A carnival pageant is occasionally recorded in the early years of the twentieth century, probably an echo of a much older event, but seems to have been discontinued in the 1920s. At this time there were still several working farms in East Preston, and the present Miller Barn and Warren Room were barns attached to one of them.
In the beginning...
1920's - 1950's
In 1923 Reginald Warren converted the larger barn into a gym and badminton court. In 1931, the smaller barn became a rifle range and although it was given to the Parish Council in 1951, it remained a rifle range until 1960.
In the meantime the cricket pitch and larger barn were also left to the Parish Council for the benefit of the village.
Twenty years later the seeds of today's festival were sown. Esme Miller, Chairman of the Parish Council at the time, and the Reverend Ian Buckley suggested that an event should take place to raise funds for the conversion of the two "barn" areas into a proper Village Hall Complex and to help pay for the new Spire Room on St Mary's Church. So in 1981, the first festival was staged. It was so popular it became a regular institution and Councillor Doug Medhurst became Chairman of a separate committee to run the event.
Doug eventually became President of the Festival Committee (as well as an East Preston legend) and he remained in that position until 2020 when sadly, he passed away.
Over the years, the fund-raising ethos grew and in addition to the money annually distributed by the committee, many clubs, societies and charities active within our community raise funds for themselves by holding their own events during the Festival. However, as Doug explained in 1992, ‘As a committee, we don’t run the festival to raise money. We want people to have a good time and enjoy each other’s company. So many people comment on how the festival brings people together, and holding on to the fragile fabric of a village community is something to cherish.’
second half twentieth century
East Preston won the prestigious 'Festival of the Year' award at the 2017 'Celebration of Sussex Life' awards run by Great British Life magazine. Competing with much larger towns all over Sussex, this recognition only inspired the village to make sure the Festival continued to bring joy and many benefits to our village.