No wellies required

By - Monday 7th July, 2014

However you like to have fun in a field, Croydon has something to offer. Liz Sheppard-Jones (party animal – retired on medical grounds) reviews the festival season, south east London style

Eat your heart out, Glasto – Purley festival-goers feel the vibe.
Photo by the organisers of Purley Festival 2014, used with permission.

Festival culture kicked off at Worthy Farm forty-four years ago then went mainstream somewhere in the ’90s. Nowadays no summer is complete without a rock band playing outdoors to a mildly stoned audience in Hunter wellies. So far so groovy – but what to do if, like me, you don’t sleep in tents on principle and, due to a malfunctioning inner ear which mystifies specialists, suffer severe tinnitus when exposed to loud music?

The answer is simple: move to Croydon. Whatever your idea of a good time in a field might be – there’s something for you to enjoy.

A festival for foodies

Now in its third year, Croydon Food Festival celebrates the borough’s increasingly successful South End Restaurant Quarter, home of notable eating places such as Albert’s Table, Bagatti’s and Brasserie Vacherin. With live music, chefs giving cookery demonstrations, stalls packed with local produce, samples galore and a stretch of road in South Croydon closed to traffic for alfresco dining, the festival regularly attracts thousands. Founded in 2012 as part of the Croydon Recovery Project following the riots of 2011, it’s since attracted independent sponsorship, this year from Brakes Professional Food Market.

Where and when: Sunday 20th July, 12 noon – 8:00pm

Free entry.

A festival for music lovers

LeeFest is held on a small working farm near Warlingham on the fringe of Croydon. Just an hour’s journey from Victoria, you can find yourself in a field, watching a band and sipping beer. Headline acts this year are The Kribs, Frightened Rabbit, Rae Morris and Maribou State.

When and where: Saturday 11th July – Sunday 13th July, Highams Hill Farm, Sheepbarn Lane, Warlingham CR6 9PQ.

Ticket price: camping from £50. Day tickets from £40.

Festivals of culture

South Norwood Arts Festival 2014 offers a host of terrific activities for free or at low cost and focuses on the arts and well-being. Notable highlights will include cinema night (a screening of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in 1959′s The Hound of the Baskerviilles in the Gothic splendour of Stanley Halls), free arts and craft activities for kids and a tea dance at the Alfred Tavern (see programme for details).

When and where: Monday 7th July – Sunday 20th July, around and about South Norwood SE25

Ticket prices: where there is a charge, between £2 and £5.

Crystal Palace Overground Festival took place from Thursday 26th to Sunday 29th June. As you might expect in this increasingly fashionable part of London, it included an art trail, a light show, film screenings, a cider festival, children’s activities and a treasure hunt through Crystal Palace Park.

A festival for the people

Run since the 1950s and cancelled in 2003, New Addington People’s Carnival was enthusiastically welcomed on its return to Croydon in 2010. This year it took place from Saturday 21st June – Sunday 22nd June and featured stalls, funfair rides, stunt motorcycling, wrestling, food from all over the world and a parade of floats. It’s been particularly encouraging to see the local organisers finding support and to observe such a great sense of sense of community in an area of Croydon which struggles with negative perceptions and social exclusion.

The e-festival

Purley Festival is the one with the best social media and is widely promoted in the Twittersphere, where Croydon is a hive of activity. After just two years of operations, this event organised by the people, for the people has become an exciting annual feature of Croydon life. This year it took place from Monday 23rd June – Sunday 29th June and included live music, a mermaid party for children, vintage cars and (as you’d expect) a Social Media for Business workshop.

A festival of history

Croydon Heritage Festival, organised by the Whitgift Foundation, celebrates everything people don’t associate with Croydon and should: its thousand year history, its beautiful buildings, the breakthroughs in aeronautics and engineering which have taken place here and the fascinating culture of all its present day communities. Already in its second year, it took place from Saturday 21st June to Saturday 4th July with highlights including Tudor dancing lessons at Old Palace School and a flower fairies workshop for children, based on the famous books by Croydon author Cicely Mary Barker.

A festival for West Croydon

Founded in 2012 to help the area recover from the previous year’s riots, this is an admirable initiative intended to generate community spirit in an area of considerable deprivation, where the scars of the disturbances still remain and disparate groups do not always readily unite in the common interest. There will be food, stalls, Bollywood dancing, fairground rides and live music. I’m just not sure why it includes a Miss Croydon beauty pageant.

Where and when: London Road, West Croydon, 11am – 4pm Sunday 20th July.

Free entry.

A mini-festival of sport

Anyone for tennis? Platform Ruskin Square’s big screen and deckchairs await an audience on opening day.
Photo author’s own.

Our own little slice of SW19 came to Croydon in the second week of Wimbledon 2014 (better late than never), when Platform Ruskin Square, with the support of Croydon Business Improvement District, unexpectedly put on free big-screen tennis outside the new entrance to East Croydon station, complete with deckchairs, cider, a barbie and even tennis ball-shaped beanbags. A fun and creative use of ‘pop-up’ space during construction work for the Ruskin Square development, it was love-all at first sight for this Croydonian.

Other Midsummer frolics

It’s not a festival, but this summer newly-restored Wandle Park will host outdoor Shakespeare for the first time, as the Croydon Opera and Dramatic Association presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the park’s new bandstand. As Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed prepare to flutter their wings on the banks of the newly-arisen Wandle River, those of us who believe in a renaissance for Croydon could dance in a fairy ring for happiness.

When and where: Wednesday 30th July – Saturday 2nd August 7:45pm with a Saturday matinee at 2:30pm

Ticket price: £10.

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Writer and editor. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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  • Anne Giles

    Excellent, Liz. You have mentioned two of the ones that I wrote about in my blog: but in more detail and have also writtern about the ones I missed out, which all goes to show that there is even more fun than I thought in Croydon Borough!!

  • bieneosa

    Whilst it is great to see a summary of the festivals taking place in the borough, I was taken aback with your description of the West Croydon festival. The other festivals include strong selling points that would encourage one to attend. However, the West Croydon festival, which I have been informed is called ‘West Croydon Carnival of Cultures’, has been summed up as a pity festival. In fact, it’s the one festival that’s missing an inviting narrative; a narrative that ‘sells’ the event.

    As I have just received the official press release about the event, I thought it would be worthwhile including some of the quotes featured to at least present the event in a positive light. I have no idea what the event will be like and have never been, but I’m sure residents and those involved would like their event to be ‘talked up’ like the other festivals in Croydon, rather than pitied.

    “West Croydon Carnival of Cultures is an opportunity to support the traders and businesses on London Road by increasing footfall. London Road is changing; there are new businesses including a spa and coffee shop. With the re-development of the town’s retail centre by the Croydon Partnership, London Road will become the new frontier for anyone looking for diversity to enhance their living and shopping experiences.” – Chair of the event

    “The Carnival of Cultures will not only be a celebration of all that West Croydon has to offer, it will also be an opportunity to meet business owners and training providers to talk about jobs, apprenticeships, training and business start-ups. We want West Croydon to become the focal area of the Borough for all Croydonians to be proud of. Our plan is to make the carnival an annual community event, and have already started planning for 2015. We look forward to seeing many Croydonians and their families on Sunday, 20th July for what I promise will be a carnival to be proud of.”
    - Croydon Partnership.

    • Anne Giles

      Interesting. I would have loved to have gone to that one, but am at another event on that day. Hopefully will be able to go next year.

  • Stephen Giles

    Thank you Liz for this very enjoyable and informative article. We are so lucky to live in such a vibrant area in which we can be so proud of so many excellent events.

  • Fiona Lipscombe

    Just to let you know Purley Festival has been going for 4 years and the Vintage car rally was part of the Heritage festival. To flag it up as the best e – festival is pretty disappointing for all the volunteers, organisations and businesses who give so much time to put on incredible events, a weekend of blistering music and top notch activities for all ages. Please give the Festival the proper recognition it deserves and respect for the volunteers and for the 7000 people who go along to it and have a brilliant time. Oh yes and we are damned good at social media too but it is used as a means of marketing the festival and its events (which include a social media workshop) .

    Fiona Lipscombe
    Festival Director.

    • lizsheppardjourno

      Hi Kirsty

      I can’t really say enough nice things about Purley Festival – and clearly I didn’t :) . Although since its praises have been sung in its very own Purley-only piece in the Croydon Citizen, I think it’s a tad unfair to say we’ve not given the festival the recognition it deserves.

      As for the headline – Purley Festival’s social media promotion and brand-building is a masterclass in how these things should be done – so when a harassed editor needs a punchy summary – well – ‘e-festival’ is what I went for. :)

      I hope – and I do so very confidently – that this terrific festival continues to go from strength to strength in 2015.

      • Fiona Lipscombe

        Not sure if it was directed at Kirsty or me but anyway thanks Liz, for the positive comments. It was great to chat to Kirsty and have the opportunity to tell people the full Purley Festival story and what its all about.