Portsmouth theatre pays tribute to umbrella inventor with quirky festival

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CROWDS gathered to enjoy live music, artistic performances and a chance to win free ice-cream at this year’s Umbrella Festival in Portsmouth.

Held at the Groundlings Theatre on Saturday, the event marked the birthday of the umbrella inventory Jonas Hanwell, who was born August 12, 1712.

Jack Edwards, 10, John McLaverty, Jon Margon, Elizabeth Rands, Alan Crosby, Lynda Saunders, Lea Dawkins, 13. Picture Credit: Keith Woodland PPP-171208-172212006

Jack Edwards, 10, John McLaverty, Jon Margon, Elizabeth Rands, Alan Crosby, Lynda Saunders, Lea Dawkins, 13. Picture Credit: Keith Woodland PPP-171208-172212006

To celebrate the occasion, the theatre once again opened its doors to the city for a free day of festivities for people of all ages to enjoy.

Richard Stride, artistic director of Groundlings Theatre, said this was the seventh time the theatre had staged the quirky event.

He said: ‘Every year we hold this festival and, ironically, it hasn’t rained once.’

Jonas Hanwell born in Portsea invented the modern-day umbrella after attending a business trip in Persia. On his excursion, Jonas saw women using enormous parasols imported from China.

The inventor decided to expand on this idea and created an umbrella to guard against England’s wetter weather.

Jonas walked the streets of London using his invention, much to the amusement of passersby who found it ridiculous.

Richard added: ‘People laughed at Jonas and even threw bricks at him. It wasn’t until Queen Victoria started using the creation that people started to take him seriously. After all, using the umbrellas was cheaper than a Hackney carriage.’

A variety of arts and crafts stalls lined the grounds of the theatre for the festival.

Audiences danced and clapped as live music from the likes of ukulele favourite the Portsmouth Pluckers was played.

As well as live music the Walkaround Theatre acted out scenes from popular plays such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The King and I.

Children were also treated to a treasure hunt in the theatre for a chance to win a free ice-cream.

Richard is now looking forward to next year’s event and hopes more people will join. He said: ‘It really is a lot of fun. You get a chance to learn about the cultural history of your area.’