There’s a certain amount of nostalgia tied up with this event. One of the organisers, Martin Soan, remembers queueing up at the door of his local village hall in Llandrindod Wells (now transformed into a wonderful dance studio).
He told me how you’d have to go through turnstiles back then with tickets bought for tuppance. Beyond the doors the fun began – all sorts of old fashioned fun like animal competitions, jumble sale, tea dances, cake competitions, ping pong and cabaret. All of these wholseome things will be coming to the Peckham/Nunhead area tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Our Grand Saturday, is looking set to be a really full fun-packed day of stuff and nonsense and I am so impressed by the huge amount of time spent by so many people to pull it all together. The creative producers for each event have brought their own unique styles to proceedings such that we have four really distinct and individual events happening all at once.
Having spent so long and so much effort working towards a festival, and in particular one key date, it’s amazing how there is always so much to do at the last minute, but that’s part of the fun too. From early today we’ve been getting underway with the get-in, suppliers arriving across the festival area, tents and stages being built, toilets positioned, stalls put together and the buzz is really growing. Tomorrow morning the really creative stuff starts. The decorations and stylings of each of our four events are going to be stunning and all so different. This is the bit I really enjoy, because we’re about to turn those hours, days, weeks and months of planning into a real event, four events even, and it’s exciting to see it all come together.
The day itself will be a blur for some. Keeping track of everything across just one festival site can be tricky so watching over four at once is an extra challenge. The production team, security, police, wardens, first aid, our events team and of course our fantastic volunteers will all be working hard to make the events go on without a hitch, so that the communities of Peckham, Nunhead, Walworth, Camberwell, Elephant and Castle and the wider area can come and enjoy a great day out.
John Benton, Southwark Council Events team
We’re currently in the Southwark Council offices doing some evaluation training with our volunteers.
A key responsibility of the Events team is to make sure we listen to residents when asking their views on what events they think would be positive additions to the borough of Southwark.
We also need to know who comes to the events, where they come from across the borough, and what they think of the events that do get programmed.
This year we are aiming to collect more information from audiences than we have in the past. That’s because we believe outdoor events are particularly positive in many ways, including that they bring a real mix of people from the local area, but we have to ask lots of questions about what people think and who they are before we can know that for sure.
This week, my first week at Southwark Council, I found out about the Peckham Peace Picnic – two years on from the London disturbances that all of us remember. It is an event, in part, to celebrate the great progress the people of Peckham have made and bring everyone together to mark it rising from the ashes of unrest. I remember the day after the riots and travelling through Peckham on the train – no one got off and no one got on, an eerie silence replaced the usual busy commuter bustle of Peckham Rye. The vibrant musical celebration that will take its place on Saturday 17 August is therefore exciting – even more so knowing how far the community has come since that first day after the night before.
As I began writing the press release the bigger picture of the event as a part of the Elephant and the Nun began to unfold and it was really refreshing to see, there really is something for everyone to enjoy. So I wanted to make sure I got as much variety as I could in there to showcase the full range of culture and creativity that was taking place both at the picnic and elsewhere.
As well as marking the variety I also wanted to highlight, in the form of a quote from Councillor Peter John, how Peckham is being regenerated to help put it firmly back on the South London map as an open and accessible community.
The photos I then received through from last year’s celebrations added a lovely finishing touch and cemented to me the significance of this event in the community’s calendar for one and all. I am sure it will again be a great and hopefully sunshiny day.
I’ll be volunteering at Peckham Space from 11 till 5 today. If you see me, say hello. Especially if you’ve thought about volunteering too.
There’s so much happening in the Elephant & Nun festival that I forget what precisely will be going on there at this time but it is all good and I am sure that in my case it will involve asking the good people of Peckham and beyond to fill in forms giving their views on how good or bad it all was.
More coffee now, more comment later.
The launch of The Elephant and the Nun was held on Friday at Illiffe Yard, where there’s a darling little cafe, The Electric Elephant.
We were joined by Los Ninos Vallenatos, who have come all the way from Colombia to perform at the Local World Arts Festival on Sunday 11 August.
Illiffe Yard also hosted the documentary The Clubland Story, one of The Elephant and the Nun’s programmed events (9 and 10 August). The documentary centres around the Reverend Jimmy Butterworth, a generous local character who struggled through hard times to succeed in raising funds for his beloved Clubland, the Camberwell social club that was both a legendary place to be, and a social enterprise that nurtured young people. It offered regular activities such as cartoons, boxing, gymnastics and football, driven by the efforts of this well-meaning community figure.
Here’s what Sir Michael Caine, a clubland former member, had to say about it.
It was an apt introduction to the festival because in many ways, we have similar objectives to Clubland with The Elephant and the Nun, as do the organisers who take part in it, which is to nurture our communities. The Azucar Flower Festival (St Mary’s Churchyard) on 17 August, Our Grand Saturday, is delivered by many young people who work throughout the summer, and throughout the year, with the Latin American Multicultural Group. Combonation (Camberwell Green) on 17 August is delivered by a group of young people who are part of the Southwark Young Producers’ programme. We’ll be posting more about these upcoming events soon.
If you would like to hear more about The Clubland Story and Clubland, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Azucar Flower Festival is presented by the Latin American Multicultural Group, and its workforce of young people. This week they have been building the statue of Monte Madre, the goddess who protects the flowers and the animals – the centrepiece and the theme for the festival.
Azucar Flower Festival takes place at St Mary’s Churchyard on 17th August 2013
Back in 2000, performance artist Rene Eyre asked me to document her 24-hour art event – Plunge – that she was putting on at Clubland. I had never heard of this place even though I grew up not far away in Bermondsey.
I found an amazing building made from all the best materials and nothing like any youth club I had attended. I was intrigued by the great facilities such as a football pitch on the roof, a gym, a proper auditorium and stage, and a room full of old photos that showed the club in its heyday.
Rene gave me a bit more background information and suggested that I make a film about the club’s history. I agreed and we contacted Norman Grigg, the minister at the time, who put us in contact with several former Clubland members who were still members of the Methodist church that the club was connected to. More than this, Norman put us in touch with John and Mary Butterworth, the children of Jimmy Butterworth who started the club way back in the 1920s.
John and Mary were keen to help so gave me old silent footage of the club that said more than most words could say. In this intriguing film you could see the young people going off to Guernsey, probably going on a boat for the first time; kids milking cows when they perhaps had never seen a cow; the youngsters enjoying themselves on a beach when they had maybe never seen the sea; Bob Hope playing table tennis; Gracie Fields singing to the members, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh opening a stone plaque in the quad and – amazingly – the Queen pulling up outside to visit the club.
With this fantastic historic footage and with interviews from the ex-members, I was able to make a film that is as close to the definitive version of the history of Clubland that you could make in this day and age.
The Clubland Story will be screened as part of The Elephant and the Nun at Illiffe Yard, Pullens Yards, Crampton St, SE17 3AE, on 9th and 10th August
Elevating elephants and nonchalant nuns – The producer’s thoughts on an extraordinary community celebration.
Last week I was lucky enough to see a dress rehearsal of Arbonauts’ Biped’s Monitor in Nunhead Cemetery. This beautiful, haunting piece of site specific, immersive theatre played out as the sun was setting over the gothic chapel. Thought provoking and intelligent, with lovely performances and enchanting live music, this simple production brought together all that I love about The Elephant and the Nun. Local creativity.
It’s not a massive festival, it’s not a glamorous festival, it’s not even a festival that demands your devoted attention. But it is a festival that invites cooperation and collaboration, a festival that speaks to the area and brings out some of the best bits of the community.
When we started the festival back in 2010 no-one quite knew what shape it would end up taking. Of course, we developed aims and objectives, and from that came the name – The Elephant and the Nun, but as the community was so involved in the drawing board stage, and as we asked the community to come up with ideas for the festival, this meant we could never know what shape it was going to take. I guess that’s what I love about it. I never really know.
What I do know is that the festival creates and offers space, time and, sometimes, money to make things happen. It intertwines with other events and activities in the local area and it pursues and welcomes the different and the slightly odd. I love it for that.
This year is no different. We are supporting over fifty artists to create giant sculptures of Mother Nature, create crazy carnival performances, become story scientists, show us what paper cup graffiti is, smash plates – Greek style, hunt elephants, dance to the dog poo tango, perform spoken word from a Taxi, have a dinner party on Peckham Square, build a tower of stories and reminisce about Vivien Leigh.
So we have just under five days before we launch the festival and the programme is full to bursting. There’s gotta be something for everyone…
Paul Cowell, Events and Film Manager at Southwark Council