She made the announcement at a meeting of Uckfield Chamber of Commerce and suddenly a future dreamed of for the 15th century building started turning into reality, writes Cathy Watson.
Bridge Cottage disappeared from view under a frame of scaffolding last January after years of planning and fund-raising by the Uckfield Preservation Society to turn it into a heritage centre and venue for town events.
The building emerged from the scaffolding again in November and now the finishing touches are being added inside and out where planter gardens are being built.
The Uckfield Festival event is the first to be announced for Bridge Cottage but the date has not yet been revealed by Mrs Sparks.
She was raising interest in the festival within the business community at a meeting held at the Wok Inn, Shortbridge, and giving a flavour of what is planned for this year.
Along with ‘Jazz at Bridge Cottage’ there will be all the old favourites – the Big Day on Saturday, July 8, with parades up and down the High Street and with activities all day long on the Luxford Field where small businesses and organisations have pitches to promote their activities and sell their wares.
The kit car grand prix will be held as usual at TR Fastenings and a free-to-enter Festival Club will take place each evening from 6-7.30pm at the Civic Centre where local talent will have the chance to entertain.
There will be a classical concert at St Margaret’s Church, in Buxted Park, and returning to the festival this year will be a Battle of the Bands especially to encourage involvement by younger people.
Bernard Tagliavini, another member of the festival committee, who attended the Chamber meeting with Mrs Sparks, said they also liked to incorporate something new on the programme each year.
This time they were delighted the Brighton Film Quartet – an all-female piano ensemble which specialises in writing and performing music for films and adverts – would be involved.
The quartet is being commissioned to write music for a film of the locality, appropriate since the theme of this year’s festival is 100 Years of Cinema in Uckfield.
Mrs Sparks said it cost £20,000 to put on the festival each year and it was volunteers who put in all the work to make it happen.
She said sponsors were needed and asked Chamber members to consider advertising in the festival programme which is delivered to every home in Uckfield and to pick up points in the town and in surrounding villages.
This year’s festival takes place from Friday, July 7, to Sunday, July 17.