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Curtain falls on Curious Arts festival after five years at Pylewell Park

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Pylewell Park has rebranded itself as an upmarket wedding venue
Pylewell Park has rebranded itself as an upmarket wedding venue

A BOUTIQUE arts and literary festival is leaving the New Forest after five years.

Curious Arts, which showcased chart topping singers and leading comics, thinkers and writers, suddenly announced on Tuesday it was departing its previous base in the picturesque grounds of Pylewell Park near Lymington, the home of the Hon. David and Melanie Roper-Curzon.

Instead it has partnered-up with the socially conscious Byline Festival, which takes place in East Sussex, from this year forward.

Curious Arts did not give a reason for leaving but in the past few months Pylewell, set in 27 acres of gardens and with a 15-acre lake and private beach access, has relaunched as an upmarket wedding venue to rival Chewton Glen and Lime Wood hotels and Somerley House.

“After five glorious years in the New Forest, we are embarking upon an exciting new partnership with the uniquely dynamic and socially conscious Byline Festival in 2019 – and our event will now take place from 23rd-26th August at Pippingford Park, East Sussex,” Curious Arts said.

“But fear not, we will still be called the Curious Arts Festival and we will be bigger and better than ever!”

Approached by the A&T, the Pylewell Park estate did not reply to requests for comment.

Curious Arts was started in 2013 by London based curators Patrick Keogh, Rory Steel and Clare Conville. The latter is a leading literary agent who counts McMafia author Misha Glenny and poet Lemn Sissay among her clients, all of whom became popular mainstays at the event.

Billed as a burgeoning festival for “discerning appreciators of the arts”, Curious was held annually on the final July weekend and during its five-year Forest stay developed from an exclusive event to one which regularly sold out its 5,000 ticket quota.

At what proved to be the final Forest festival in 2018, it boasted singer John Newman and comic Al Murray among its draws and other well-known names who performed there over the years included Tom Odell, Birdy and former Dire Straits bassist John Illsley who lives at Beaulieu.

Comedian Al Murray provided laughs at the 2018 event
Comedian Al Murray provided laughs at the 2018 event

While it developed its fanbase the event used its Forest setting to play up its image as one where attendees curious to try new things could get involved in quirky activities such as snail racing, empathy workshops, inspirational breathing and midnight bat walks.

Curious said this year’s festival would explore “a new version of Albion”, adding: “In tumultuous political times both at home and abroad we and our partner Byline will ask important questions of ourselves and others about the meaning of identity, diversity, the role of the individual in society and, among many other crucial topics, debate whether social media is destroying this country or re-building it.”

It added: “We will also ensure the event is as remarkable, unusual and as fun as your previous Curious Arts experiences have been.”

Byline is an independent festival with the aim of promoting independent journalism and free speech and was first held in 2017. Guests have included John Cleese, Gary Lineker and Bonnie Greer.

To those who bought tickets thinking the 2019 event was at Pylewell, Curious added: “If you have purchased a ticket to the Curious Arts Festival prior to Monday 7th January 2019, we very much hope you can still join us in 2019.

“Of course, if you are no longer able to make the new dates and/or Pippingford Park is geographically inconvenient, please do not hesitate to contact us on info@curiousartsfestival.com by 31st January and we will make arrangements to refund your ticket.

“If you do not contact us by 31st January, we will assume you can still make the festival and that no further action needs to be taken.”

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