6. An arts festival halfway up the hill
An ambitious nine day arts festival, embracing two weekends, begins tomorrow, June 22, in leafy Belsize Park, when St Peter’s Church plays host to a whopping 30 separate events.
As well as a concert of Broadway melodies and a guest sermon from Canon Vernon White of Westminster Abbey, there’ll be workshops on drawing, knitting, singing, and dance featuring students from Hampstead School of Art and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
They’ll be joined by Belsize Community Choir, a local group who recently got to perform here with Cee Lo Green, and the Belsize Baroque orchestra, led by former performing musician and harpsichordist, the Rev Paul Nicholson.
It all kicks off on Saturday with a book reading by comedian David Mitchell and his wife Victoria Coren, writer and TV presenter – who recently married here – and the full schedule will delight the picky, avant-garde and classical-loving. Religious or not.
Most events are free. Those ticketed – such as a talk from National Theatre actor David Benson (tickets £8) – will support four charities: Jessie’s Fund, St Christopher’s Fellowship; Friends of Luwero and St Peter’s garden restoration project.
The latter is by no means an afterthought. St Peter’s garden is open to all, regardless of faith. You could even argue this patch of green amongst so much York-pavement stone puts the ‘park’ into Belsize.
Putting on initiatives like this enables churches like St Peter’s to fulfil a primary function: to support its community. The upkeep of a draughty old church, with an outdated boiler and roof permanently in need of repair (more so in our culture of health and safety) is hugely costly.
At weekends St Peter’s is home to St Gabriel’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church, who will also be demonstrating Ethiopian drums during Arts Week. Monday to Friday it hosts children’s groups, the Belsize Music Academy, and concert recitals; it’s even got a sustainable fruitery out the back thanks to local eco-group, Transition Belsize.
Words by Julia Robson.
Next: Colonel Fawcett day? Whatever next!