"A variety of different stages, green spaces, rose gardens, cricket pitches, pathways and marketplaces."
Village Green is a multi-art form and music festival, produced by Metal Culture in the picturesque grounds of a beautiful Victorian park in Chalkwell, Southend on Sea.
A variety different stages, green spaces, rose gardens, cricket pitches, pathways and marketplaces offer up a pot-pourri of international music acts, theatre, spoken word, poetry, lindy-hop/ fox trot lessons and displays, outdoor arts, circus and cabaret, vintage acts, musical theatre, visual arts, comedy, improvisation, film, workshops and games all set against the backdrop of the enigmatic estuary.
A key to the success of the festival is the calibre of acts and the diversity of performances, which in previous years has included Kate Nash, Nothing But Thieves, Rag N Bone Man, Nitin Sawhney, The Selecter, Beth Orton, Dan le Sac v Scroobius Pip, Passenger, Man Like Me, Eddi Reader, Roland Gift, The Slackers, Wilko Johnson, Shlomo, Sam Duckworth, The Skints, Ballet Black, Molly Nyman, Harry Escott and the Samphire Band, Billy Bragg, James Taylor Quartet, Boy with Tape on his Face, Tom Wrigglesworth, Francesca Martinez, Camera Obscura, Carleen Anderson, Paper Cinema, Forest Fringe, BBC Blast, Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, John Hegley, Phill Jupitus, The Blockheads and many more. But the strength of the annual festival is its family centred ethos - where children and adults can have fun with strictly NO face painting or bouncy castles – every activity is arts-led.
The festival has been taken to the heart of the local community who now support it in many different ways – for example by charging a battery though bike power in the lead up to the event.
A short history of Village Green
Village Green was created by Metal in 2008 - a year after we first moved to Southend. We had taken up residence in Chalkwell Hall and were busy renovating it to create a hub for artists, community and creative ideas.
Southend was a town that was full of underground creative energy, sub-cultures, music and an edgy, down-to-earth beauty along the Thames Estuary that is often found where stunning natural landscape meets industry. A large number of arts activities were going on but there was no annual showcase where everyone got together to show off, to each other, and to audiences from further afield.
Those of you who have been to Chalkwell Hall will know that it is in the middle of the beautiful Victorian municipal park, Chalkwell Park – the perfect spot to host a festival and ask everyone to contribute to a showcase of what Southend was up to creatively. And so the first Village Green came into being. To our mind, Chalkwell Park is the urban equivalent of a traditional Village Green and so we called the event by that name to signify the intent behind the atmosphere we wanted to create – a family friendly, creative day that the whole town turned out to take part in.
In that first year, the event attracted an audience of 8000. It was linked into the national Cultural Olympiad celebrations leading up to the games in 2012 and was awarded one of the first London 2012 Inspire Marks. By 2013, audience numbers had reached 31,500 with more than 500 artists from Southend, the UK and overseas – and over 80 Southend community groups – taking part. Audiences were travelling to Southend from all over the south east region.
Safety considerations around audience numbers, and respect for the Park and our neighbours have meant that over the years we have needed to introduce a ticket entry system and other small changes, but the essential essence of the event remains the same – a fantastic and eclectic day of arts and music with something to entertain and surprise - for all the generations of your family.
Ideas like Village Green don’t catch on as quickly as it did unless they hit the right zeitgeist of the moment for a town. The Southend community continues to come together to support it, take part in it – and make it the great event that it is. Along with other activity, Village Green and the people who come together to make it happen, has helped to kick-start a buzz about the culture of Southend which has grown and grown over the last 10 years.
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