For five days in October, Bloomsbury Festival will present a trailblazing programme of science, literature, performance, music, poetry, theatre, dance, discussion and reflection, shining a light on the radical imaginations, institutions and 11,000 residents of contemporary Bloomsbury, one of youngest and most diverse areas in the country.

Taking place everywhere, from major institutions like The British Museum and University College London to quirky indoor and outdoor spaces, 200+ mostly free events will pop-up across this lively cultural quarter.

2017 will be the biggest and boldest year to date. The Festival’s theme is independence, a wide-ranging theme pertinent to our community: independent business and publishing, independent living and vitality, social, political, scientific and technical independence will be all be explored.

2017 is a year of independence related anniversaries:

  • 70th anniversary of The Indian Independence Act, will be marked with Bloomsbury’s South Asian community: the Festival will feature a series of events that provide thoughtful new perspectives on our integrated culture with Funoon; Tjinder Singh of British-Asian band Cornershop will lead a family workshop with South-Asian arts organisation Akademi, SOAS and the Festival will partner local schools and community groups to create a Rangoli using coloured rice, sand and flower petals.
  • One-hundred years since the Russian Revolution will be commemorated with 101st km – All Stations From Here Onwards at Bloomsbury based Pushkin House, an installation collaboration between architect and artist Alexander Brodsky and curator Marku Lähteenmäki, including a large-scale pop-up pavilion.
  • Fifty years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality will be celebrated with a programme including Club Kali, a mash-up celebration of LGBTQ+ and South-Asian music.

Bloomsbury’s artists, scientists and universities remain at the forefront of the world’s independent thinking. The Festival will give a platform to these with talks, exhibitions and debates at South Place Ethical Society’s Conway Hall, plus a full day of activities and fun for ages 14+ at University College London, and an Emerging Artist Fringe will give professional debuts to early career artists and graduates from two of the UK’s leading drama schools, RADA and Drama Centre London.

The Festival weekend will launch on a street of independent businesses, with a night-time street party with a twist, Sing Out Store Street. For one night only, twelve choirs, the Store Street house band, bars, street food and dance stages will transform central London’s Store Street into a stage for revelry, whilst its shops will open up to reveal a host of artistic delights. Friday 20 October, from 6pm.

Also pop-up performances of Bloomsbury Songs – reflecting different aspects of contemporary life in Bloomsbury, this evolving song book of new music from the composer/director-librettist combination of Michael Henry and Emma Bernard features choirs from across the areas demographic.

Kate Anderson, Bloomsbury Festival director says: ‘Bloomsbury is extraordinary; filled with world-famous institutions, small creative businesses, museums and galleries, hospitals, law firms, and an exceptionally diverse residential population, it is a microcosm of our society.  The Festival works as a catalyst uniting this vibrant area, fostering new collaborations and providing unusual opportunities for people who would never normally meet, to inspire and learn from each other.  

Each year we choose a theme as stimulation, and Festival projects respond to the theme from a range of perspectives reflecting the diversity of interests and specialisms of the area.  This year’s theme of Independence, chosen before the Brexit vote, has proved to be particularly rich territory.  The Festival’s 2017 programme includes such areas as health and vitality, freelance working, politics and society, small independent businesses, and of course responses to some of this year’s memorable anniversaries from different sections of our community.  The result is a fascinating and bountiful programme of arts, science and ideas.  We hope you will find the work inspiring, interesting, engaging and most of all fun!’

This year, the Festival will centre around four main weekend hubs: at University College London (UCL) will focus on medical and scientific advances, the Festival’s Creative Development Lab, indie music, art and more for ages 14+; a Literature Trail across a range of celebrated publishing houses and quirky indie bookshops; a socio-political hub at Conway Hall will provide the backdrop for conversations, talks, discussions, performance and exhibitions with subjects ranging from decolonising the curriculum to multiculturalism in across countries from Canada to the UK; and fun for all the family returns to the Family Hub at Goodenough College. Activities will also take place at a further 35+ satellite venues.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PROGRAMME BY GENRE (MORE TBA)

Art

  • 101st km – All Stations From Here Onwards by Pushkin House. A collaboration between architect and artist Alexander Brodsky and curator Markus Lähteenmäki, installations will be created and displayed in Pushkin House and nearby area, to commemorate one-hundred years since the Russian Revolution. The project takes as its starting point from the distance that the individuals returning from the Gulag and other unwanted members of society had to observe in relation to cities in Soviet times. Seeing the 101km as a metaphor for involuntary farewells, journeys with uncertain destinations, the exhibition will address the themes of exile, longing and belonging, inspired by three seminal Russian poets of the 20th Century: Osip Mandelshtam, Boris Pasternak and Joseph Brodsky.
  • Craftivist Collective founder Sarah Corbett will present an evening of Craftivism to coincide with the launch of her new book How To Be A Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest.
  • Akademi a South-Asian arts organisation will partner with SOAS and local schools and community groups to create a Rangoli using coloured rice, sand and flower petals during Diwali, which coincides with the Festival.
  • Brunei Gallery will feature two exhibitions, An Indian Apartheid and Lady Dandies of the DRC.

Family, Children’s and Community

  • Tjinder Singh, singer songwriter of the band Cornershop has released an amazing picture book based on his song ‘What Did the Hippie Have in his Bag? ‘which will inspire this family workshop involving crafts, poetry, music and meditation.
  • Bloomsbury Festival’s Festival in a Box takes artists and befrienders from Camden Age UK into the homes of elderly people living with dementia.
  • A special edition of Camden Centre’s popular tea dance supports independence living for our older residents;.
  • A Tale of Bloomsbury will see creative-writing post boxes pop-up across the area collecting memories and stories of Bloomsbury from the community’s diverse inhabitants.

Music

  • Bloomsbury Songs will be create four new pieces of choral music. Local adults and children will work with with Michael Henry (The Barber shop Chronicles, MD, National Theatre) and Director, Emma Bernard. Bloomsbury Songs will be performed throughout the Festival and is part of an ever-developing songbook for Bloomsbury.
  • Club Kali, a mash-up celebration of LGBTQ+ and South-Asian music – the world’s biggest LGBT club where Eastern beats blend with Western classics.
  • UK premiere of Belle Chen’s Mademoiselle– a vivid and powerful performance blending classical piano, improvisation, dance, electronica, and visual projections against the Parisian soundscape.

Theatre

  • The Emerging Artist Fringe will see a host of early career artists present new performance works, it will feature professional debuts of graduates from two of the UK’s leading drama schools RADA and Drama Centre London.

Literature

  • A literary trail offers the opportunity to discover the literary publishing houses of Bloomsbury by attending small boutique events hosted in some of their rarely seen spaces and iconic independent bookshops of Bloomsbury.
  • John Simmons hosts a reading and a walk around his new book Spanish Crossings, published by Urbane Publications.