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Dulwich Festival 2017: Feel like ‘Home’ as the celebration of arts and culture returns

© Helen Jermyn

A celebration of arts and culture returns at the Dulwich Festival this May
© Helen Jermyn

Returning for its 24th year is the Dulwich Festival, a 10 day celebration of arts and culture in the leafy south London suburb. A host of concerts, talks, fairs, walks and more will be taking place across SE21, SE22 and the surrounding areas over 12 – 21 May 2017. The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Home’ and what that means to people.

Kicking off the festival on 12 May will be the Festival Of Choirs featuring performances from three very different choirs – Note-Orious, The Barberfellas and Gospel Essence. Meanwhile, Jazz fans will enjoy the Harlem Meer Cats, bringing the sounds of icon Duke Ellington to Dulwich, while indie-folk quintet Patch And The Giant will be rousing the crowd at Belair House. Classical aficionados are catered for too at a performance of ‘Façade’, William Walton’s setting of Edith Sitwell’s poem sequence.

© Barberfellas

The Barberfellas will be performing during the Festival Of Choirs

Among the talks on offer will be broadcaster and journalist Robin Lustig in conversation with BBC Deputy Political Editor, John Pienaar and new Dulwich Picture Gallery director Jennifer Scott. For those looking to get some exercise and education at the same time, there will be several walks on offer, including history walks and the Street Art Walk; and for nature fans the Bat Walk or Dawn Chorus Walk.

There will be plenty to keep the children entertained, including the charity Clown Without Borders, which encourages homeless child victims of displacement to laugh and play. Meanwhile, acclaimed Tangram Theatre Company will be performing ‘The Element in the Room: A Radioactive Musical Comedy about the Death and Life of Marie Curie’ for children aged 8-10 years.

During the festival there will be three fairs, representing each area of Dulwich – East, West and the Village. The Festival Fair on Goose Green on 14 May, Love West Dulwich Fair on 20 May and Dulwich Park Fair on 21 May.

In addition, over 250 artists will be opening their doors to their homes and studios during the two weekends of the festival. Visitors will have the chance to view their artwork and talk to the artists.

  • The Dulwich Festival is on from 12 – 21 May 2017 at various locations across Dulwich Village, West Dulwich and East Dulwich, SE21 and SE22. Nearest stations: West Dulwich (12 mins from Victoria), East Dulwich and North Dulwich (15-17 mins from London Bridge). For more information and booking, visit the Dulwich Festival website.

For a guide to what else is on in London in May, click here.

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Exploring Dulwich’s street art with the Dulwich Festival

Dulwich Festival 2013: Gallery of Dulwich Park Fair

A walk in olde Dulwich: History walk for the Dulwich Festival 2012

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

The 18th century Dulwich Village… in the 21st century

Anyone who has happened to pass through Dulwich Village in South London will know by the Georgian buildings that it’s pretty old.

However, with the annual Dulwich Festival on at the moment, visitors and locals alike were given the chance to find out exactly how old the village really was, how Edward Alleyn transformed Dulwich into what we know today, and the origins of the popular Crown & Greyhound pub.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Old Burial Ground

On Sunday 13 May, local historian Brian Green hosted the ‘Ancient Dulwich Walk’ – starting from the C&G, aka ‘The Dog’ to the locals – at part of this year’s Festival. I have to admit I was stunned by how popular it was – there was an overwhelmingly large group – but fortunately Brian was prepared with a portable loudspeaker.The talk started off with an introduction to the origins of Dulwich, which dates back to the 10th century when the area was referred to as ‘Dilwihs’ – meaning a meadow where the dill grew. While a lot of inner London suburbs only sprung up during the advent of the railway lines during Victorian times, Dulwich has long been a hub for the surrounding areas for centuries.

Aside from the obvious landmarks in the village, Brian was able to point out which current houses were various shops during the Victorian times and how to tell the difference between early and late Georgian architecture, of which there are two impressive examples at the end of the High Street next to the Old Burial Ground.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Ancient Dulwich tour in the grounds of the Picture Gallery

One of the main attractions of the tour was getting the rare chance to go inside the Old Burial Ground, which was in use from 1616 until 1858. The small cemetery has a Grade II-listed gate and is generally off-limits and locked. Once inside, we were given a talk about the various locals laid to rest, including the lawyer Richard Shawe, who represented Governor General of India, Warren Hastings during the longest trial in British legal history.

Moving on, we were given the history of the two separate pubs The Crown and The Greyhound, which were demolished in late 19th century to make way for the current ‘Dog’. It was funny to hear that the 19th century residents of Dulwich have similar issues with traffic, noise pollution from nearby pubs, etc, that we have today, and how they dealt with them. No ASBOs obviously…

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Wood carving in Christ’s Chapel

Of course, no tour to Dulwich would be complete without a stop by the Dulwich Picture Gallery – recently the focus of the media after a certain Duchess of Cambridge’s visit with her in-laws Prince Charles and Camilla. The interesting back story as to how the gallery came about, regarding a rather complicated friendship between a married couple and another man, was very entertaining.

The tour ended at the stunning Christ’s Chapel, located in between the Dulwich Almshouses – another addition to Dulwich by Alleyn. Although it looks small from the outside, I was surprised by how large it was inside, with lots of seating for a large congregation. The chapel is full of stunning wood carvings, from everything from angels, to dragons, dogs and cattle. It is open on Sundays for worship so well worth checking out… while ‘checking in’ with the man’s upstairs of course!

Overall, Brian Green was an informative and funny host who kept everyone entertained and focused during the two-hour tour. If this is repeated at next year’s festival, I would highly recommend it.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

The carved seats of the Christ’s Chapel are a big attraction

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Gates leading out of the grounds from Dulwich almshouses and Christ’s Chapel


For Metro Girl’s post on the Dulwich Park Fair during the Dulwich Festival 2013, click here.

For a review of the Blue Brick Café in East Dulwich, click here, or the Locale Italian restaurant in East Dulwich, click here.