Salvaged festival celebrates Highgate online

PUBLISHED: 13:59 21 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:55 22 May 2020

Two bumble bees on stilts attract attention to the North London Beekeepers stall. Picture: Siorna Ashby

Two bumble bees on stilts attract attention to the North London Beekeepers stall. Picture: Siorna Ashby

@siornaphotography

Organisers are planning a week of activities and asking for residents to contribute a poem, a photograph or a craft to a community portrait of ‘lockdown life’

Phyllis Harper is awarded a Highgate Heritage plaque from Highgate Festival organisers Catharine Wells, Alicia Pivaro and Maria Kramer. Picture: Siorna AshbyPhyllis Harper is awarded a Highgate Heritage plaque from Highgate Festival organisers Catharine Wells, Alicia Pivaro and Maria Kramer. Picture: Siorna Ashby

Like many community celebrations, exciting plans for Highgate’s annual festival have been stalled by Covid 19.

But rather than cancel the event, the committed team of volunteers are taking it online.

Contributing poems, pictures, crafts and bakes that evoke “lockdown life” is one of the ways local residents can participate in the interactive events.

Committee member Alicia Pivaro said: “Half the team are locked down and we were just going to cancel it, because no-one knew what lockdown would be like.

Crowds can no longer gather for the annual Fair in the Square like last year on South Grove. Picture: Siorna AshbyCrowds can no longer gather for the annual Fair in the Square like last year on South Grove. Picture: Siorna Ashby

“But as time went on, we felt it was important to mark 2020 as a special year for the community. We decided to give it a go with a small team, and push ourselves to upskill and do digital content in collaboration with other organisaitions, which has always been the basis of the Highgate Festival.”

They are planning to celebrate Highgate between June 20-29 - a period that coincides with the late George Michael’s birthday who was a frequent donor to community events.

Events could include a singalong for George, but the main project, Lockdown Life asks the community to contribute words, pictures and hobbies taken up during the pandemic.

“There’s a big participatory element,” adds Pivaro. “The document will end up in the HLSI archives to show what life was like under lockdown.”

“It can be a Haiku or poem about your emotions, good or bad, during lockdown and how that relates to Highgate.

“‘I Made This’ asks them to share their creativity, it could be anything, a cake, a loaf of bread, a craft or ceramics.”

Other contributions can be “a tip or a hack for lockdown life,” a silver lining “what I have learned during lockdown,” and a picture of the ‘View From My Room’.”

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Hidden Highgate, a collaboration with Lauderdale House, asks residents to contribute photographs of objects both inside their homes and on the street.

“It can be kooky bits of history that people spot on their daily walk - with the slower pace of life it might be things they have found and never seen before.”

They are also seeking nominations to add to the Pink Plaque scheme, which was started to redress the scarcity of blue plaques for women in the area.

“It was started to celebrate the remarkable women of Highgate. We have only one blue plaque in Highgate to a woman - and across London it’s only 14 percent of plaques.”

They drew up a list - ranging from Florence Nightingale to Victoria Wood and the local butcher - and asked local artists to paint them - with the plaques turned into a map trail.

Festival organisers want locals to nominate women “alive or passed away, famous or someone who has given an enormous contribution to Highgate” to add to the trail.

“The awards have been brilliant with people stopping to look and we want to add a few more.”

Lauderdale House’s outreach officer is working with the resident youth group from the Whittington Estate to create artwork inspired by the remarkable women singled out in the Pink Plaque project.

“There will also be online art exhibitions and pending Government guidelines a concert filmed in the House by resident opera group Insieme,” said Lauderdale House director Katherine Ives.

Other collaborators include ceramics gallery Thrown, the HLSI, Think and Do Camden, and filming gardens that would usually be open under the NGS scheme with a theme of sustainability.

“This year it is local and participatory which will offer a wonderful sense of empowerment and celebrate how brilliantly the community have gathered around to support each other,” said Pivaro.

There are plans for a new website to support the online events but in the meantime send contributions on lockdown life to info@highgatefestival.org.


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