Kensington and Chelsea Festival, a magnificent showcase of extraordinary performances and a platform that brings people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired, is returning for its highly anticipated third year.
This summer, from Saturday 1 July to Thursday 31 August 2023, the festival will once again grace the borough, offering an array of captivating live art performances that will take place across various venues, both established and hidden gems, as well as outdoor spaces. With an exciting mix of renowned artists and emerging talents, this festival is set to be a cultural extravaganza like no other.
A Cultural Feast for Everyone
The festival is a true testament to the power of culture and creativity, encompassing a wide range of art forms such as theatre, circus, opera, dance, music, outdoor arts, family shows, participatory activities, talks, walks, and public art pieces. Its inception was fueled by the desire to uplift spirits by celebrating the richness of culture and creativity. The festival organizers, Kensington and Chelsea Council, are committed to ensuring that this cultural feast is accessible to all residents and visitors, allowing them to experience a diverse range of artistic expressions right at their doorstep.
Highlights of the Main Programme
One of the festival’s most anticipated highlights is the arrival of Luke Jerram’s breathtaking artwork, Mars. This touring installation, measuring an impressive seven metres in diameter, features highly detailed NASA imagery of the Martian surface. The sculpture provides viewers with a unique perspective of Mars, allowing them to explore its valleys, craters, volcanoes, and mountains as if they were satellite mapping the planet themselves.
Accompanying the sculpture is an evocative sound composition by the esteemed composer Dan Jones, incorporating elements from NASA missions and reflective of contemporary conflicts. Mars has previously captivated audiences at the Kensington and Chelsea Festival and will now be installed in a church setting for the first time, accompanied by a specially curated soundscape.
In addition to Mars, the festival presents an extensive Outdoor Arts Programme, which promises to delight audiences of all ages. From the emotional and athletic performance of 2Faced Dance’s Lungs of Our City to the thought-provoking spectacle of Rogue Play’s Forests, this program showcases a diverse range of outdoor performances that challenge norms and inspire imagination.
Other notable acts include Joli Vyann’s Lance Moi, All of Nothing Aerial’s The Swings, Avanti Display’s Spurting Man, and Gravity and Levity’s Crawdaddy. These performances combine artistry, physicality, and innovation to create unforgettable experiences.
Partnering for Unforgettable Collaborations
The festival also collaborates with various renowned partners to bring exceptional events to the forefront. One such partnership is with the iconic Chelsea Theatre, which hosts an annual Open Call, enabling 18 fringe shows to be presented during the festival. These shows, covering diverse art forms such as theatre, music, spoken word, and dance, offer audiences the opportunity to experience remarkable performances on a “Pay What You Want” basis. The programme for this year’s collaborations will be announced shortly.
Furthermore, the festival joins forces with the world-renowned Notting Hill Carnival for the captivating event Carnival Culture in the Park. Over four nights during Notting Hill Carnival, attendees can revel in the sounds of calypso, steelpan, and Caribbean jazz, supported by the festival. The lineup includes Etienne Charles Carnival: The Sound Of A People, an exciting celebration of Trinidad’s Carnival through music, movement, and masquerade; mesmerizing steelpan performances; an evening of Caribbean jazz; and a double bill featuring the legendary calypsonians Crazy and Red Plastic Bag.
Exploring the World of Opera and Theatre
Opera enthusiasts will find a haven at the festival, as it partners with the esteemed Opera Holland Park to present a series of captivating performances. Audiences can immerse themselves in Giacomo Puccini’s timeless masterpiece, La Bohème, as well as experience the world premiere of Itch, an explosive new opera by composer Jonathan Dove adapted from Simon Mayo’s best-selling novels. Additionally, there will be performances of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore and a special Opera in Song series featuring three distinct recitals.
Several partner venues will also contribute to the festival’s diverse cultural offerings. The Drayton Arms Theatre presents the intimate production Twinkle, offering an introspective glimpse into the life of long-standing pantomime dame Harold Thropp. The Finborough Theatre showcases The Wind and The Rain, a tale of coming-of-age and student life, while The Coronet Theatre hosts an exceptional solo concert by the acclaimed pianist Yevgeny Sudbin.
Kensington and Chelsea: A Mission of Inclusivity
At the core of the Kensington and Chelsea Festival’s vision is the aspiration to reflect, represent, inspire, and engage the entire community residing in the borough. The festival aims to broaden accessibility, foster togetherness, and ensure that art, in all its forms, is accessible to everyone.
To achieve this, 70% of the festival’s activities are either free or “pay what you want,” and concession tickets are available for all shows, making it possible for residents to enjoy the festival without financial constraints. By offering a diverse range of events, from family-friendly shows and street art to opera and open-air performances, the festival aims to increase accessibility and break down barriers to participation.
Embrace the Festival
As the summer unfolds, visitors to the festival will have the opportunity to explore the Kensington + Chelsea Art Week Public Trail, a vibrant and immersive display of public art, free for all to enjoy. This collaboration, in partnership with Kensington and Chelsea Council, commences on 22 June and continues until the festival’s conclusion on 31 August.
The Kensington and Chelsea Festival promises to be a mesmerizing celebration of culture, creativity, and community. With its extensive array of performances, partnerships, and inclusivity initiatives, this vibrant festival invites residents and visitors alike to immerse themselves in the wonder of the arts. So, mark your calendars and join in the revelry of this extraordinary event that unites people through the universal language of art.