Crouch End Festival artistic director: ‘it was utter chaos when it launched’
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
The Festival is in its fifth year but it was ‘bedlam’ in 2011, with events taking place which the organisers didn’t know about.
Artistic director Chris Arnold said the early festival started with a Facebook group called Crouch End Creatives and heated discussions in pubs.
“The thing just sort of exploded, but in the first year, it was utter chaos,” he said.
“We had no idea what we were doing with the organisational structure – it was just bedlam really, but you had lots of artistic people organising things which is always chaos.
“And we had things going on that we didn’t even know about.
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“We’d just walk into a bar and see things happening, performances.”
But in spite of the teething difficulties, Chris believes it is now the UK’s largest community arts festival, with 40,000 people attending last year.
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The 48-year-old is organising this year’s festival with Amanda Carrara, Chris Currer and Sue Felgate.
There will be a Latin-themed day for the first time - with music, dance and film - and even a Catalan human tower.
The poets in a phone box will feature, as well as the now classic zombie walk ending at Hornsey Town Hall.
Father-of-three Chris promises to bring his three-month-old son, Alex – the youngest zombie yet.
While the festival has grown and attracted international acts, Chris says the principles have remained the same.
It’s still essentially free and the focus is on attracting homegrown Crouch End talent - including school children who might have never performed before.
He’s been thanked by teenagers and their parents for giving them their first platform.
“We cultivate emerging talent,” Chris said.
“Anybody can stand up on stage, they can sing, they can dance, they can put their art on a wall and it is without judgement.
“That’s the great joy of it – it’s encouraged ordinary people who are artistic to get up on stage.”
A partner with marketing agency Creative Orchestra by day, Chris said organising the festival has been a “golden handcuffs” bind.
“Whenever you’re running a voluntary arts organisation, whatever time you think you’re going to put in, multiply it by ten,” Chris said.
“I’ve lost count of how many hours I’ve put in over the years. It’s become a labour of love.”
“There’s no one person who runs this festival, it is about a community of people who work together.
“One thing we’ve learnt is if you want to design a T-shirt, no one will ever agree on the design.”
– The Crouch End Festival runs from June 10 to 19. See: crouchendfestival.org