2019 Bedford Park Festival – Friday 7 – Sunday 23 June
The Bedford Park Festival is a two week arts and community festival which takes place early in June. A celebration of the arts, with music concerts, theatre productions, art and photography shows, walks and talks, the festival raises money for St Michael & All Angels Church and three church charities.
It has an excellent reputation for high production standards, particularly for its Classical music concerts, which are a staple of life all year round at St Michael & All Angels Church. The festival opens with a preview evening for the art and photographic exhibitions in the church itself and continues with a wide ranging programme including talks and performances in St Michael & All Angels Church, Bath Rd, W4 1TT, the Tabard Theatre opposite and some private houses. There are walks around Bedford Park and some of the residents open their gardens to the public.
The opening weekend, Green Days, is the church summer fete on Acton Green, which has grown into a two day festival all of itself. For more about Green Days go here.
For more about the annual art exhibition, the Summer Exhibition, go here.
2017 Golden Jubilee year
The Bedford Park Festival celebrated 50 years in 2017. The anniversary programme included the brilliant young clarinet virtuoso Anna Hashimoto, who joined distinguished violinist David Juritz and friends to celebrate their 25th Summer Serenade and Supper with the Mozart Clarinet Quintet. Young soprano Milly Forrest staged a performance of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte with the Young London Sinfonia and singers from the London Conservatoire.
Kate Dimbleby, singing daughter of the famous media family, returned to the Festival with songs from her album Songbirds; award-winning author and historian William Dalrymple was interviewed by broadcaster Susannah Simons; and novelist and former Chiswick resident Mavis Cheek performed some of her favourite poems.
History of the Bedford Park Festival
By Torin Douglas MBE, one of the festival’s prime movers
The Bedford Park Festival came about as a campaign to save the beautiful Arts & Crafts houses of Bedford Park, which in 1967 were under threat. Bedford Park in the Sixties was a rundown area, with properties sublet into bedsits and falling into disrepair. As Victorian architecture was out of fashion, the local council started knocking down houses and replacing them with blocks of flats.
In 1963, two public-spirited local residents decided enough was enough. After the council demolished a large house in Bedford Road and replaced it with a five-storey old people’s home, they set up the Bedford Park Society with the aim of getting local buildings listed for preservation. The co-founders were Harry Taylor, president of South Acton Conservatives, and Tom Greeves, an architect and founder member of the Victorian Society, who enlisted the poet and preservationist John Betjeman as patron.
Within a year, the Bedford Park Society had attracted over 200 members and delayed the destruction of at least one fine house. A TV film was produced, with commentary by Betjeman. But the campaigners’ arguments were rebuffed by the listing committee of the Ministry of Housing. The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner wrote to Tom Greeves: “Alas, I lost the battle over Bedford Park”.
By 1967, two more houses had been destroyed but the campaign went on, as Greeves’ wife Eleanor recalled in the book Forty Years On – The Bedford Park Society 1963-2003: “The breakthrough came in 1967 with the first Bedford Park Festival, a brainchild of the recently-appointed vicar, Canon Jack Jenner, to raise funds for repairs to St Michael & All Angels church”.
And so was born one of the great heritage campaigns of the 20th Century. In the Vicarage, they put on an exhibition about Bedford Park, the world’s first garden suburb, called ‘Artists and Architecture of Bedford Park 1875-1900’. John Betjeman visited it, as did the Ministry of Housing inspector Arthur Grogan – an expert on the Arts & Crafts period.
A month later, no fewer than 356 of the houses were granted provisional Grade II listing, to save them from demolition. Soon both Ealing and Hounslow councils had declared conservation areas, preserving the first garden suburb as one of the most sought-after places to live in west London.
The festival became an annual event and has gone from strength to strength.
Bedford Park Festival Photography competition
Every year at the Bedford Park Festival there’s an exhibition of photography tucked away up in the Parish Hall of St Michael & All Angels Church for the duration of the opening weekend. The Chiswick Calendar and Snappy Snaps are sponsors. Anyone can enter, but you have to get your entries printed out and delivered about a week before the festival. Entry details are on the Bedford Park Festival website. bedfordparkfestival.org
There are categories for places and people, children’s and adult work and the competition is judged by members of the public with a guest judge, who is usually a professional photographer.
Bedford Park Festival Photography Competition 2017.
Bedford Park Festival Photography Competition 2015.
Past Festival highlights
As part of the Bedford Park Festival, Fondly Remembered, a very funny new play by Gareth Armstrong, was performed at the Tabard Theatre by a group of actors who live in Chiswick and between them had notched up nearly 250 years of experience in TV and theatre (and it was a small cast!). Everything from Z Cars to Shakespeare. How fitting that the play is about the ageing members of a theatre company getting back together to plan the memorial service of one of their colleagues, unearthing as they do rivalries and jealousies that go back fifty years.
Fondly Remembered – Tabard Theatre, 17 – 20 June 2015.
Past Festival highlights
Poetry and history
Poetry always features in the Festival. One of the highlights of the 2015 Bedford Park Festival was BBC News correspondent Fergal Keane OBE reading the poetry of fellow Irishman WB Yeats, who had himself been a resident of Chiswick in the 1880s and ‘90s.
Books are mainly the preserve of the Chiswick Book Festival but sometimes there are book talks as part of the Bedford Park Festival.
2015 was the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Sonia Purnell talked about her book ‘First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill’. 2015 marked the 75th anniversary of Churchill becoming Prime Minister and the 50th anniversary of his death as well as the 70th anniversary of VE Day. Without Winston Churchill’s inspiring leadership Britain could not have survived its darkest hour and repelled the Nazis, but journalist and biographer Sonia Purnell makes a convincing case in her book ‘First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill’ that without his wife Clementine, he might never have become Prime Minister.
Deborah Cadbury talked about her book ‘Princes at War’. An amazing cache of Wallis Simpson’s letters shed new light on how the royal family behaved during the Second World War. Award winning documentary maker and author Deborah Cadbury talked at the 2015 Bedford Park Festival about what she discovered from these letters and from the Second World War intelligence documents she’s studied while researching her book ‘Princes At War’.
Fergal Keane on the poetry of WB Yeats.
‘First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill’ by Sonia Purnell.
‘Princes at War’ by Deborah Cadbury.
Charities supported by the Festival
The Mulberry Centre.
The Upper Room.