When Robert Headley retired in the late nineteen eighties after a long career as a successful architect in London, he bought Funtington Lodge, in Funtington. This house, by chance, had a large Music Room which could comfortably seat about sixty guests and two grand pianos.
Robert Headley had played the violin to a high standard as a youngster and he always had had a strong interest in music. When he retired he thought it would be a good idea if he got together with friends to listen to recorded music, and afterwards to discuss the music over coffee in pleasant surroundings. This soon developed into having live music with the artist talking about the instrument and the music played.
By 1992, the informal music gathering was transformed into The Funtington Music Group, with a monthly meeting. These were often lecture recitals rather than actual concerts. This has been the format of the Funtington Music Group ever since.
He also made the June meeting a special summer event which was held in his beautiful garden where, in a marquee, wine and a special buffet was served. This Summer Concert Event has been maintained by the Funtington Music Group ever since.
In 2000, a Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of John Ray, so that the many tasks that Robert Headley had done by himself were distributed among its Committee members.
Sadly, in 2003, Robert Headley, died but the Committee was thankfully in place to continue running the Group. The Committee accepted the generous invitation of Ben Hall, Head of Music at Bishop Otter College, now the University of Chichester, to meet in the College Chapel which has excellent acoustics. Ben Hall* and Laura Ritchie* from the University, both now serving on the Funtington Music Group Committee, had in fact already played at Funtington Lodge, and knew the Group well (typical programme on right). Membership, as a result of having a larger space to meet in, increased over time. This allowed the Committee to fund more expensive and experienced artists and to develop the type of annual programme we have today.
The Founder is commemorated through the Funtington Music Group’s Robert Headley Fund, now a registered charity. This Fund, which relies on members donations, rewards the best students at the Annual Student Showcase Concert where they compete for prizes and also gives grants to University of Chichester post-graduate students for bursaries to Conservatoires or Universities.
In 2006 John Ray became President and David Tinsley was appointed Chairman since when the Funtington Music Group has gone from strength to strength. When John Ray died in 2012, Ben Hall became President, thus further cementing the accord between the Group and the University. The Group’s first Treasurer is commemorated through the establishment, in 2013, of the John Speir Musical Instrument Library which purchases instruments for student practice and performance. By the end of 2016, the Charity had given over £57,000 towards student prizes, bursaries and the purchase of instruments.
Funtington Music Group
Music Programme 2003
Wednesdays at 10-30am at Funtington Lodge
January 15 Jonty Hinden – Mozart Opera
February 19 Helen Arnold – Harp
March 19 Ben Hall* – Piano
April 16 Jonathan Willcocks – Choral Conducting & Composing
May 21 Laura Richie* – Cello
June 18 Evening Concert – Saccone String Quartet
September 17 (Charlotte Tomlinson – Violin/Piano duo)
Richard Barnes and Mark Hartt-Palmer
October 22 John Wheatley – Benjamin Britten
November 19 Terry Barfoot – Viennese Music
(Robert Headley died in 2003)
Robert Headley playing the violin which was puchased by FMG in 2015 for the John Speir Musical Instrument Library
Robert Headley as a young boy with violin