Community spirit abounded at the second ever Thornton Heath Festival on Sunday. It was great to see that the efforts and achievements of last year had been recognised and built on so well. I hope we can assume that this will now be a yearly event which will continue to provide the Thornton Heath community with an opportunity to get together and celebrate it’s richness and diversity.
The community stage, a shining success of the first festival, was given more prominence and space this year with a very professional rig and didn’t fail to deliver endless talent from groups and individuals of every age and nationality all day long. It really was fantastic to see and so well organised too.
I was also pleased that there seemed to be an increase in stalls promoting various local small businesses and enterprises, from chilli sauces and ice creams to great fairtrade products. Plus a good range of local community groups – it would be great to see even more of these next year! I have to say, I was glad to find less of an army presence this year, I felt it made for a bit of a heavy atmosphere at the last one and seemed somehow contradictory within a community that is striving hard for peace, harmony and positivity. The Endurance Steel Orchestra that occupied the far end of the High Street this year did a brilliant job and played on for hours with endless smiles and beautiful sounds.
A new addition to the festival, and one that I was privileged to be a part of, was the wonderful Children’s Procession, with a huge crowd of local children and parents parading down the middle of the high street, marshalled successfully through all the crowds of beaming faces on either side. The parade was the initiative of local community artist Karen Barnett, who had run workshops throughout the year to create two stunning giant puppets that rose high above the crowd and other eye-catching carnival props for the children to wave and wiggle. It was a fantastic sight, headed up by members of the Steel band mentioned earlier, who heroically stepped in at the last minute to provide a true carnival atmosphere. I think this procession made the day for many people, taking part and watching, and I really hope that it becomes a regular feature of the festival and is able to grow and develop each year.
I went home tired, fed and happy with my young daughter still humming the sounds, wearing a smeared facepaint and ketchup grin. We’re already looking forward to next year.