Curious Arts Festival Pylewell Park New Forest 2017 Report

CURIOUS ARTS FESTIVAL 2017 - bigger and brilliant despite the weather


Curiouser yet more familiar, now a fully established annual Lymington event 


The fourth Curious Arts Festival held once again in the beautiful if this time slightly soggy grounds of Pylewell Park last weekend 21-23 July has really established itself now as the star of the annual festival calendar for many visitors and locals.

Glorious Gardens at Pylewell Park near Lymington on the edge of the SolentThis uniquely “curious” family friendly literature, music and arts festival takes place in the walled garden and extended grounds of the ancestral home of The Hon David and Melanie Roper-Curzon. 

The scene is set by the large house itself with its spectacular views across the gardens down to the sea and across to the Isle of Wight.  

The Curious Arts Festival, brainchild and result of the unstinting efforts of Claire Conville and Patrick Keogh has been compared to other festivals but it is surely unique in its impossible to describe quirkiness – it has simply to be experienced!  

It has grown steadily since its small beginnings three years ago and this year the significant leap in numbers was noticeable from first sight of the camping and campervan field full of families and friends enjoying the vast grassy tree lined “free” campsite literally a stone’s throw from the Solent shore, and the gigantic Big Top style Gorse Tent set up for the promising musical line up including Friday night headliner Izzy Bizu and Tom Odell on Saturday.

Visitors and locals alike brought tents and campervans to the Curious Arts Festival

Rain did not stop play once – from the annual “Authors vs Pylewell Park” cricket match on Friday afternoon right through to the final trumpet sounds of the Philharmonic on Sunday evening.  All the entertainments take place in vast, eccentrically cleverly decorated tents and there was shelter for all from every storm!

curious arts 2017 So 4,500 people from very young to pretty old mingled to enjoy a plethora of entertainment ranging from the daily news round ups to the enormously popular comedy nights featuring a number of comic acts with Ed Byrne the star, from fascinating and insightful discussions in various tents with a wide variety of authors including the legendary Joanna Trollope and the brilliant Dave Eggers to the children’s entertainments and adventures, from yoga classes and join a choir for a morning to the fantastic line up of music including all day acoustic tent and guest appearances on the evening stage by John Illsley and Birdy.

From life drawing, midnight bat walks and cocktail masterclasses to snail racing, poetry workshops, pop-up fine dining and the weekend long reading aloud of Paradise Lost, there was something for everybody.

On Saturday night John Illsley, founding member and bass guitarist of Dire Straits who owns the East End Arms and lives locally close to Pylewell joined the London Whoredogs who transformed themselves into Dire Straits for an electrifying performance forty years on of favourites “Sultans of Swing” and “Money for Nothing”, and ancient rockers who remember the originals as yesterday and young things recognising a great classic danced together in their own little heavens!

John Illsley joins the Whoredogs and Dire Straits is reborn!


This was followed by a spellbinding guest performance by the incredibly talented home grown Birdy from Pylewell who joined hugely popular singer songwriter Tom Odell for two hauntingly beautiful duets.

Birdy with Tom Odell at the Curious Arts Festival


Evening falls at the close of the 2017 Curious Arts FestivalI0000ZbvaUfMPRZQ-ROYAL-PHILHARMONIC.jpg - 27.00 kBThe climax was the Sunday night spectacle when the rain had finally abated and the clear skies made all the more dramatic and unlikely the stirring sight and glorious sound of the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.

They played for two sublime hours covering 50 years of the most famous James Bond film themes including Diamonds are Forever, Goldfinger and the rest, concluding movingly as dusk turned to night with “this is the end” - Skyfall. 











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