In 2015 People United supported the residents of Newington, Ramsgate to host the first ever arts festival for their community as part of The Best of Us project, three years and four brilliant festivals later, our Project Coordinator Becky Vincer went back in 2018 to see how Best Fest has evolved.
I arrived at the green behind Newington Community Centre to a welcome desk engulfed in a rainbow of balloons ready to greet families to the fourth community arts festival, Best Fest. I was hastily approached by three Young Creative Champions wearing hand painted t-shirts who were eager to help me unpack my car of materials and help set up my stall. Levi was proudly holding onto a clipboard checking people in while Chanese relished the opportunity to wheel the trolley of empty cardboard boxes into position. Kam then assigned himself to helping fix our large map to the ground with tent pegs and quickly began to give me instructions on how best to layout the materials. It was a brilliantly energetic welcome and I soon got swept away with their ‘can-do’ attitudes.
Three years ago People United helped local residents to put on the first Best Fest, as each year has passed we’ve supported residents and Newington Big Local to take on the responsibility of managing and curating the whole event together. Each year the festival adapts and evolves to suit the residents but the core values of celebrating the best of the community and connecting people remains at its heart. Highlights this year included; a giant tug of war which saw local resident Spiderman go up against the Academy FM dragon, fun interactive stalls from community and voluntary groups in Thanet, delicious healthy food cooked by Newington Big Local served free of charge, local bands Funklepie and Brad Pittance and the Pirates who kept us dancing throughout the afternoon with singers joining in on stage from Thanet Sound Crowd– a singing group set up by People United in 2017, now looked after by Creative Champion and community centre manager Marie.
The People United stall was a large plain map of Newington ready for visitors to add their favourite parts of the area, as well as imagining new possibilities for buildings and greenspaces. There were cardboard boxes, art straws, plasticine and chalk pens to play with. As new creations began to spring up on the map the ideas became more radical. Firstly, there was the community centre, which later gained a pool on the roof with slides into a garden. There were park renovations to make Newington a play destination for families with a giant pirate ship to explore. One child created a large car that ‘would be filled with museum articles and artists that would go around showing people stuff’.
A few people spoke about the nearby pool and skate park that has closed so added fun skate ramps and areas where people could learn new tricks. Another visitor thought it would be nice to have a boot fair on the grass with free ice-creams and permission to climb the ‘good trees’.
The Newington Big Local team each wore a t-shirt with their slogan ‘an estate of enablers’ across the back- and it certainly felt that way. Helping me for the day was a few of People United’s wonderful volunteers including Rose, she was really impressed with the independence and character of the residents and found their sense of ownership and pride for the event inspiring. Rose spoke to a group of women who live I the nearby Stanner Court Tower who commented that events like Best Fest made them feel like they could make positive changes to their area, they explained how they wanted to improve the grey areas near to them with community planters and were beginning to get more involved with Newington Big Local.
A huge part of The Best of Us project was a group of Creative Champions who met weekly to create artwork and plan Best Fest. Nova Marshall was the project’s artist-in-residence 2015-17 and continues to work with Newington Big Local to run a weekly youth group called ‘Chill Club’, some of the original adult Creative Champions support her as volunteers.
“Working with the young people over the past couple of years, Best Fest is at the forefront of their minds. They are excited to see what happens and share their ideas. From what started as a small arts festival Best Fest is developing into an exciting annual community event that brings together residents and local community groups to engage in fun and creative activities, whilst also discovering what local organisations have to offer.” Nova Marshall
People United’s Founder Associate Tom Andrews and Newington Big Local’s Community Development Officer Cara Thorpe recently presented some of the research and reflections on The Best of Us project at a Big Local event. Listen to their talk ‘A light in the darkness’ in the video below:
Get a taste of Best Fest 2018 with this film by Buckle Up Films for Newington Big Local.
The Best Fest film is here! A huge thank you to everyone that came along and supported this event and to everyone that attended. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and are looking forward to coming again next year or being a part of it. Roll on Best Fest 2019!Local Trust Age UK Thanet Ltd Addington Street Community Thanet District Citizens Advice Colour Tech Personalised Printing Funky faces by Zara Macmillan Cancer Support Orbit Help People United Sport 4 NRG Thanet Volunteer-Bureau East Kent Community Foundation Trust, 107.8 Academy FM Thanet Jak Juggletime, Aim4 Partnerships CiC Newington's Chill Club @Shanti's Threading & Beauty, Funkle Pie Brad Pittance and the Pirates Thanet Earth BuckleUP Films Canterbury Bouncy Castle Hire Pie Factory Music Aura Event Services Tesco, Bags of Help. Blakemore.Feel free to share!
Posted by Newington Big Local on Wednesday, 25 July 2018