Contemplating Community with Fitzfest 2017

Fitzfest's director, Dan Bates, reflects on its growing impact

Contemplating Community with Fitzfest 2017

Now that the curtains have been lowered on Fitzfest 2017, as director, trustee of the Fitzrovia Chapel (and long-time resident of Fitzrovia), it’s really time to take that perfect pause and reflect. What are the ties that bind this growing festival, now in its second year, to the local community? What does it add to this culturally rich area of central London?

From the beginning, it was important to me to offer a programme that was not only diverse but truly reflected the legacy and artistic community of Fitzrovia. As a snapshot of this year, our June programme included:

daily morning yoga and meditation in the chapel;

a recital of Bach pieces performed on a nineteenth-century flute made by a highly-respected local workshop;

a new play about decriminalising homosexual activity based on Fitzrovia-resident Peter Pears’s and Benjamin Britten’s letters to each other;

a DJ set in the chapel with bean bags and prime views of the ceiling;

a celebration of the life and music of former local resident and ‘The Dambusters March’ composer, Eric Coates; and

a performance by acoustic quartet ‘Yorker’ playing a set of jazz standards and lesser well known tunes embracing swing and more modern free-styles while exploring the sound worlds of their respective instruments.

In all, we showcased 20 performers, composers, authors and even local instrument-makers in venues dotted around Fitzrovia. Although we had to charge for some events, many of them were free. These ranged from guided walks and an art exhibition to a tea dance and jazz. With this real range of activities and venues (including many in the splendid chapel located in the very heart of the area), we took a break from the usual while acknowledging our heritage. We delved into legacy while embracing the ‘now’ of Fitzrovia.

I was thrilled that so many members of our local community were performing among friends, neighbours and visitors. It truly felt as though we were celebrating the musicians and writers who live and work among us. And this is important in how we care for and continue to nurture this very special area of London.

To end, I’d like to thank these amazing people and organisations:

The Fitzrovia Chapel for being so fantastically accommodating

Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for hosting the Britten/Pears piece at short notice

Rose at the Fitzrovia Centre

Pete Whyatt and his Jazz Band

Rebecca Hossack for her support

Derwent for their sponsorship

Jesse Brown (creative director at Bevan Howard) for designing the flyer pro bono

Claire Louise John, Sally Morales, Emilie Labourey, Madeleine Boomgaarden and Andy Sotto for being part of the festival team

Dan Bates