On Saturday I braved the showers to go along to my local summer fete. On the last weekend in June my road, and the ones leading from it, are closed to traffic and a traditional fete takes the space. Regular readers of this blog may remember the article which I wrote about it, as an example of city fetes taking place across the country, last year.
This year differed in that there was much more emphasis on live music, though the ‘vintage vinyl’ stall was allowed to play a selection of 1970s classics. In my brief wanderings I saw three choirs, a steel band, a jazz/macarena band, a collection of drummers, a ukelele band and a cello & guitar duo. And I had missed the two ‘sets’ which I had hoped to see, both featuring neighbours, because the running orders at the various ‘pitches’ had been changed. Music making is alive and well in this corner of south London. Is this the case elsewhere?
Choral singing seems to be undergoing some sort of renaissance, or perhaps it never went away, it’s just that its profile is higher after the Gareth Malone TV programmes. A quick trawl through the internet reveals about 3,300 ‘registered’ choirs in England alone. Try British Choirs on the Net or the National Association of Choirs web-sites, if you’re interested. There are a huge number in London ( indeed I have, I am reminded, agreed to take part in a singing of The Messiah in November with a scratch, but very large, choir ). At the Fete on Saturday I enjoyed the singing of Popchoir, The South London Choir, St Mary’s School Choir and Lady Panic and the Exploders.
Then there were the bands. The macarena band was a semi-professional outfit, complete with brass section and it got everyone dancing. The steel band was South Side Harmonics from the Academy up the road ( by then there were deck chairs out in a circle around the large gazebo ). There was the Balham Ukelele Band, Eclectic Electric and The Reject Funk Band. The drummers were St Mary Djembe and the duo, well, the cellist used to own the local deli. My neighbour’s Scratch Band ( she is a pianist and violinist ) should have been on in the Church in the afternoon, but I missed them.
The usual fete activities happened – the dog show, the face painting, the people on stilts, a fire eater, cake decorating, tombola and a raffle There were food stalls aplenty ( see young boy above, eyeing jam tarts ). The local fire brigade brought along their engines again ( the periodic sounding of their sirens rang across the street and the ladder and basket regularly rose and fell ). The local pub, The Abbeville, had hay bales out across the road for added seating. A barbecue smoked next to the church, wherein you could find tea and cakes and strawberries and cream. There was Zumba and tango, to recorded music. Everyone joined in.
And the carousel music played throughout. Who needs Glastonbury? Come to south London.
We get rain there too. And hail. Unfortunately it was a protracted, heavy hailstorm which signalled the early end of festivities. Folk went home. This was a shame as other years the fete, or at least the fete music, has lingered long into the evening. I recall a hot June night some years ago when nobody local went home and a South Wales a capella male voice choir sang until the early hours, fuelled from the pub. There’s always next year. If you live in London and like the idea of coming along you can find details on the fete web-site at abbevillefete.com.