Fantastic for Families Award 2020 nomination

Walthamstow Garden Party:
Allowing families to create and engage

Walthamstow Garden Party has made this year’s shortlist for Best Family Event. Here we find out how the team have made it’s family offer front and centre to the festival’s programme.

Walthamstow Garden Party is an annual east London summer festival, created by local creatives and residents, produced by the Barbican in partnership with London Borough of Waltham Forest and supported by Arts Council England.

Walthamstow Garden Party’s families offer is front and centre of the festival’s programme. Families can discover everything from locally produced arts, food and cultural activities to music from across the globe, all for free in Walthamstow’s Lloyd Park.

How Walthamstow Garden Party engages families

Working year-round with hundreds of partners, Walthamstow Garden Party brings together people with different skills, backgrounds and expertise to build a festival that is open to all, with a diverse and attractive offer for families. In 2019, this included Fellowship Island from local arts organisation Artillery, where children joined parades, sung, created, painted, played, listened to stories and learnt about sustainability. In 2019 the festival also included a dedicated area for under-7s called Art for All, offering activities such as children’s yoga, pottery, puppetry, storytelling, music, outdoor play activities and sensory play. Finally, both the News from Nowhere stage and the Earthly Paradise Tent showcased artistic work from children and young people, including local dance academy X7eaven, Walthamstow Youth Circus and music, poetry and spoken word from school children and young adults.

The examples listed above form the bedrock of the festival, allowing families to create and engage with the art and culture they enjoy as audiences. By dedicating a vast range of the festival’s programme to family audiences, they can experience an artistic offer they might otherwise struggle to access.

Déda is in the process of re-emerging into a post Covid world as a creative, diverse and inclusive, environmentally sustainable centre for dance, outdoor performance and contemporary circus. Our building at 19 Chapel Street in Derby has been a hub for the development of creative and cultural experiences since 1998. From our place in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter we have a rich history of local, national and international connectivity. We produce Derby Festé – an annual international outdoor street arts festival in partnership with Derby City Council and a range of other cultural, educational and business partners in the locality. We are a Band 2 ACE National Portfolio organisation and a registered charity (1053633).

Dancers whearing red and white outfits at Walthamstow Garden Party

What worked well, and why?

In 2019 we launched open calls to create accessible entry points for local and non-local creative organisations to get involved in the Walthamstow Garden Party programme. One of these was with Walthamstow Toy Library and Play Centre, a local educational charity, for the Art for All area. Walthamstow Toy Library recruited a panel made of local families and their children (aged between 4-7) within their local network. The children were then facilitated by a local artist to vote for their favourite projects that would make up the family area. This way of working created a space where we could share the decision-making process and value the expertise of the local families’ who would eventually engage with the offer. From this process a total of 30 projects applied and five were selected to be part of Walthamstow Garden Party, four of which were local.

To continue to involve local creative organisations and young people at different levels of decision-making, the Barbican’s Creative Learning team partnered with Beatroots Creative to develop and deliver a Young Producers Programme. This new partnership provided opportunities for young people to engage with and help shape the programming of the headline slot. Beatroots worked with the Youth Offending Service’s Voices in Partnership (VIP) to bring together a group of nine young people aged 14–19 years old to present and curate a two-hour music programme, including the headline slot on the Earthly Paradise Stage.

A tent at Walthamstow Garden Party, where a child wearing a pink dress is speaking into a microphone in front of a family audience.

What challenges did we face, and how could we improve?

Improving inclusivity and accessibility is a renewed focus for Walthamstow Garden Party. In 2019, 350 access passes were distributed prior to the event. As well as this, Attitude is Everything – an organisation working to improve deaf and disabled people’s access to live music – provided live event observation and consultancy. They shared an evaluation report and action plan which gives us some key points for further improving access throughout the festival. We were proud to receive a Bronze certification from Attitude is Everything this year and are hoping to improve on this in the future.

What have been the most important things we have learned?

Along with growing local capacity and helping to build a legacy, Walthamstow Garden Party has focused more and more on environmental sustainability, including banning single use plastics and recycling food waste into free compost. This year, we signed up to be a member of the Association of Independent Festivals who provide sustainability training days for festivals. We committed to the Festival Vision 2025 pledge, which aims to achieve a 50% reduction in festival-related annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. We also signed up to be assessed by A Greener Festival. The data captured from audience surveys will allow us to report on our carbon impact more accurately.

Next steps

Despite the challenge that the Covid-19 pandemic poses, throughout the summer we are running Walthamstow Garden Party In The Air, a free community-powered programme developed by the Barbican and local artists and organisations to encourage residents to get creative at home and channel the spirit of the festival.

Image credits: Gar Powell-Evans

21 August 2020


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21 August 2020