Festival season is upon us. Up and down the country we’re digging out the wellies, airing mouldy tents that we forgot to clean out from last year, and getting excited about the adventures we’ll have, joined together as a community of festival goers in celebration of music, art, comedy, theatre and a whole lot more. You don’t need to head to the wilds to enjoy a good festival though. Croydon’s getting it’s fifty pence peace this year with the Festival of Peace (see what I did there). We chatted with festival director, Katie Rose for an insight into the event as well as checking out the schedule to give you our top picks.
Running from 16-23 June, the Festival of Peace is on a mission. And what is that mission I hear you say? To host and support participatory cross-cultural, cross-community arts events on the the theme of peace in Croydon. It’s about bringing us all together in harmony, which we have funders Arts Council, Mayor of London, Croydon Council and pledgers from a Crowdfunder campaign to thank for making the festival a reality.
So what’s in store for festival goers? A packed programme of events across 7 days and multiple venues. The Summer of Love Festival returns to Wandle Park on 16 June and hosts the launch of the Festival of Peace anthem. You’ll see us there chilling out to music and munching on some tasty food from the food market. In the evening, we’ll be heading over to St John Evangelist, Upper Norwood to check out London Mozart Players Classical Takeover: Midsummer Serenade. Expect strings, strawberries, a rather talented young cellist, Constantin Macherel, as well as a wonderful display of artwork by APOW (Amazing People of the World) Refugee Youth. Tickets available online here so grab one now before it sells out.
On Thursday 21 June, we’ll be heading to the Oval Tavern for Tales of Croydonia: Peace. For those who don’t know, Tales of Croydonia is a wonderful evening of short stories by Croydonians and read by actors. Definitely not to be missed as it’s really rather smashing. Other events on our list of must-sees include a spot of jazz at Stanley Halls by the fab Gill Manly (21 June), a bit of Marley (as in Bob) at Matthews Yard’s Marley Night (22 June), InJoy Yoga sessions (been to their classes in the past: 5* rating), and of course, the Festival’s finale on 23 June at Park Hill, which Katie will tell you a bit more about.
On with the interview!
Croydonist: First of all, Croydon native or convert and what part of the borough do you call home?
Katie: A native of St Albans, and London dweller since 1999, I arrived in the Croydon side of Crystal Palace in 2010 and found it the friendliest place I’ve ever lived in London – which is why I’m still here. It’s bursting with creative heritage – as a singer and choir leader, I was so inspired to discover that choirs of 4000 sang in the Handel Festival at the Crystal Palace at which some of the first ever music recordings were made by Thomas Eddison. Palace Conductor August Manns introduced the conductor’s baton and made a wide range of classical music available to the general public for the first time. So I like to think that something in the Crystal Palace air has got into my bones, as since arriving I’ve grown increasingly involved with increasingly large community choral events. Whilst initial attempts to navigate Central Croydon’s concrete jungle completely stressed me out, I have grown to love it and greatly appreciate the generous, unpretentious, collaborative community spirit thriving here.
Croydonist: What inspired you to put on a Festival of Peace?
The initial ideas emerged from a discussion with Julia Desbruslais, Executive Director of Croydon’s resident chamber orchestra, London Mozart Players (LMP) about a creative response to the centenary of the end of WWI. As the world grieves, remembers and says ‘Never Again,’ how could music give people a vision of hope and peace in today’s world?
The LMP commissioned the Anthem for Peace – a modern-day anthem created by a classical composer which can be played, rapped, sung, remixed or sampled by musicians of all abilities, ages, genres and backgrounds. The music has been composed by Children’s Composer Richard Brown, with lyrics by Thornton Heath poet Shaniqua Benjamin. After further discussion with Paula Murray, Creative Director of Croydon Council, the idea for the Festival of Peace emerged with the Anthem for Peace as its centrepiece.
On 16 June, during a fabulous day of family fun at Summer of Love Festival at Wandle Park, we will join together to learn the Anthem for Peace with LMP Players and children from Ecclesbourne School. During the week of 16-23 June we invite you to enjoy a diverse programme of arts events, culminating in a Festival Finale at Park Hill Park on 23 June featuring LMP brass players, local brass groups and a dance piece led by Anusha Subramanyam performed with local dance groups. Everyone is welcome to make their own version of the Anthem and you can download the music and view the first performance of the Anthem by LMP with children from Ecclesbourne School, Thornton Heath at Buckingham Palace at http://londonmozartplayers.com/anthemforpeace/
Croydonist: As festival director, what’s your background?
Katie: I knew at a very young age that I wanted to both sing and help others sing. My grandmother was deaf so I grew up with a commitment to including those with different abilities and started working with children with special needs whilst at school. I trained in theatre and ran my first small-scale arts festival in Leeds after graduating in 1997. Since then I’ve run around the world exploring the therapeutic benefits of sound, voice and song and started running singing groups in 2002, initially in fringe/festival settings at a time where it was considered pretty ‘out there.’ Sixteen years on, we now witness a deluge of research which irrevocably demonstrates the significant cost savings to the NHS and the surge of wellbeing that occurs when people are empowered and enlivened by participatory arts (check out the All Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry into the Arts and Wellbeing Report) So I now lead singing groups in hospitals, hospices and carers centres – all with the same aim of having fun, life-enhancing creative experiences with people from all walks and stages of life. I experience an amazing sense of joyful connection within myself and with others whenever I sing – that’s where it’s at for me.
Croydonist: What will be the highlight of the festival for you?
Katie: What has moved me most about this Festival is that so many people from different sectors of the community have said yes and come onboard – resulting in a wonderfully diverse week-long programme. This to me indicates we have an abundance of cultural creativity in Croydon which is underpinned by a shared commitment and longing to bring more peace to our community.
Martin Luther King said that ‘without justice, there can be no peace,’ and whilst there may be centuries of work ahead before we become a truly just and inclusive society, I feel that positive shared arts experiences can help us ‘move away from what divides us,’ and ‘blend together in love’ in the beautiful words of the Anthem for Peace, written by Shaniqua Benjamin.
So it is very important to me that the Festival programme includes events and artwork created by refugees, artists with learning disabilities and artists from BAME backgrounds. Events have been designed by/with organisations who have been tirelessly working for years to support greater inclusion in the borough such as Croydon BME Forum, Creative Croydon, Rainbows Across Borders LGBT Asylum Seekers Choir, Refugee Youth and Music Relief.
For me, everyone is a VIP and everyone deserves a place at the table to enjoy the benefits of the arts.
Croydonist: If you had to sum up the festival in three words what would they be?
Katie: Creating Peace Together.
Thanks to Katie for chatting with us. So folks, get out your diaries and make a note of the festival dates. We’ve only mentioned a snippet of the events taking place, so do make sure you check out the full programme here. You can also keep up-to-date with festival news on their social channels – so check out their twitter, instagram and facebook.
Dove illustration in header image by zidney from the Noun Project, modified by the Croydonist
Posted by Angela