Last week, people were handing out leaflets for the Sydenham Arts Festival in the high street, Sydenham Road. There is not a lot on its official website
as yet, but more is promised soon. We caught up with the man behind the festival, and he told us what we can expect.
AB: Who was the brains behind Sydenham Arts Festival, or did it emerge from something else?
JK: The festival was instigated by myself, Jonathan Kaufman, and Geraldine Cox, owner of Kirkdale Bookshop in Sydenham. I worked at the bookshop for 8 years and we often staged events there - literary talks, book signings, exhibitions and theatrical performances. I also run Spontaneous Productions
, a Sydenham-based theatre company. After a series of events in July 2008 it was suggested we stage an arts festival. Word got round, a small committee was formed, local council funding obtained and the first festival was staged in July 2009 (50 events over 15 days).
AB: Is this a new festival, in particular is it connected with previous festivals like the Sydenham Music Festival
? [Cancelled this year due to the cuts].
JK: The festival is now in its fourth year. It is not connected to the Sydenham International Music Festival, no.
AB: I gather it is being funded or partly funded by the borough and by Sydenham Town Centre. What exactly is Sydenham Town Centre? There is not a lot there.
JK: We are part funded by Lewisham Council, Arts Council England, and receive financial support from many local businesses. The Sydenham Town Centre is a brand new website
developed to promote Sydenham businesses, especially retailers - it is work in progress!
AB: What sort of turn out are you expecting and what events are there apart from the mini plays?
JK: We are expecting over 15,000 visitors to this year's festival (1st-15th July). There are over 50 events, including diverse music, dance, drama, film, comedy, poetry, children's events and workshops. Many of our events are free. The full festival programme should appear on our website within the next few weeks.
AB: Have you invited the local chess club for example, or sundry cultural groups?
JK: We would not class chess as an 'art form', though obviously some would disagree! We do however invite many local arts organisations and groups to participate. Most participants are professional however, and subject to our selection process.
AB: Will this be a totally family friendly event or will there be adult entertainment - quote, unquote - as well? Is there likely to be anything anyone might regard as controversial, like an anti-war demonstration?
JK: Many festival events are family-friendly but not all. There are several events that would not be deemed suitable for children, including comedy at the Hob and the evening of short plays. I don't envisage any of the festival events being 'controversial' in the way you suggest - but that's probably a matter of opinion!
AB: What are your views on the cuts and Cameron's so-called big society?
JK: I'm not sure this question is entirely relevant to our festival. We are a non-political organisation. However, since you ask my own view is that the government cuts are very regrettable, especially where they affect the arts in general. And as regards the big society, there has been a thriving culture of volunteering, within the arts and elsewhere, for as long as there has been a society - it certainly wasn't invented by David Cameron and cronies!
AB: Is this going to be a one-off event or are you planning to run it annually, every two or three years, or what?
JK:The festival has been an annual event since 2009 and hopefully will continue to be so, at least as long as there is an audience for it!
AB: Jonathan Kaufman, thank you very much, and we'll see you there!
The Sydenham Arts Festival website has actually been archived
since August 2010. Perhaps I should pay more attention to what goes on in my own neighbourhood. Jonathan Kaufman has also kindly provided some photographs for your perusal.