Sydenham Arts Festival, the biggest arts and culture event in South East London, is under way with an impressive line-up of artists, musicians, poets and writers in 65 events.
The festival kicked off on Saturday with a huge street celebration, featuring live music, belly dancers, street performances and global food stalls.
“We had a fantastic launch,” said festival director Jonathan Kaufman. “The streets were filled with a big, cheery crowd, and luckily the rain didn’t dampen the spirits. We strive to have a range of events that appeal to all members of our community, and have something for everyone.
“It should be affordable and include all arts forms. That’s why we also offer many free events, such as the street celebrations.”
Kaufman said the festival is designed to appeal to as many people as possible, and with dance, music, poetry, workshops, interactive theatre, a visual arts trail, family fun day, youth performance and street festivities on the festival menu, it succeeds.
The flagship event this year is the four- part musical “Till The Boys Come Home”, marking the centenary of the start of World War 1. The show is about Sydenham’s Great War and the workers of the South Suburban Gas Company.
With 100 people in the cast, the play, written and produced by Kaufman, had been planned for nine months before the first part was played this Sunday.
A more avant garde event this year is the “202×12: Theatre on the Bus”. It will take place on Sunday July 13 between 2pm and 5pm on a real bus – so passengers who board the Number 202 between Crystal Palace and Bell Green will get an unusual bus ride.
“For the price of a bus fare, the passengers will experience actors performing quirky and humorous monologues, sharing their imaginary stories with the passengers,” said Kaufman.
Now the biggest festival in South East London, Sydenham Arts Festival has doubled in size since it started in 2009.
“We think at least ten thousand unique visitors will come to our festival this summer,” said Kaufman. Eager to bring the arts to the people, the festival team aims to extend the Sydenham Arts Festival to all year events next year. Kaufman believes the festival has potential to grow even more: “I still think there are many people in the area who either haven’t heard of it, or who, when they hear the word ‘art’, think that is not for them. I want to change that belief. Art is for everybody!”