November 4, 2015

A unique one-off arts festival which celebrated the Newington community funded and supported by Newington Big Local.

One of the hallmarks of People United is that it specialises in helping communities bring out the best of themselves and recognise their positive characteristics.

“I was really warmed by the amazing attitude and positive impact being enthused throughout the community on that day.” Jason Pay SEAS Photography

On the afternoon of Wednesday 28 October local residents, supported by arts charity People United, celebrated the many positive stories that have emerged out of Newington over the last six months and on Best Fest day.

BEST-6481Creative Champions and Best Fest volunteers
Photo: Manu Palomeque


Families took part in an art trail at six locations around Newington. After completing all the activities they were rewarded with a gift made by members of the local community. Participants told stories of kindness, courage, creativity, humour, hope and spirituality such as “Since I was eighteen, my Mum and Dad write to me twice a week because they are far away. I am now forty three.” And “My grandchildren give me big kisses and cuddles every morning”

BEST-7660Badge making in the Best Fest Marquee
Photo: Manu Palomeque


The contributions of local people to the community were illustrated through ‘We Are Here’, a photographic series of portraits by Karen Shepherdson at Newington Community Centre. Each person was photographed within their own environment and was nominated by other residents as contributing to the estate in a meaningful way. This included Simon Crouchman, a dedicated volunteer who has committed to help transform the formerly overgrown woodland area, The Copse, into a community space. Also, Marie Thomas the Newington Community Centre Manager who goes above and beyond her duties at the centre and makes a positive difference helping people in the community.

The Whispering Forest at The Copse, by artist Filipe Gomes was a unique sonic experience which centred around interaction and storytelling. Children and their families loved this activity and created more of a roaring forest than a whispering one and were very excited at hearing their sounds move around the ‘forest’.

BEST-7781Storyteller in the Whispering Forest
Photo: Manu Palomeque

One participant wrote: “Best Fest is a different approach to engaging with the community. It was creative, busy and fun”

The arrival of the Imagination Lab at St Christopher’s Church proved very popular. It’s a pop-up space which is part art studio, part science lab packed with making materials. This special place was designed by artist Goldie Chaudhuri, commissioned by People United and the Institute of Imagination, to be a space where people can come together to dream up a better and brighter future. Throughout the day people thought about the things they care about where they live or in the wider world and imagined different futures through making, play and creating stop animation films. These ranged from a tomato-powered car to hover boards and pets that can speak!

25. Animation 4Inside the Imagination Lab
Photo: Dylan Woolf


One of the many highlights of the afternoon was Memory Teas. Visitors came from as far afield as Essex to share their photos of Newington’s past and have them scanned by SEAS photography archivist Nigel Breadman to add to the Newington photographic archives. Pam Clements started the first Brownies group in Newington and the first dance school sixty years ago when she was just seventeen. She shared her photos of the Brownies, the dancing troupes and one of a carnival float with her and her dancers all dressed up for the parade.

“I hope that the young people who witnessed and experienced the attitude, enthusiasm and sense of place yesterday will grow up into those adults that couldn’t wait to share their photographs and stories of their lives in Newington in the same proud manner.” Jason Pay SEAS Photography

BEST-7556Memory Teas
Photo: Manu Palomeque


The festival celebrated the work that has been taking place over the last six months during which time resident artist Nova Marshall has run weekly workshops with local Creative Champions. These workshops are continuing and new members are very welcome. To find out more contact [email protected] or like the Facebook page and get regular updates 

The Best of Us project has been funded by:

Newington Big Local
Big Lottery Fund
Local Trust
Heritage Lottery Fund
Kent Community Foundation
Kent County Council
Arts Council

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