The Festival, held in May, is now in its thirteenth year and goes from strength to strength with a total of 55 events held within the ten day period. This year the geographic area was extended to East Dulwich and a fair held on Goose Green. The Dulwich Society provided local history, wildlife, trees and architectural walks and an architectural exhibition in the Old Grammar School displaying recent Dulwich house extensions.
The Artists' Open House weekend, introduced last year by the Festival's new team of organisers, was once again hugely popular. Some seventy artists, working in various media, either combined with others of had solo shows in their own homes or sometimes in the houses of friends in an area which spread from Forest Hill Road to South Croxted Road. The useful map and guide to venues was invaluable to the success of the venture. Is that something that a modest charge might be made for another year? The attraction of a free entry, a possible glass of wine and a nose around someone else's home proved an irresistible attraction. Reports of the success of this event, from the artists themselves - always the acid test - was one of widespread satisfaction.
As always, music played a large part in the Festival, and the big gamble in staging a Scratch Messiah, especially with neither the number or ability of the performers a known factor, turned out a great success. The concert was held in the newly restored All Saints' Church, West Dulwich and a rehearsal under the baton of Rupert Bond took place at 2.30pm followed by the performance in the evening. The choir, orchestra (which was made up of a mixture of amateurs and professionals) and the audience numbered over 300 and provided an uplifting experience for all.
Young musicians from Dulwich schools joined forces for a Gala Concert at St Faith's Church, Red Post Hill and another large audience enjoyed the chamber music concert given at St Barnabas by the celebrated violinist, Levon Chilingirian who was joined by the Dante Quartet.
Following on from the success of last year's 'Finding Edward Alleyn', the Dulwich Letter Boxing Trail was an equally popular family event which took the participants all over Dulwich following a list of clues to find a number of hidden small boxes each containing a rubber stamp with which to certify their discovery. Letter Boxing started on Dartmoor in the middle of the 19th century and it continues to be a popular activity with most of the tors having a letter box located on them. The idea of adapting the pursuit to the Dulwich Festival was ingenious.
What has now become the signature serious spot of the Festival - the opening debate - was this year entitled Stop Climate Chaos. It successfully launched the Festival by introducing five eminent environmentalists to a capacity audience in the Linbury Room at the Dulwich Picture Gallery who discussed issues of famine and drought and their effect on humankind as well as the threat of extinction of up to a third of all life species. While the debate was stimulating it did not engage with young people who were notable by their absence, probably on examination revision!
The Festival was a splendid event for the community and the team, led by Alpha Hopkins, Nina Jex, Simon Edwards, Susie Schofield and Rebecca Dallaway are to be once again warmly congratulated on their imagination, dedication and enthusiasm. They were backed up by a great number of helpers without whom the event could not have run. Thanks are also due to local celebrities Jo Brand and James Nesbitt who generously gave their time to promote and participate in the Festival. A welcome addition this year was the presence of members of the Rotary Club of Dulwich who provided refreshments at many of the events. A few of the restricted audience events were sold out well in advance of the Festival causing some disappointment and this may be a problem the for organisers to consider in future.