02 July 2019 Blog – The Feastory of Feast
An old acquaintance messaged to ask if I’d like to drop down to the West Norwood Feast in October last year and play a short set. I’m always happy to support community minded, charitable, philanthropic, altruistic, humanitarian and environmental type projects when I can, and said sure. The weather really brought it in the most glorious autumnal way – sun and clear blue skies. And the buzz cooked up by the market, spread by its merry band of fantastic volunteers, and the infectious jubilance of talented performers like these guys below and the crowd’s response, was a bonus!
Held on the first Sunday of every month, April through to December, in West Norwood (London), I was one of many volunteers involved in the early days of this street market come festival – even before it came to life. Meeting up with locals in workshops in 2011 held by reps from Space Makers Agency – who were funded by the Council and I think later a little pot of money from City Hall – we were tasked with assisting the community in bringing something special to the area. See a brief Feastory here.
Thriving in its sixth volunteer-powered year I was now returning having bowed out a few years earlier to tend to my music and creative muse. Inspired, I felt really proud to see it flourishing, and to know that some five thousand plus locals take to the streets each Feast day to join in the fun or just hang out.
One of the largest areas of the market is the ‘street food hub’ in the grounds of St Luke’s Church – at the fork betwixt Knights Hill and Norwood High Street. With the imposing colonnade of the Church as the backdrop, the landscaped forecourt rolls down into grassy slopes divided by a pathway through the middle. You’ll find people lounging about chatting, necking some street dish or guzzling the ol’ amber nectar – ale and cider by small brewer – or joining in a free kid’s activity. The Church also offers free tea, coffee, and cake or biscuits du jour, inside along with respite on a busy day.
That spectacular facade set the scene for one of the earliest Christmas Feast events (2011- I think) which I coordinated with a bunch of dedicated and so hard-working volunteers. A chance encounter at City Hall put me in touch with an outfit called Creatmosphere (light artists). I got sign off from the Feast committee for a light display and installations in the grass – which I think got jumped by some kids, whoops! With street foods stall, spiced mulled wine and cider, and a programme on the portico and steps of musicians, a Salvation Army band, a local choir and Christmas carols with hurriedly printed and shared lyrics- madness and dashing about – we had everyone joining in and singing.
Despite technical hitches and all kinds of glitches with power supplies, health and safety, logistics, equipment and transport, along with the last minute vagaries of people, flake outs and temper flares, we still managed to pull it off! Miraculous. And by other accounts a success.
What I love about Feast is that it aims to draw in and weave within the fabric of the community – in the broadest possible way.
Plenty of ‘community events’ and ‘markets’ have sprung up in the UK, particularly in London, over the past twelve or more years. But how many actually tap into and cater for diversity – in the widest sense – weaving within existing community spaces, places and functions, fostering and holding the space, is debatable. I think a good community event has something for everyone, regardless of socio-economic or other circumstances, builds bridges and removes obstacles to inclusion.
As it is and in their words “Feast has around one hundred market stalls, over five sites along the high street. Volunteers book the stalls and organise a full programme of free fun and creative children’s activities (from sports days to mural making) and live entertainment (musicians to brass bands to live DJ’s, and open mic performance spaces for young people). It is a farmer’s market, a craft fair, a flea market and a street food hub all rolled into one, even though the main goal is to provide an experience wider than that”.
On that note and I love this bit: “each monthly Feast is themed by volunteers who organise free community engaging events in addition to the core market activity. This ranges from talks on Caribbean cuisine for Black History month, a fashion event showcasing local talent and retail, art trails up and down the high street, to a Sports Feast featuring all the local organisations that promote active lifestyles”.
Yay Feast! It really is a unique and extra-ordinary market.
My journey in Feast didn’t come without its challenges. What worthwhile thing in life does? (If you got something feel free to share?). Among the many, many, great experiences and interactions with so many people there were also ideological tussles with other volunteers, Agency peeps, annoying egos (including mine no doubt 😉 and challenges finding stall-holders or dealing with their last minute absence, technical glitches and the occasional tricky punter and the like, all wrapped in differences of opinion in approach, direction, style, misunderstandings, silences, self-reflection and questioning.
But Ochone (alas in Gaelic ;-), that is the way and politics of life. And is it not also what brings true value, in the painful growth and development, and what makes us the beings we are and turn into? And what it is to be a living, thinking, feeling being within increasingly complex social and societal structures? – grist for the mill as they say!
Definitely one project with a meaningful legacy (I can’t say that about every one I’ve done) that I am proud of (and I rarely, if ever, say THAT)!
Anyway, back to business.… these guys from One Drum West African Workshop were fantastic, uplifting and elevating the crowd to another level – standing – evidenced by the truly ‘not easy to achieve’ crowd participation!
Love Feast? Get Feast! Hook up with other locals and make ‘your’ Feast, or mini project, idea or event. Get on Facebook and find volunteers or go through the local services or the library or other community spaces. Pots of funding can be found through local government initiatives and/or city-wide programmes. Or drop me a line if you want to brainstorm.
Adieu. Over and out!
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20 July 2018 Word from the Equalitea Party Event – Saturday 30 June 2018
It’s an unseasonably hot summer’s day in England but this homespun Equalitea Party kicks off in the blaring sun at 2.30pm with marquees at the ready, despite the blustery wind.
I joined one of the many Equaliteas events held around the country, 18 June – 22 July, to honour the heroines and heroes of the suffragette and suffragist movements – who fought for equality and Women’s Right to Vote. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the suffragette movement, and the 90th year of the passing of the People Act 1928 which gave women 30 and over (yep there was still work to do) and all men 21 and over (some men were previously excluded), equal right to vote – along with men of 19 and over in the armed forces.
It’s unlike me not to capture fascinating facts like the storyboard of local Croydon suffragettes but I didn’t [*then had to play catch up]. Three I’ve now been introduced to by the extremely obliging Eunice O’Dame are:
- Mary Pearson – 1908 Women’s Freedom League
- Mrs Dempsey – 1908 Women’s Freedom League
- Marion Holmes (above) – President of Croydon’s chapter of the Women’s Social and Political Movement.
- Read more about them here.
These women have since been followed by Catherine Gowers Kettle – 1961 (Croydon’s First female Mayor), Mary Walker – 1994 (First woman leader of the Council), Sarah Jones – 2017 (first Woman MP for Croydon) and Eunice o’Dame – 2018 (who I mention later).
I was remiss, no pictures at all of the delectable home-made food laid out on fold out tables the length of the hall – wheat-free, vegetarian sausages rolls (yeah I know but they were actually delicious), a variety of cakes and cut sandwiches, and tea of course. So Tea Party… so delightful. Imagine a light, golden, Victoria Sponge bulging with layers of fresh cream and strawberries – that captured my immediate attention – powdering my top lip with icing sugar. I walked round like that for the rest of the day. Yep, not a single word from anyone – English sensibilities eh? I’ll never get use to that. I did wonder whether it might’ve been misconstrued for something else!!?
As ever, it was me and last minute wardrobe decisions and with a suffragette theme beckoning I had to think, fast. Apparently, there was more than one colour scheme for the women’s suffrage movement – the more well-known in the UK being purple (denotes the royal blood in the vein of every suffragette), white (purity …of cause I like to think) and green (colour of hope and emblem of spring). Whereas in the U.S. a slight adaption turned white to gold. A quick trip to John Lewis for ribbon which I tied round my neck on the day and et voila, that shit was sorted.
So there were speeches by local politicians and a Mayor, you can imagine, two of whom including the Mayor were women – Yay, taking the baton forward! I was lucky to meet one of the newest arrivals, the effusive Eunice O’Dame who is the Labour Party’s selected first black, and female, candidate to stand in North Shirley. A massive achievement! Especially when you consider the extra layer of disadvantage women can face with regard to race, ethnicity, religion and sexuality. Intersectionality.
But today, all these women were here making determined strides and keeping the Croydon suffragette spirit alive!
We learned more about a valuable community-led project – which I vowed to remember then promptly forgot the name of, then vowed to find out about – started by Donna Murray-Turner called ‘Another Night of Sisterhood’ (ANOS) to support young people and women, facing social issues like knife crime and exploitation.
Fortunately, the very lovely and talented Alison O’Melia, a local multi-instrumentalist joined me with her accordion on one of my aptly titled songs, “Revolution”. We got together the week before to learn a few tunes from the suffragette period like Rise up Women, Shoulder to Shoulder and Forward Sister Women.
Alison did all the research I have to say. The songs are a combination of suffragette inspired lyrics – highlighting the cause – sung to well-known tunes of the time. It’s a simple and very effective way of getting everyone on board for a sing-a-long – it’s easy when you know the tune. So we tried. Out came the lyrics sheets which I handed around wondering if anyone would join in… and yes they did, and loved it.
[Thanks to Alison O’Melia and Leila Ben-Hassel for pictures, along with Christina Brandenburg, and the Croydon North Labour group – who invited me to perform – credit for your effort, and putting on a lovely event.]
[*UPDATED: 15.08.18 and 31.08.18 to include Croydon suffragists, the ANOS project and other stuff]
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11 March 2018 Blog Taverne Zum Vollmond, 24 June 2017
I thought the hard part was done – London to Freiburg. Over the chalky cliffs of Dover, scooting in and out of France, crossing into Belgium and briefly dipping a toe in Luxembourg before arriving in Germany on a balmy June evening. In a quaint suburb on the outskirts of Freiburg near Vauban – a flourishing, sustainable, district on the site of old army barracks.
But here, idling, at the intersection of ‘f@ck knows where?’ on the Swiss border with bumper to bumper traffic, trams both sides and no option to turn left or right, I thought, maybe, we were lost. “We” being me and compadre Daniela.
It was just under a day since we pootled into Freiburg, unloading ourselves into the home and good graces of friend Jörg Später, that we were now sprinting into Switzerland, navigating desperately to avoid the seriously expensive € autobahn charges. And stuck in a traffic jam on a bustling roundabout, at a very large intersection losing our well mapped way. Only forty minutes from our final destination Arlesheim, and the welcoming invite of hosts Tatyana and Thomas.
[crossing into Switzerland from Germany – before getting lost at the intersection of “f@ck knows where!?”]
Was it the blue road or the green road we weren’t meant to be on? Confused, I tried to rationalise “in Germany the autobahn is marked blue and the main roads marked green, in Switzerland the autobahn is marked green and the main roads marked blue…. Or is it the other way round?” “The roads marked blue in Germany and….”. After a couple of expletives, some hand wringing, and a few twists and turns, we land in the drive of our hosts.
Behold. Tatyana’s lush, flower and herb garden. A blooming spectrum of roses, foxglove, lavender, nasturtian, and a delectable array of pungent herbs like rosemary, oregano, chives, sage in a little corner oasis. I love fecund, wild, gardens.
Daniela, aka tour manager (one of her many hats), arranged the gig at Taverne Zum Vollmond, 24 June 2017 – a sofa concert, run by Thomas and Tatyana. A couple of talented and respectively tech savvy and artistically inclined individuals who invited us into their home of orchards, windows of light, high ceilings, checked tiles and wooden floors. Treating circa thirty of us (plus newly roped in roadie, Jörg) to a Swiss apero of delicious home-made hors d’oeuvres, cheese, charcuterie and booze – unexpectedly amazeballs – as the dial kept rising on this surprisingly sultry summer’s eve.
[Chives from Tatyana’s garden, warm up, apero and set up]
I warmed up with a few songs. It was hot! I mean humid, muggy, hot! This good-natured bunch were sweating sitting down while my fingers slid off strings. We took a break outside in the garden.
Different walks and ages, the crowd were a relaxed and friendly bunch. I kicked a football in the garden with one, he was very cool – liked my songs, evidenced by foot clapping while rolling on his back, he’s four? Always plenty of talent in the audience and one, Marcus, treated us to a couple of songs after my set.
Gig pics here
Their passions revealed in food, tech, friends and atmosphere Tatyana and Thomas are warm and generous, hosts – with an ethos that springs from valuing real connection, and community, and sharing what you have with others. This regular music event was inspired by a local woman they knew who opened her home every full moon to anyone who couldn’t sleep, or maybe just wanted a chat or company.
If you hadn’t guessed Taverne Zum Vollmond translates into Full Moon Taverna.
[About to start, Cooling off outside between sets, jamming with a couple of the guys after the gig, a well deserved cheeky one after a long day/drive]
Both a counsellor and artist Tatyana shared a fine catalogue of bold, surreal, dream inspired paintings, I’ll link to her website when it’s up. And Thomas the tech whizz was building a photography portfolio. Inviting me and Daniela to a local village festival the following day (after making us breakfast! Totally spoiled) we caught a 10 piece jazz band before going off to Basel.
I mentally kick myself for missing the opportunity to float down the aqua currents of The Rhine, in PERFECT weather! What a gorgeous way to spend an hour. Can you believe we didn’t want to trudge back to the car to get our togs? Okay, we were zapped from the heat and a helluva lot of driving but still… Anyhow, we settled for walking along the river and watching others glide by in the fast moving current.
But hey, we made it to Arlesheim, Switzerland and Taverne Zum Vollmond.
Again, pics of the gig
[Le Rheine – we didn’t float down – et le Festival]
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01 February 2017 Remembrance for Lost Species and Nothing is Nothing (To Love and Be Loved as Wild as The Sea) Blog
Drawing into the depths of winter, November 24th to be exact, I wrote a wee blog about a little ‘artivity’ (yes, I made it up: activity involving art) Remembrance for Lost Species due to take place Sunday, 27th.
This was, like many other actions and activities held during November, in support of and similar in name to Remembrance Day for Lost Species, 30th November. Where anyone, everyone, is encouraged to hold events throughout the month of November culminating on the 30th. It can be any kind of memorial to lost species or places. an action or activity like an art project, a procession, lighting a candle, planting a tree, and so on which gets posted on the https://www.lostspeciesday.org/ page, and as they say:
“Remembrance Day for Lost Species is driven by a growing coalition of artists, educators, museum curators, scientists and writers. It is also supported by the MEMO project and Extinction Symbol. In 2014, WWF-UK reported in its Living Planet report that Earth has lost half its wildlife in the last 40 years. However, worse is to come as climate change and habitat loss are leading us into the Sixth Mass Extinction.Now is the time to create new rituals for remembering and mourning those we have lost, and for celebrating and making commitments to those remaining.”
So on that note me and cohort Daniela Othieno did stuff, totally last minute. Holding our own Remembrance for Lost Species down by the Dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park. Inviting anyone who wanted to join, we shared images and info about the Golden Toad, Bordered Gothic Moth, Pyrenean Ibex, Spix’s Macaw and the Tecopa Pupfish (from a previous installation by Daniela and husband Vincent Oyenga: Lost/Missing) and the extinction of these lovely wee creatures.
We chatted with various passerby peeps and their kids about ‘extinction’ asking their thoughts. It’s a curious way of engaging with people who are sometimes wary at first, and then mostly fascinated, who can be thoughtful and have much to say when given the opportunity but who can also be in denial, like the comedy moment when someone (seriously) says: “it’s not really my thing”.
Candles were lit, missing posters hung and there was a reading of a list of extinct and missing creatures (I’ll have to dig that out). I sang, while dogs barked and frolicked, jet engines crossed the sky, people laughed and life happened, about not valuing beautiful and precious things, and the possibility of losing them.
[Below is the rough and ready unplugged, acoustic, version of me with stinky head cold/throat virus thing (that a few whiskey macs later soothed) and Tasmanian Tiger stripes – in honour of the 80th anniversary of the disappearance of the Thylacine – performing Nothing is Nothing (Wild As the Sea)].
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24 November 2016 Remembrance for Lost Species, London, Sunday, 27 November 2016 Blog
Remembrance for Lost Species – Sunday, 27 November 2016
Sometimes I get involved in provocative, evocative, mischievous random activities that gently disrupt, hopefully expand, and always have the potential to implode.
This week it’s ‘Remembrance for Lost Species’ Sunday, 27th November at the dinosaur garden in Crystal Palace Park.
I was stricken recently reading an article in The Independent (UK) stating that the world is facing its first mass extinction since dinosaurs, and that wildlife populations have plunged by 67 percent in 50 years.
This, really, REALLY, bothers me. It’s always bothered me. And it should. Frankly it should bother us all. But often it doesn’t. At least not enough, or enough of us, enough of the time. Detached from that reality living far away, in cities, in houses, in suburbs, small villages and towns with tidy gardens and parks surrounded by small tracts of forest and farmed land. In places we never see extinction, much less the cause.
Orangutan filled forests destroyed for palm oil, pretty much found in any cosmetic, detergent, shampoo, soap, chocolate, margarine, ice cream and biscuit product. So eager are some countries to deliver this demand that they are willing to sacrifice their own forests, creatures and futures.
It’s not that this type of activity is new and hasn’t already occurred in our own, and so many other countries, for so many of the same and other reasons. It’s that it just continues, and continues. Countries blighted by man-made poverty, yet to gorge on the excess of consumption, racing to catch up economically at their own peril and more poignantly, that of the species dwelling within. Often ‘we’ in the UK, Australia, the US and Europe own or drive those productions. It’s an ugly cycle.
Sometimes I feel the horror of the machine, that endlessly turning wheel of growth, industry, economy, progress and consumption dispassionately crushing everything of true value and beauty. No-one at the helm. No way to stop it.
I DO NOT want to live in a world where elephants no longer roam. Yet it’s a real possibility – one that brings deep dread to think about. These beautiful, intelligent, creatures with their majesty and matriarchy, sentient and gentle yet fierce, that will visit a departed loved one to hum low guttural murmurs over the decaying carcass. That will return to the home of a man, who gave them refuge, upon his passing. That pass down memories of grazing pastures and migration routes through generations. No. I don’t want that. What is the point of this world without that?
So in the year of the 80th Anniversary of the disappearance of the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) and in a week where Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day compete, I agreed to create an event with my very good mate Daniela. We call it ‘Remembrance for Lost Species’. To be confused with and as part of: ‘Remembrance Day for Lost Species’ 30thNovember 2016. Drawing upon a previous installation titled Lost/Missing by Daniela and husband Vincent Oyenga for the E17 Arts Trail, we decided to hold a remembrance down by the dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park (London). And plan to make crude flyers with images of the paintings below (created by Vince) as way to spark conversations with passers-by about extinction and to get their views. And to share information about current extinction rates, the causes and chat about what action might be taken to mitigate it. We also wanted to take a moment to read out a list of 125 extinct species.
As another mate Joe Duggan said: “Makes me think of Phillip K Dick who wrote Blade Runner or Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep”. In the novel there is loads about robotic pets, where people all pretend they are real. But no one can afford real pets anymore because they are so rare “
That would be after the destruction of everything from forests to savannahs in a world bereft of any wildlife.
Often I feel powerless to do anything about it. I try to think about what I can do to change that. Then I put my energy where I can. We all can.
(Click on images to enlarge)
Artwork by: www.vincentoyenga.com
Note: Throughout the month of November, each year, anyone can create an event or activity and inform www.lostspeciesday.org/ to add to their calendar, culminating on 30th November.
Our event was borne out of the mischief and machinations of Mearcstapa and the Gipsy Hill Arts Collective.
Follow: @lostspeciesday @lostspeciesday @extinctionsymbol