and film.

The festival began in 2007 with a highly regarded Art Trail which has grown in strength and diversity ever since and is a rich showcase for local artistic talent and skill. Working in partnership with Hailsham Artists’ Network, it regularly includes over 100 artists in 18 venues across the area.

Performances and exhibitions are held in venues across the town including the iconic Hailsham Pavilion, Summerheath Hall, B12 Bar & Kitchen, the King’s Head, Cacklebury, Hailsham Parish Church and Hailsham Civic Comunity Hall among many others. In recent years the Mayor’s opening concert in the Parish Church has featured performances by Hailsham Choral Society and Hailsham Voices.

The arts represent a vital component of our culture, enriching our community and creating a vibrant landscape from which we all benefit. Thank you for all your support over the years. Please watch this space or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for details.

Tony Biggin

Chair, Hailsham Festival

Images by Verity Webb
Review of String – the Musical at Hailsham Pavilion, 2022

Not every town has its own musical.  But Hailsham does!  And last weekend “String” brought the town alive at the Pavilion before near-sell out audiences across three shows.  Due to this success, talks are continuing about taking “String” to Eastbourne, and the possibility of recording the songs for commercial CD release.

After the general hubbub of people arriving at the Pavilion, finding their seats, greeting friends and waving at others they think they know, the evening’s entertainment kicked off when the hand-picked instrumental ensemble ploughed headlong into the overture. During this time, narrator John Bowler, known for his acting roles in television shows, with “The Bill” and “Casualty” among them, walked on stage. He then guided us, with a smile, through the evening, while on occasion became so animated during some of the scenes, that he was spotted lip syncing to songs.

This brand new specially-commissioned musical, aptly named “String”, due to the town’s industrial manufacture of rope, bound together different strands of time into a central love story that runs through one Hailsham woman’s life.  A young Harriet (played by Ruby Edwards) and Tom (played by Tyler Sargent) set the pace with “Hey Cupid Are You Working Today?” which led into the stunning “Last Train On The Cuckoo Line”, a duet between the talented Abbie Marsden and David Watts in their respective roles of divorcee Joan Sanderson and Peter, her first love.

There’s a unique vocal exchange between the adult Harriet (Marcia Bellamy) and her now deceased (ghost) husband Tom (Chris Parke) in “This House”.  She wants to move on: he doesn’t want her to, telling her so in no uncertain terms!  However, for many people the highlight of this section was the introduction of the farm boys and their loud, pounding rendition of the powerful “Sussex Boys We Wunt Be Druv”, pushing home the pointlessness of war that took so many lives. Leading this rousing reprise of patriotism was actor Steve Scott, in his role of local hero Nelson Carter VC. It’s pretty heavy stuff.

The Musical’s creator Tony Biggin has his finger on the pulse when it comes to composing softly textured melodies that sweep and flow, providing the perfect backdrop to leading librettist, Stephen Plaice’s sensitive lyrics.  This was especially so when listening to the hard-hitting “The Day That Sussex Died”, a ballad of considerable note with a choir adding a fullness to the song’s sentiments.  This cunning mixture of music, blending the mood of the 1st World War with sixties pop and contemporary love ballads, was an ingenious move by Tony Biggin, whose creative skills range from university lecturer, leader of county music services and acclaimed international composer.

Through song and music, the story of the two young lovers, Harriet and Tom oscillated, as each overcome one struggle after the other, until the closing “This Town (Ties That Bind)” brings it all together, evoking the pride these people have in their town – and that town is Hailsham!

Hailsham Festival is run by volunteers and supported by our generous sponsors. Please get involved so we can keep the festival special!