May is the month for festivals in Sussex, with some of the best you'll find anywhere.
Running from 5-27 May is the famous Brighton Festival, England's biggest arts festival, with this year's guest director Vanessa Redgrave inspiring a whole range of events that explore some of her favourite themes ranging from theatre, literature and politics to humanitarian and social issues. Alongside it runs the Brighton Fringe, the third-largest fringe festival in the world with something like 675 events over three weeks. Just about every one of Brighton's fabulous arts venues, plus some quite unexpected temporary ones, is pressed into action and it's always a showcase for major and up-and-coming talent as well as a forum for ideas and debates.
Every Saturday throughout the period there's also a free outdoor showcase of some of the events, Fringe City, so you have no excuse to miss out! If you're staying in one of our Brighton cottages you'll be right in the thick of it; if not, I'd recommend coming in by public transport or using the park and ride – much easier than struggling for a parking space in the city.
Meanwhile, 10 days from 25 May sees the 23rd Charleston Festival at the former country home of the Bloomsbury Group, near Lewes. The festival takes place in a marquee in the beautiful grounds of Charleston and will play host to a stimulating array of writers, performers, politicians and thinkers – guests this year include Joanna Lumley, Annie Leibowitz, Max Hastings, Andrew Marr, Ruth Rendell and Michael Frayn. Talks, debates and workshops are all reasonably priced but it's wise to book in advance as they're always popular.
While you're there take a tour of the house, with its eclectic and beautiful furnishings designed by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell.
The Glyndebourne Festival also starts in May, featuring operatic works from four different European traditions from the 17th to the 20th century. It opens with Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen on Sunday 20 May and if you've never experienced the magic of opera – or even opera on film – at Glyndebourne, I can promise you it's a terrific reason to visit Sussex in its own right.