Winchester’s Best of British Festival launches at Guildhall Winchester

Over 80 people gathered on Friday 23 March in Guildhall Winchester’s Walton Suite to join John Miller and Winchester City Council’s tourism team as they launched the Best of British Festival. The festival, which boasts Dame Judi Dench as patron, has been developed in response to a strong local appetite for Royal celebrations and is intended to support local businesses during the run up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Guests heard that a series of high profile cultural highlights masterminded by Artistic Director John Miller, formerly of Winchester Festival, are expected to bring record numbers to the City’s Guildhall and pack Theatre Royal Winchester. Working in partnership with the Council are over 20 organisations including the teams at Winchester Cathedral, Marwell Wildlife, Winchester Discovery Centre, Holiday Inn Winchester, Mayfest and Winchester Festival.

In a screening of a specially made short film – available to view at  - guests learned about a series of over 40 special events taking place between 25 May and 26 July that showcase some of the greatest names in British theatre, broadcasting, literature, politics and the military. There will also be music, dancing, street parties, children's activities and a series of ‘foodie’ events and confirmed Jubilee Beacons at Hursley, Kings Worthy and Fort Nelson.

On the literary front, Claire Tomalin discusses the life and works of Charles Dickens on Saturday 26 May at Guildhall Winchester. On the same weekend families can enjoy an outside theatre performance of the classic ‘The Twits’ by Roald Dahl, at Winchester Cathedral and enjoy the return of Mayfest. Martin Jarvis will record two episodes of Just William Live! for the BBC at Theatre Royal on Sunday 27 May. On Friday 1 June the two best-selling British crime writers P.D James and Ruth Rendell will be presenting ‘Queens of Crime’ in what is expected to be a sell-out event at the Guildhall Winchester.

Jubilate marks a weekend of live entertainment plus ‘A Street Party Fit for a Queen’ on 2-3 June at the Guildhall and on the Broadway while Marwell Wildlife also celebrates its 40th birthday throughout the June half term week with traditional children’s activities and events. The season of celebration will continue with Winchester Fashion Week, the Writers’ Conference, Winchester Festival, Hat Fair, Blissfields Music Festival and ‘foodie’ events such as  Chesil Rectory and Marwell Hotel’s tasting evenings and afternoon tea themed events from Lainston House Hotel and Holiday Inn Winchester.

Additional funding from Winchester Business Improvement District means that the city will be decked out with Union Jack bunting until a dramatic switch in street dressing heralds the City’s status as a Community Live Site for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Ellen Simpson, Head of Tourism at Winchester City Council said,

The Best of British Festival is an example of the way in which the new Destination Management Partnership for tourism, ‘Visit Winchester and the Heart of Hampshire’, is looking after the interests of the District by working together in partnership with the private sector. Originally conceived in response to a call-to-action from Winchester City Council to ‘do something big’ in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, local businesses and festival organisers have risen to the challenge by putting on a series of spectacular British-themed events. We’re particularly grateful to John Miller for all he has done to ensure our launch highlights will attract visitors to the area and give residents an excuse to celebrate the Jubilee in style.”

This is just a taste of the exciting and varied happenings to come. For more information on all the events throughout Winchester and the surrounding district, including ticket details and free events, please visit


1.      “Winchester … could justifiably claim to be the most patriotic town in the UK.”