Vintage cycles, cactus and cake at carnival Addiscombe-style

By - Tuesday 26th May, 2015

Bernadette Fallon experiences community spirit coming alive in Addiscombe

Photo author’s own

Sitting outside Café Adagio on Lower Addiscombe Road, it’s easy to spot the returners from Addiscombe Festival at the end of the street, as a procession of cactus plants, large pandas and brightly coloured toys streams past.

Inside the café, vintage clothes sellers JuneGeorge are giving customers a chance to browse their racks. But I’m on the way to the festival, led happily by my nose and the smoky smell of barbecue after I round the corner at The New Restaurant (amazing value roast dinners, I’m told), on the road to Ashburton Park.

Now the smell of barbecuing burgers mingles with jerk chicken; there’s a huge colourful funfair in the top half of the park and morris dancers rattling their leg bells in the roped-off central performance space. The North Wood Morris Men – Croydon’s own morris team – celebrates 40 years in the borough this year. There’s aikido in a big white tent, provided by Seishin Ryu Budo, Croydon’s School of Spiritual Martial Ways: nothing to do with fighting, the school’s director Keith Nicholas (Sensei) explains to me – it’s all about spirituality, and developing the body, mind and spirit.

Labour and Conservative tables face off – but it all seems very amicable

There are scouts and guides and a stall for Croydon Council; across the park Labour and Conservative tables face each other, though it all seems very amicable. Once the morris dancers come off, the Bananas in Pyjamas are on and I wander up to inspect a wall of pandas and large teddies lined up at the funfair galleries.

Photo author’s own.

The central stage PA system is belting out ‘60s classics, people are taking tea in the Addiscombe churches’ mini marquee and, further along the park, wrapping tongues around fluorescent snow cones – sometimes tea is just too genteel!

I stop to admire a penny farthing bicycle – now, who on earth ever thought that was a good idea? – and a childhood tricycle (built like a small bulldozer) at the veteran cycles stall; there’s also an adult tricycle, which is so big it would cause its own traffic jams. There are stalls selling kids’ toys and take-away food and an amazing variety of cactuses – cactuses today are a big hit.

The guys at the Air Corps stall are raffling off bottles of sparkling wine, as they get ready for their big event later in the afternoon, joining forces with the local police – also very much in evidence around the park – in the tug of war against the Lions Club which organises the event.

This is a fantastic community day out – with money raised for kids with multiple learning difficulties

The Lions Club has one of the biggest stalls at the festival and one of the organisers, Patrick Carpenter, explains that all of the money raised this year will go to Rutherford School in South Croydon, for children and teenagers with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

There’s a smaller turn-out of stalls than they hoped for; just this morning six stall-holders cancelled their spaces at the last minute. And this is the only disappointment today – that there isn’t more to look at. It’s a fantastic community day out and a great spot to showcase local talent and entrepreneurship. I’d love to have seen more local crafts, foods and organisations selling and talking about their wares, people like JuneGeorge and other small businesses.

But great credit should go to the Lions Club for staging the event and bringing the community together; visit its Facebook page for loads of great photos of the day. Long may it continue.

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette has been a journalist since the age of 7 when she devised, designed and launched ‘Fallon’s News’ – much to her family’s delight. Brought up in Ireland, she was born in Addiscombe where she now lives, though it took her several decades to find it again. She works as a journalist and broadcaster. Follow her at

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  • Stephen Giles

    Super afternoon and great review!

  • Anne Giles

    Great review. We both enjoyed it. I had also heard that the New Restaurant did wonderful roast lunches. Must try it soon, as also Cafe Adagio. We enjoyed watching North Wood Morris men. Both Stephen and I used to play for them years’ ago, which is how we met. Steve on guitar and myself on hand drum and tambourine. We had some delicious jerk chicken from one of the stalls and then headed off to the Conservative stall to chat to our friends who were there.

  • PolarDog

    Well done to the Lions for yet another great day.

    Note to the editor: the link to Seishin Ryu Budo is missing the ‘http://’ bit which is why it’s not working. Great review though.

  • Anne Giles

    We were lucky with the weather too!