Transported to Camberwell Arts Festival

I was giving directions to my flat from Victoria this week. ‘Well, you could get the train to Denmark Hill and walk, or you could take the 36 or the 436 bus. Oh, or the 185’. And it occurred to me that we in Camberwell are very well connected. What with the arrival of the orange line having made it so much easier for the tight trousered hipsters to get from Dalston to come and visit us, we’ve chosen the theme of Transported for this year’s Camberwell Arts Festival.

That time of year again? Yes, indeed. Listen to blues at the bus stop, make your own vehicle and aim to win Wacky Races, snoop round artists’ studios, and when you’ve finished with that, follow the trail through some of our finest boozers.

It all kicks off on Saturday with the Art Picnic on the Green, featuring possibly the world’s largest picnic blanket, followed by another turn by music hall revivalists the Palace of Varieties. Also, make sure you swing by Monkeycat of this parish’s exhibition —

Check out the programme at, and I’ll see you for life drawing on the number 12 bus.

A travel guide to Camberwell

Earlier this week I encountered a group of baffled Australian tourists boarding the 343 bus on Southampton Way, and was cheered when a (possibly slightly over) friendly local actually SPOKE to them and welcomed them to London. But what this incident has revealed, other than to ignore that advice about talking to strangers, is that there is a burning need for a proper travel guide to Camberwell.

What incredible luck, then, that this year’s Camberwell Arts Festival, which starts this Saturday (16 June) has, at its heart, the intention to create exactly that! And we’re looking for local writers, photographers and artists – as well as residents who love the area – to get involved. We want the Guide to be a unique and unusual take on Camberwell by the people who know it best – and are looking for the personal, the unexpected and the quirky.

So, how do you get involved? Two ways:

1. Join us for our hands-on workshops, led by Samantha Cook and Greg Ward, travel writers for Rough Guide.

Travel writing workshop
Camberwell Library, Monday 18 June, 19:00

Travel photography workshop
Camberwell Library, Tuesday 19 June, 19:00

Pub and restaurant review workshop
The Crooked Well, Wednesday 20 June, 19:00

2.  Or email your contributions to kelly.​oreilly@​camberwellarts.​org.​uk

We can’t guarantee to include all contributions in the printed version of the Guide, but we will put all family-friendly pieces online.

But please don’t try and write a chip lovers guide to Camberwell- I’ve put many hours in to researching that one myself!

And there are plenty of other artistic happenings going on during the week. Check out for full listings.

Oxjam Camberwell 2011

One day, seven venues, over 80 acts — that was Oxjam Camberwell!

Peter put a call out for a report on Saturday’s Oxjam takeover, and, as I was (to an extent) involved in the organisation, I volunteered to provide the backstage gossip.

The background to the event is that Oxfam put out a call to hold fundraising takeover events throughout the UK – in effect a DIY version of the Camden Crawl. Huge props go to Michael Armstrong, Camberwell local, who seized the challenge with both hands, and put in an incredible amount of work to make it all happen. There were a number of hurdles along the way – the sad demise of the Sun and Doves which was to be one of the main hubs, the emergency works at the Bear – but the final product was, even if I say it from an insider’s view – pretty impressive.

There were seven venues involved – The Phoenix, The Joiners Arms, The Tiger, The Crooked Well, The Grand Union, The Recreation Ground and the mysterious Club Couture. Early signs were good – apparently Camberwell had the most presales on tickets of any Oxjam event ever.…pats on the back all round.

I was venue managing the Crooked Well, so didn’t make it to the Phoenix or the Joiners, but in general, Camberwell was pretty comprehensively taken over. The Tiger was rammed with sweaty hipsters, the Crooked Well had a baying audience for our male burlesque performers, and the Recreation Ground (hosting an eclectic mix of stand up and DJs), had more people there than I’ve ever seen in their current incarnation. And Club Couture – the talking point of the day was how desperate everyone was to see inside…

Too many acts, too little time to talk about them all, but as an event, I think a real local success. With a financial hat on, most of the venues involved (and even those that weren’t) were, I imagine, feeling a healthy glow from their tills. And, while trying not to sound too twee, it was an impressive display of community spirit – the result was due entirely to the generosity of people giving their time for free, from sound technicians to all of the performers, to ticket sellers and the core production team. Lots of them, obviously, looking to do their bit for charidee, but there was also a real aim to provide a showcase for Camberwell. One to add to the annual events calendar, I would have thought.

More pictures of Oxjam Camberwell on Flickr.