"Southover Grange Gardens is one of the jewels of Lewes - and we plan to make it really sparkle", he tells me. Ross Ashton, fresh from transforming Durham Cathedral as part of the city’s Lumiere Festival last month, will produce a projected artwork that’ll animate the façade of Southover Grange. Sussex-based filmmaker Nick Driftwood is creating two new video works. The park’s trees and sculptures will be illuminated as well… but there’s much more to the show than beautiful visuals, as Robin explains. “For example, we're presenting 'calling birds', which is a digital mask that you put your face in. There'll be three or four of them. You say your wish for the season and the bird mimics your voice.”
Wishes are the overall theme for this first Lewes event, Robin says, encouraging people to reflect on the previous 12 months and their aspirations for the future. Robin’s own wishes are very much focussed on his audience. “As always, the challenge for a producer is to make it really exciting and to have those 'wow' moments. That what we're working hard to do.”
Although this will be the first year that Lewes has had an Enchanted Park, the concept has already proven successful elsewhere. The Enchanted Parks show that Robin developed and produced in Gateshead is currently celebrating its tenth anniversary, selling all 22,000 tickets in just 24 hours. It seems the biggest local challenge for Robin is spreading the word without giving away all his secrets. “We plan for this to be an annual event every December”, he says. “The first year is always the hardest, we know that. We expect the first week to build modestly, and then the second week to capture people's imaginations. You have to see it to understand it.”
Visitor numbers will be monitored carefully to ensure everyone can enjoy their visit, with people allowed to enter the park in 15 minute time-slots. It’s rather like an alternative to a Christmas pantomime, Robin tells me, suitable for families, for couples and for groups of friends. “If you went to the Theatre Royal in Brighton to see a show at Christmas, you’d sit in a seat and watch the magic unfold on the stage in front of you. If you come to Enchanted Park Lewes, you're on the stage, in the show. You're immersed in it.”
Tickets available from enchantedparklewes.co.uk; open from 4.30pm Wed 2 – Sun 6 and Wed 9 – Sun 13.
First published in Viva Lewes magazine issue 111 December 2015