Review: Peckham Festival is diverse, vibrant and makes me feel cool again


My fabulous friend Sarah is actually sitting on a bicycle seat to enjoy her beaker of wine

Because some of my friends are much cooler than me, I managed to garner an invite to the launch of the first ever Peckham Festival.  Initiated by local family the Wilsons, and made possible through the support of Southwark Council and The Acorn Group, the festival celebrates the vibrant culture, arts and food scene in Peckham.

In case you’ve taken your eye off the Peckham ball, it has become very hip since you last looked.  There are roof top bars, revitalised and re-purposed historic buildings, an artistic quarter, and a cultural mix that makes the foodie scene diverse and exciting.  I felt I’d become a little bit cooler just by being there.

So the newly inaugurated Festival is a brilliant way to celebrate Peckham and advertise it to a wider audience.  From 8th to 11th September, there are over 150 events and activities, from performances, workshops, walks and talks, to open studios and an exhibition of art work specially commissioned for the Festival.  The smartly designed and informative Festival guide is the perfect companion to help you navigate your way around, although it will be a full time job to do it all.

The Director of this artistic extravaganza is Sydney Thornbury, who previously revitalised The Conservatoire in Blackheath from a moribund organisation to a dynamic arts centre at the heart of the community.  Despite her American accent, Sydney describes herself as ‘a Brockley girl through and through’, and is clearly passionate about both the arts and south east London. I’d give her an 11 out of 10 for the Peckham Festival.

bussey-rooftop-bar-1After the launch we headed to the top of the iconic Bussey Building which is now home to a rooftop cafe and bar.  We were a bit surprised to have our bags searched before we went in, but it was more than worth it when we emerged from the building into the warm night air. There is a fabulous view across south east London, and looking north you can pick out key landmarks like the Shard.  The cocktails are pretty cool too – I had something with a chilli in, and believe me when I tell you my mouth was on fire by the time I got to the bottom of the glass.  We ate chargrilled zucchini on big hunks of delicious bread, and we shared a table with a Mary Beard look-alike (presenter of popular TV shows about ancient Rome), who regaled us with stories about getting stopped by tourists in the British Museum.

A couple of cocktails later, we took a wrong turn on our way out and found we had accidentally crashed a flamenco evening on another floor.  Unfortunately I’d already promised the babysitter what time I’d be home, but I’m already planning a return trip to Peckham…

Getting there:  There are buses a-go-go, you can take the P12, P13, 12, 36, 37, 63, 78, 136, 171, 172, 177, 197, 343, 345, 363, 381, 436.  Peckham Rye is nearest overground rail station.

Find out more about what’s on and plan your visit on the Peckham Festival website