A 90th birthday means I'll miss Ray Davies - how kinky is that?
It s that time of year again, and the Kenwood season of summer concerts is upon us. Though not without controversy, the Kenwood summer concerts have become an essential part of the Hampstead Heath season and every year, thousands of people flock to the gr
It's that time of year again, and the Kenwood season of summer concerts is upon us. Though not without controversy, the concerts have become an essential part of the Hampstead Heath season and every year, thousands of people flock to the green acres around Kenwood to enjoy some of the best open air concerts to be found anywhere.
There's nothing quite like them. For a start, the setting is spectacular. Most of us can only imagine what it feels like to stand on a stage in front of thousands of concert-goers, many hundreds of them seated in candy-striped deckchairs, while thousands more enjoy picnics and Chardonnay on the grass against the majestic backdrop of Kenwood House.
Now that the stage has been moved from behind the pond, the concerts are also marked by a new intimacy between artist and performer that was missing for many years. This is one recent innovation designed to counteract the problems of sound seeping from the concert area towards residential streets. I think it's fair to say that the organisers have done everything they could in the past two or three years to meet and overcome the legitimate concerns of some residents for whom the concerts were anything but the highlight of the summer. Even the famous fireworks jave been constrained.
So all's well that ends well, and this year's season gets off to a great start with a concert by local hero Ray Davies, born in Fortis Green, brought up in Muswell Hill and now a proud resident of Highgate, Ray is one of the finest songwriters alive today and on Saturday night he will be accompanied by the Crouch End Festival Choir, who have already backed the likes of Lou Reed and Oasis. The opening night should be truly memorable.
Sadly, I'll miss that one. My mother's 90th birthday party in County Antrim, in the equally majestic setting of Galgorm Castle, takes precedence - even over what I am sure will be a magnificent night of music from the former Kinks frontman.
As editor of the Ham&High, I've heard strong arguments both for and against the Kenwood concerts in recent years. On balance, I think they are a good thing, though I've always wondered why they aren't supplemented by some daytime musical entertainment of a more classical hue in Kenwood House.
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The concerts do bring thousands of people to the Heath and Kenwood for the first time, and I'm sure that many of these Kenwood virgins return to the area. Why wouldn't they? You simply couldn't attend a concert and not wonder what was behind Kenwood's stately portico, or to want to explore the open spaces beyond the landscaped gardens.
As I write, my deputy editor Laura Evans is putting the finishing touches to a special supplement to be published with this week's Ham&High, featuring the Kenwood season and many more of the things which make this area so special in summer. Whether you are a Heath regular or not, I hope you enjoy it.
And just because I can't be there doesn't mean you need to miss out. This week's edition gives our readers the chance to win 10 pairs of tickets to the grass area. Bring your own picnic, have a great time, and in the company of Ray Davies and the Crouch End Festival Chorus, enjoy this special Hampstead sunset.