Bedford Park Online Festival

By Torin Douglas

When it became clear that the COVID-19 lockdown meant Chiswick’s annual Green Days weekend and Bedford Park Festival could not take place in their usual form, Bridget Osborne and I put our heads together. Surely we could rescue some of it online?

The Chiswick Calendar had organised the Photographic Exhibition last year, so that was an obvious starting point – they could put all the photos online. Perhaps they could do the same for the artworks in the Bedford Park Summer Exhibition?

Then there was the children’s fancy dress competition. Parents could send in photos of their kids in costume, couldn’t they? And there were online football games that could replace the 5-a-side tournament, surely?

Images above: Kevin McNally and Phyllis Logan will be appearing in Creature Features by Christina Balmer and Freya Alderson

Perhaps we could put on a concert with local musicians? Maybe some of Chiswick’s actors could do a reading? Weren’t there video recordings of some of the previous Festival talks that we could show? And surely some of the bands that performed on Green Days would have videos too?

I don’t think either of us thought we would end up with the breadth and depth of the programme that is starting this Friday evening – with 25 events, including a Craft Fair featuring no fewer than 29 exhibitors on the Chiswickbuzz website.

The ‘virtual’ Festival will feature ‘lockdown’ performances by a host of local stars. Phyllis Logan, Kevin McNally, Lucy Briers, John Rowe and Jeremy Vine are recording new radio plays for The Chiswick Calendar and The XV Theatre Company. Eddie Marsan will give a dramatic reading on the Italian station LondonONERadio.

Images above: Sophie Ellis Bextor’s Kitchen Disco on Instagram

Sophie Ellis-Bextor is sharing her highly popular Friday Kitchen Disco videos with us and top local musicians David Juritz and Sandy Burnett will give an illustrated Zoom talk on Bach. The Chiswick Calendar is presenting a ‘lockdown’ jazz concert by the Trio Manouche and a podcast documentary on Frank Matcham, who ran the Chiswick Empire.

There’ll be wine tastings and quizzes and competitions; a virtual lineup of Bedford Park Open Gardens (in photo and video form); and another chance to watch the Festival’s poetry evening with the novelist Louis de Bernieres, filmed in 2014 by Chiswickbuzz. The ‘virtual‘ Bandstand on Green Days weekend will feature performances by Chiswick Theatre Arts, ArtsEd, Stagecoach Chiswick, Ballet4Life and ‘Alan the Milkman’s band’, The BATS of Ealing.

We’ve also been gratified by the response from local businesses and schools. Savills is once again the main Festival sponsor and Andrew Nunn & Associates is supporting the Craft Fair. Whitman & Co are again sponsoring the virtual Cycle Zone and donating a bicycle to be won in the prize draw. Falcons Pre-Preparatory School is sponsoring the Football Skills competition – with a video by its head of PE showing how it’s done – and Orchard House School are sponsoring the fancy dress competition.

We’re particularly grateful to The Chiswick Calendar and Chiswickbuzz, without whose commitment and technical expertise we couldn’t have put on the Festival in this way. The Festival will raise money, as usual, for St Michael & All Angels Church and its three nominated charities: The Upper Room, which is based in W12 and works with the homeless, economic migrants and ex-offenders; WaterHarvest, which works with rural communities in India to harvest the monsoon rains and provide safe and sustainable water; and West London Welcome, a free drop-in centre for refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants who have settled in West London.

There will be charges for a few events, but most are free of charge, with people being encouraged to show their appreciation by making donations online. There will also be a ‘Gifts & Promises’ silent auction and a chance to help choose ‘The Festival Hymn’, by making donations to mark the 140th anniversary of St Michael & Angels Church (two hymns are currently tying for the top slot!).
So tell all your friends and we look forward to meeting up on the ‘virtual’ Green this weekend.

Torin Douglas is one of the organisers of the Bedford Park Festival and Director of the Chiswick Book Festival

Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Two radio plays – premiered at the Bedford Park Festival

See also: Trio Manouche – The Isolation Sessions