In the summer of 1971, the first Thamesmead Town Festival took place, featuring a 'throw the sponge at the vicar' stall. That particular stall's long gone, but the festival remains — celebrating its 51st anniversary on 12 August 2023.
These days, the Thamesmead Festival is a riot of colour, expressing the artistic roots — and great diversity — of the south east London town's inhabitants.
Four stages pitch up at Southmere Park on Saturday 12 August — showcasing an eclectic mix of hip-hop, R&B, rap, indie, dance, spoken word and fitness classes:
- Park Stage: Acts include House Gospel Choir, singing club anthems and gospel classics; the retro stylings of Logan J Parker; and UNCSS, bringing the Afro-infused energy.
- Unplugged Stage: Set in a wooded grove at the top of the hill, this is where to chill out to acoustic sets from folk-pop singer-songwriter Sam Winston, and the poetry of local Andrew Livingstone-Boyd.
- Southmere Stage: Where all the best dance is kicking off, feat. Utopia Cheer's competitive cheerleading; Thamesmead-born TikTok dance sensation Dancer Ras; and Dynamix with Afrobeat and street dance.
- Wanderlust Hill Stage: New for 2023, this stage is programmed and co-produced by local youth collective The South East Way, and uses an Alice in Wonderland theme to reflect 'the magic behind the concrete'.
Elsewhere, there's a scattering of community stalls (including Crossness River Action Group, UK Latin Community and Greenwich Domestic Abuse Service), free workshops for kids, and lashings of locally-made food and drink to fuel your free day of fun.
No excuses, then, not to make a day of it — getting to know the vivacious side of an overlooked and often misunderstood part of London.
Oh, and while you're in the area, look out for six new murals — slathered everywhere on lift shafts, tower vents and garage doors. The commissions — mainly by women — take their cue from Thamesmead itself, from its urban environment to its majestic swans.
Thamesmead Festival is at Southmere Park, Thamesmead on Saturday 12 August, 12pm-7pm. Entry is free. It's a 15-minute walk from Abbey Wood station.