Event preview: Family Fest 2016 and the Big Dance, Saturday 4th June 2016

By - Friday 6th May, 2016

Croydon’s newest summer festival offers children the chance to enjoy nature and gets the whole family dancing, says John Lawlor

Photo by Vipul Sangoi, used with permission.

On Saturday 4th June, from 12:00pm to 9:00pm, Croydon’s first Family Fest will be held in Park Hill Park, thanks to volunteers from the park’s lively and committed Friends group. It’s an active, family-friendly festival with a gardening, bees and bugs theme and lots for children to see, learn and do, plus the opportunity for the whole family to get active on the Big Dance Bus.

A follow-up to last year’s successful Flower Fairies Festival, Family Fest 2016 includes gardening, food growing, ecology, story-telling, art and craft, music, computer coding, a pop-up cinema, stalls, food and more. Children and their parents will be invited to participate in free workshops such as planting flowers and vegetables, inspecting glass bee hives, building bug hotels and creating paper murals. And then… everyone who attends will be invited to dance!

The event would not have been possible without volunteers. It has pulled in contributions from across the borough from groups such as Croydon Beekeepers, Croydon Transition Town, The Croydon Master Gardeners, the South Croydon Community Association, numerous local dancers and artists and of course, the hosts themselves, the volunteers of Friends of Park Hill Park.

The aim is to get communities dancing together

The Croydon community outdoor dance floor and PA system (its first outing was at last year’s Ambition Festival) will be there too with workshops, performances and live commentary and interviews with performers. Among other attractions, Croydon Code Club will be putting on a fun programming (coding) event for kids and Croydon’s own Jenny Lockyer will be among the story-tellers, preparing a children’s dance with a bee theme along with Lorna Liverpool and her wonderful story centred on an African drum. There will be a free pop-up cinema for children during the day and in the evening a film show for adults which finishes at 9:00pm.

And the bus? It’s an original retro 1960s London Routemaster double decker bus re-fitted as a mobile dance theatre whose aim is to get communities dancing together. This is its final year of operation, so we are particularly delighted that it’s come to Croydon!

The bus will roll into the park and unpack its own sound system, DJ and compere to present a five hour rolling programme of dance, movement, drama, poetry, Tai Chi and music, featuring both major national and local groups and artists of all ages and abilities: the aim is to get everyone dancing! There are even some surprising volunteers for the dance floor, such as the Master Gardeners or even perhaps some local politicians. The performances will be programmed by Woodside resident Anusha Subramanyam, an internationally renowned bharatanatya artist, dancer, teacher and experienced leader of community workshops for all ages and abilities.The graphic design and artwork for the festival are being created by Anusha’s husband Vipul Sangoi, an internationally acclaimed photographer of dance and performance.

The day will end with a performance of a new and exclusive dance work

The Big Dance is about celebrating dance and community. As Anusha says: “I believe passionately in the ability of dance to connect you to yourself and your creativity on the one hand and to other people in the community at the same time. This is about celebrating Croydon, overturning the stereotypes and connecting our diverse selves to each other. Dance and movement are as important as breathing”.

The climax of the Big Dance Bus event at Family Fest will be a mass performance of a new and exclusive dance work choreographed by Akram Khan of the London Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony fame. The theme of the dance is our struggles as human beings and it sees diversity and connection as redemptive. Initial rehearsal footage can be seen here.

Participants in the Croydon Big Dance will also be invited to represent Croydon at the Big Dance in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 2nd July: it’s an amazing opportunity for us all to show just how, as the now well-used Twitter hashtag goes, #Croydonrocks.

The Big Dance Bus will also be at the 2016 Addiscombe Festival in Ashburton Park on Saturday 29th May with its own schedule of professional and community performances.

For more information about Family Fest and the Big Dance, and to find out how you can participate on the day, you can , click here or phone 07739 319566.

John Lawlor

John Lawlor

I am a mindfulness enthusiast and co-founder of Croydon HeartWorks (www.heartworks.org.uk) organising and participating in community events with an emphasis on mindfulness, community, arts and fun.

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