Camberwell Arts Festival

Drew writing today, standing in for Peter, wearing my “Chairman of Camberwell Arts” hat [and high-visibility gilet]

Nelson Mandela is in London this week, and I offer Madiba an apology in advance for paraphrasing the song he hears most often — Nkosi Sikelele Camberwell [May the sun shine ever bright on Camberwell]. And I say without fear of sucessful contradiction that SE5 has a fine crumbling beauty in the summer sun…

Last week, for those of you who live in our environs, was Camberwell Arts Festival week, and what a week it was. On the preceeding Thursday we had the opening preview drinks at House Cafe gallery, bringing together the board, the artists, the volunteers, the sponsors, the local partners and big-wigs, and the gentlemen of the press to drink some wine and share scurrilous rumours.

On the opening Saturday I popped along to The Bear to take in the small show It’s Your Round in the new art space on the pub’s top floor. It was loosely on the topic of drinking, and rarely for an gradute art show, was very funny, in fact I laughed more than I have in an art gallery for a while, especially the exhibit with Buzz Aldrin’s shoe grit and Posh Spice’s pregnancy test. I was collared by one of the market testing evaluators on the walk down to The Sun and Doves, who asked me a series of increasingly complex questions about the perception of the arts in Camberwell. Only later did I discover that ‘Felicity Mukherjee’ was in fact local artist Lucy Panesar in a personal face to face performance questioning the perception of the arts in Camberwell. Fortunately I avoided the pitfall of praising the festival to the heavens with the exception of self-indulgent artists, having been taken in completely.

 The big opening event was Pub Crawl, set across four venues, and examining the social interactions that come to play in the traditional public house; I made it in time for the second round of Yara El Sherbini’s multicultural pub quiz, which was packed out, and just in time to see the paticipants in the first round moving on to see the Dulwaich Ukeleles. The quiz was funny and pertinent, and although i did not recall the names of the chiuckle brothers, and didn’t know that isac newton invented the catflap, i did know that pakistani actor Art Malik played characters of various nationalities, simply because he is asian. Unfortunately this over-ran a little, so I turned up at The Castle just in time to see the Dulwich Ukes leave the stage in a packed and hipped up bar crowd.

Mrs Mishmash and The Wee Guy went to ‘Paint the Town Green’ on Sunday afternoon, and had a whale of a time, or should i say a dinosaur of a time, printing a self made stencil of a stegosaurus on a t‑shirt, and then made an heirloom cast of his beautiful fingers. You just can’t beat sending kids home with something they’ve designed and made themselves. This event was sponsored by Cowling and Wilcox — if you haven’t been in there yet, you’re missing out.

I’ve been lobbying hard since I took over as Chairman to get more classical music in performance during the festival week; and on Thursday i went to the Music for the Mind concert in the Institute of Psychiatry. We heard some exciting contemporary compositions and a delightful Mozart piano quartet, and scoffed a delightful sandwich buffet; I counted easily fifty people there, all gently soothed and restored by Kate Halsall’s wonderful playing.

On Friday night I went to the Hermits Cave to join in CalumKerr’s Stone Cold Sober. This was conceptual situationism at its maddest; hardenened drinkers were asked to take a pledge, and this pledge was revealed to be a randomly chosen drinker’s aphorism [mine was Brendan Behan] and to invoke their name whenever we needed permission for another drink. All in the best possible taste.

So that was my Festival, and I have to say I enjoyed it immensely, more than I have in past years, and not only becasue I’m on the board. The one person above all others I would single out for thanks is the superb Director, Kelly O’Reilly, who seemed to attend everything in the whole programme; it is no exageration to say the Festival this year is largely down to her hard work. If you see her, buy her a well earned drink.

I’d love to hear from any of you who attended other events e.g. Perunika, Chutney 11, the Walks, Open Studios, In at the Deep End, films, and also anyone who has any suggestions for inprovements for next year, this being one of the obvious places to do so.