Charleston Manor Festival

Visit an idyllic chamber music festival in the Sussex Downs

The barn at Charleston Manor

Set in a fold of the Sussex Downs, at Charleston Manor it’s silence and music that reign.


A quintessentially English manor house, parts of which date back 1,000 years, sits amid formal gardens, and since 1989 has provided the backdrop for a three-day chamber music festival directed by cellist Robert Cohen.

‘When you walk down the drive to get to the estate you have to whisper as you feel like you’re disturbing the silence,’ says Cohen. ‘You feel like you’re away from the rest of the world. You just want to be there making music.’

Every summer, Cohen welcomes a coterie of musicians from around the world to the idyllic spot for concerts in the estate’s barn, with this year’s guests including pianist Heini Kärkkäinen and violinist Fionnuala Hunt.  ‘My idea was to bring people together who have passionately similar beliefs in music-making, who could build relationships over a week,’ he explains. ‘And then share it with our incredibly dedicated word-of-mouth audience. I know them, and they know us. It’s very much a family feeling.’ 

French music is on the menu this year, with Debussy’s Cello Sonata and a ‘circle’ of Fauré songs given choreographic treatment by dancer Tiina Lindfors. Schubert’s the complementary programme theme, including the two piano trios and the Death and the Maiden String Quartet.

‘I like to explore composers throughout the series, because it seems we all learn something much more if you have a change to absorb a range of their material,’ says Cohen. ‘Audiences are staying for the entire festival and feel this immersion has enormous benefits. And it’s fantastic as a musician.’


When is it? 18-10 June 2010
Where is it? Sussex, near Seaford
How to get there: Polegate and Seaford are the nearest railway stations, accessible from London and Brighton 
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