Deptford Heritage Fest strengthens community

Historic Deptford (undated)

Historic Deptford (undated). Pic: Deptford Heritage Festival

Deptford will transform into an exciting international showcase this weekend, as it welcomes the first ever Deptford Heritage Festival.

As many as 37 community groups, including local churches and businesses, have come together to organise the event to raise funds for charities in the Deptford area.

The four-day festival will celebrate the heritage of Deptford with an extensive programme of activities, including concerts, plays and parliamentary hustings. Deptford High Street will be closed and zoned to make the festival accessible for families and people with disabilities.

The festival is run entirely by volunteers and receives no funding. Funding for the festival will come from the ticket-only events, and all profits will go to Deptford’s local charities.

Ray Woolford, one of the festival organisers, said: “We have created a festival that will pay for itself so that any charity funding or grants can be used for community groups.”

There will be plenty of opportunities to rediscover Deptford’s great heritage and history during the festival, including a recreation of Deptford High Street 100 years ago.

“If you look at Greenwich, it’s all about heritage. The heritage of Deptford is greater than Greenwich, but it has been erased over time with luxury development,” Woolford said.

Deptford was home to the administrative headquarters of the navy from Tudor times onwards, and was a royal dockyard built by Henry VII in 1513. It once had a populous community of shipyard workers.

Woolford urged Lewisham Council to take on a more positive role in building community cohesion and promoting local heritage. “We all have heritage, and that needs to be reflected,” he said. “Modern times don’t address this and that’s one of the reasons why we set up the festival.”

Deptford’s international heritage will be front-and-centre during the festival, with both the Russian and Finnish governments showing their support.

On Friday evening, representatives from Russia will open the festival with a speech highlighting Deptford’s links to Peter the Great, who came to London in the 1690s to learn about shipbuilding.

The Finnish government has provided the festival with an exhibition telling the story of migration. “With immigration being a very nasty issue at the moment, we’ve decided to address that with a very positive exhibition,” Woolford explained.

The festival ends on bank holiday Monday with a big 70s party where festivalgoers will be invited to dress up and join in a recreation of the wedding in “Mamma Mia”.

For further information about the festival, visit its official website.

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