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The Southbank Centre is being transformed into a London neighbourhood, where you can tend plants in the allotments, buy produce from the market, attend street parties… and even get a pint in “The Neighbourhood Arms”.
The summer-long celebration of neighbourhood and communities asks you to question what makes a good neighbourhood and what it means to live side by side. As part of the festival, communities local to the Southbank Centre will be celebrated, including an exhibition dedicated to Lambeth.
I went along this morning and was welcomed by a cheeky Dennis the Menace in Beanotown, as he celebrates his 75th anniversary this year. Within this iconic imaginary neighbourhood you’ll find themed food, a museum showcasing the Beano’s archives, comic drawing sessions, plus the “prank you very much stage”.
This is the centre’s third festival with MasterCard following the Festival of Britain and the Festival of the World. Artistic director Jude Kelly tells us the Southbank Centre’s Festival of Neighbourhood aims to show community cohesion and local commitment, by being a space for everyone.
A series of 42 flags adorn the roof of the Royal Festival Hall, designed by Bob and Roberta Smith. The flags are printed with questions further encouraging people to think about the meaning of neighbourhood.
As you walk around the site you’ll see reminders of your local neighbourhood such as doorbells and For Sale signs. Murals created by street artists decorate the walls, wheelbarrows are planted as mini gardens and Mandela Walk is lined with trees which, in the theme of communities, will go to local projects at the end of the festival. Several large topiary figures tower above the street, one depicting two people sweeping, a tribute to the volunteers who helped clean up London after the riots in August 2011.
This year sees the return of the popular urban beach, featuring a miniature town in the sand, which was already proving popular with adults and kids alike in today’s sunny weather. The Queen’s Walk Window Gardens allotment project provides opportunities for volunteers and communities to be involved in building and tending to plants and the herb garden, which will grow to a soundtrack created by Yoko Ono, will be used in food served by the Festival Hall’s café.
You will never be short of something to do at the festival, as the summer is filled with a range of exciting activities and events, such as comedy at Udderbelly and cabaret at London Wonderground, and weekends will be themed, from a celebration of street culture to a village fair.
Festival of Neighbourhood at the Southbank Centre, 1 June until 8 September