After a year's break, the Dulwich Festival returned under the direction of a new team led by Alpha Hopkins and Nina Jex. Over 40 events took place over the ten-day period of the Festival in and around Dulwich. We had the backing of local resident Jo Brand who kindly agreed to launch the Festival in local newspapers and magazines.
As in previous years, there were many and varied events to suit a wide range of tastes, pockets and age groups. Everything was well-attended and, once again, the Festival managed to capture the enthusiasm of Dulwich.
As well as featuring many of the popular events of previous festivals - walks, workshops, talks, musical concerts - there were some new ones. The Festival kicked off with a new type of event - a debate focussing on this year's Make Poverty History campaign. It was a gamble which paid off - it sold out and the debate itself could have run and run. Another successful addition to Festival's programme was the evening of 1920s, '30s and '40s music held at Beauberry House. Guests were invited to come and dress up in the style of the period and, on one balmy Sunday evening, Belair was scene to a host of flapper girls, farm girls and gangster with their molls. The band Blue Harlem hit the roof with tunes from Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin and people Charleston-ed the night away.
One of the more intriguing events was 'Art of Permanence and Change', a week-long exhibition of artistic activity in Sydenham Hill Wood. Over 20 artists from the UK and overseas were invited to develop a discourse between the past, present and future function of the woods. When exploring the woods visitors would discover many surprises - during its first weekend, performance artists took over the woods and visitors came across many acts including a woman dressed in black with a black labrador letting off black balloons, tree stumps which had been wallpapered, and an acrobat performing on a single rope suspended from a tree.
There was a strong film element to the programme. This year marked the first South London Short Film-Makers Competition. There were almost
40 entries and, in a hotly contested competition for the documentary prize, the eventual winner was won by Jonathan Goodman Levitt for 'Gangbreaker'. In showed former South London gang member Errol describing his personal decision to move away from the teenage world of tit-for-tat violence, and to become a youth worker; encouraging young kids on the streets to avoid his previous and perilous path. At times tragic and moving, it explored the devastating impact of gang violence on South London's black community.
There were lots of events to entertain children. 'Finding Alleyn in Dulwich' was a beautifully illustrated history game which had children finding out about Dulwich's past. Children were invited to draw a picture about an aspect of Dulwich they found particularly inspiring. Their pictures were then exhibited in the Sackler Centre at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Again at the gallery, Jon Snow came to talk about his career as a journalist to a sell-out audience.
The Festival rounded off on the final Sunday with a hugely popular Teddy Bears' Picnic in Dulwich Park. Over 200 people gathered in the Rhododendron Area with their teddy bears to munch through picnics, play games and watch a version of 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' enacted by the youth group of the Dulwich Players.
Plans are now afoot for next year's Festival. Alpha Hopkins and Nina Jex, co-directors of the Festival said, "The Festival was a tremendous team effort with great support from venues and volunteers alike. We were particularly grateful to the previous Festival Directors for all their behind-the-scenes guidance. We were delighted that the Festival was such a success this year; we are looking forward to building on that, learning from it and designing a whole host of delights for Dulwich in May 2006."
The provisional dates for next year's Dulwich Festival are 12-21 May and developments for 2006 include more children's and adults' workshops, a food festival, a poetry competition and the possibility of online ticketing. If you'd like to take part in the Festival or have any suggestions for next year's programme, please do contact the Dulwich Festival on 020 8299 1011 or log on to the website, www.dulwichfestival.co.uk.