Open East Festival at London Olympic Park

 Mike Scott from The Waterboys performing on The Barbican Music stage. Photo:

Mike Scott from The Waterboys performing on The Barbican Music stage. Photo:

The crowd at this year’s Open East Festival in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park rejoiced in celebration of London’s 2012 Olympic Games.

The event which took place on both  Saturday 28th July and Sunday 29th, was packed with activities for adults, young people and families. Singing, dancing, arts and crafts combined with theatre and video productions (as well as food from all over the globe) filled the park up with activities galore. All bound together by blusterous rain that was endured (pretty much) by the entire East London area; crowds, performers and organisers from the event were all unfazed by a bit of wet weather.

Families, friends, couples, groups of children (and even cute babies as assisted by their guardians of course), were scattered far and wide across the park – exploring what the area had to offer.

Music lovers were found buried in, and indeed happily squashed up against, fellow music lovers at The Barbican Music stage. The line-up included 1980’s rock band The Waterboys, Mali’s famous musical duo Amadou & Mariam  (with Mariam on electric guitar) and special guest headline performances from New York hip-hop duo Dead Prez, who gave an energetic performance of their socialist lyrics which spoke of Pan-Africanism and social justice.

One mother at The Barbican stage spoke of the music from the day: “Dead Prez were fantastic! They sing and talk about important topics and I’m glad my kids are here today with me to listen to musical artists who sing about poignant, real life issues.”

Other performances included Latin group Ondatropic and American Jazz Pianist Robert Glasper whose piano skills impressed the crowd.

Children, too, were fully entertained by activities throughout the day’s event; particularly mesmerized (as was EastLondonLines) by the life-size inflatable model of Stonehenge. Sacrilege, an installation by the Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, was brim-full with kids jumping up and down as they tried to entice their envious-looking parents to have a go.

Umbrellas Up: Festival goers brave the days rain. Photo: Lucy Oben - Pepra

Umbrellas Up: Festival goers brave the days rain. Photo: Lucy Oben – Pepra

Food and eating was a key part to the festival days – with lots of hungry children and adults browsing the various food stalls, there was sure to be a cuisine catered for everybody there . The event did indeed offer some traditional  London – style cuisine from the likes of  London chef’s the Blueprint Cafe and the Salt Yard.

Fresh juices were available and also the option to enjoy an alcoholic beverage – or three. There was the Ten Mile Beer Festival that offered beers from local breweries within a 10-mile radius of the park: a bright concept in keeping all elements of the festival London – related.  Interestingly opinions on the festival’s food were mixed. One woman described the food as “way overpriced for what it was” whereas one group of children said it was “delicious and tasty”.

However there was the choice to bring your own food to the event – a nice way of keeping costs down : “families are welcome to bring their own picnic or other foods along,” said Louise Jeffreys, director of programming at London’s Barbican Centre and one of the main event organisers.

The ticket prices were capped to allow locals to enjoy a good – value day out with Jeffreys adding: “there were more people than expected turning up at the gates in large groups on the day.”

Where the weather might have discouraged some, others seemed to find it contributed to the enjoyment of the day; the rain didn’t unsettle the kids, who danced and leaped about the park as if the sun were still shining.

The enthusiastic mix of cultures, arts,  foods and generations made this past weekend a definitive celebration to remember for all people who went.

Leave a Reply