Croydon’s Peace Festival: a review

By - Wednesday 4th July, 2018

Borough residents define peace in many ways. How do you define peace in your life?

Tales Of Croydonia at the Oval Tavern.
Photo author’s own.

An age-old question: how do we achieve world peace? There has been a week in Croydon focused on exploring this question, in dozens of events dedicated to discussions of peace. People from across the borough came together in community forums and gatherings to share what peace is to them, in both their personal lives and on a community scale. The Festival of Peace was the first of its kind in Croydon, and coordinated with the centennial anniversary of the end of the First World War.

The Festival of Peace officially began on Saturday 16th June with the ‘Festival Launch: Come and Learn the Anthem for Peace’ event. This was the first public performance of the anthem by the London Mozart Players and the Ecclesbourne Primary School children’s choir. Events dedicated to celebration and discussion of peace continued throughout the week until the ‘Festival Finale’ on Saturday 23rd June. A full list of events can be found on the Croydon Festival of Peace website.

Each activity approached peace in a unique way

Considering there were over thirty events included in the official programme, including art classes, dance sessions, movies, lectures, photography exhibitions and more, it would have been difficult to attend every event celebrating peace. However, this selection of activities provided the opportunity for anyone interested to find something they would enjoy.

I attended three events during the week: the ’100 Years… Peace, Protest, Conflict’ exhibition at the Museum of Croydon, ‘Tales of Croydonia’, and ‘The Kickback / Poetic Insight’. Each activity approached peace in a unique way, either directly or by using it as the overarching theme for the event. These festival features captured and presented a message of peace through conversation, storytelling, poetry, history and art. All were key components of the scheduled events for the festival and each demonstrated peace in Croydon’s community in diverse ways.

Tales written by Croydon citizens were read aloud by local actors in a ‘secret garden’

The 100 Years exhibition, which is on display until December at the Museum of Croydon, takes visitors back to the early years of Croydon’s history. Antiques and memorabilia are paired with anecdotes and other informative stories on interactive screens throughout the exhibit. While walking along the path from old artefacts to objects of more recent times, visitors learn about Croydon’s history of protests and other conflicts, from the suffragette movement to the area’s involvement in the world wars.

This take on peace was inspiring to me, because it shows physical objects of the past as a means of analysing local history and how it shapes the future of the borough. Not to mention, it is peaceful to take a short stroll through a cool room during a lunch break or after work. The exhibit focused on telling stories, similar to the event ‘Tales of Croydonia’. In this storytelling workshop, however, tales written by Croydon citizens were read aloud by local actors in a ‘secret garden’ attached to a pub. Hosted in the backyard of the Oval Tavern, ‘Tales of Croydonia’ spread messages of peace through short fictional stories, ranging in topic from how to adopt and love a stray cat to metaphorical adventures of ‘Peace’ and ‘Sorrow’ as human-like figures.

The relaxing atmosphere, the quality drinks, and environment of the garden all contributed to this event’s success as a peace-promoting endeavour. It may not solve world peace, but it did provide a tranquil evening activity for those looking for peacefulness in Croydon.

I was challenged. Everyone has a different idea of what a peaceful lifestyle is

Perhaps the most influential event that I attended was the ‘The Kickback / Poetic Insight’. This evening event was actually two activities in one. Led by Shaniqua Benjamin, poet and lyricist for the Anthem for Peace, these two monthly events took a direct approach to discussing peace. The first half was dedicated to conversing about how peace is viewed in our lives and in Croydon, while the second half consisted of spoken-word poetry. As we sat in a circle in the lounge area of Project B, Croydonites young and old shared how they find tranquility in their daily routines.

Many of the ideas proposed I relate with, such as finding peace in nature or spending quality time alone. But when the conversation turned toward idealistic values, such as choosing to live a vegan lifestyle, I was challenged. Everyone has a different idea of what a peaceful lifestyle is, and a part of mine is raising market pigs on a small farm in the United States. I have always loved agriculture and farming because I grew up around it. I take pride in the fact that I give my animals the best care and livelihood possible, and that I contribute to feeding the growing world population.

So how does a pig farmer make peace and have an intellectual discussion with a vegan? It starts with listening before responding, then using what you hear to think about the world from your companion’s point of view. In the spirit of peace for the festival, I was inspired to engage with those I may disagree with and find common ground and a better understanding of why we disagree on some topics. It was a small step, but I found peace that night in the fact that I made new friends with individuals who also care about animal welfare. In the group discussion, the people in attendance voiced how they believe peace is attained through small victories in our personal lives and in our communities. We were able to find peace that night through interactive, intentional dialogue. How do you find peace within yourself and in Croydon?

Myra Rademacher

Myra Rademacher

Myra is interning at the Croydon Citizen as part of her university degree in Agricultural Communication. Originally from Oregon, she is spending two months in London studying journalism. She's a fan of travelling abroad and practicing Spanish, and while at home she helps on her family farm raising show pigs.

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