On 21st October, Grove Adventure Playground royally entertained a sell out crowd with a variety of live and unique performance during the Grove Gala Benefit event set up to celebrate the re-opening of the playground and to give thanks to the community and volunteers who have joined in the effort to make the playground a success.
The playground equipment was dramatically lit for the event
Weeks of meticulous planning had been put into organising the event and every effort was made to ensure that the guests, volunteers and community members that came through our doors were given the best we could possibly offer.
We were sold out and this was to be an evening to showcase Grove Adventure Playground and announce rather noisily to the local community exactly what we could do.
The event flyer
The evening was built around the fantastic outside space, with the Unity Cafe lit and open for bar duty, a large open fire provided some magic, comfort and warmth, the new stage area was prepared and powerful theatre lights were set up to highlight the playground and performers.
Inside, the kitchen was in overdrive with well over 100 portions of a home-cooked delicious Moroccan menu being prepared to serve out to expectant and hungry guests.
The exhibition and projector was set up, cloakroom, merchandise and door staff were in place and all was ready for the doors to open on the dot at 5.30pm.
With a busy programme of entertainment, the crowd rapidly swelled and explored the building and playground. Children enjoyed the opportunity of some night time play along with some brave parents and others greeted old friends, ate, drank and chatted and began to enjoy the evening.
To start the entertainment, we had the first ever screening in this country of an important 1970's American social documentary showing the life of a young black kid growing up in Loughborough Junction, exploring his family, life and dreams, whilst the boy, called Neville, wondered around with his friends and spending time at the Angell Town Adventure Playground, which was the original site of our own adventure playground before it moved to Loughborough Junction in 1972.
Loughborough Junction 1971
Locals were fascinated to see views of Loughborough Junction that had never been seen since the 70's as well as the original adventure playground, but there were gasps of astonishment when the two main characters in the documentary, Neville Carnegie, the boy, and Francis Mclennan, the original founder and Warden of the Angell Town Adventure Playground were introduced to the audience.
What, no popcorn?
They spoke of their experiences and both expressed serious concerns that despite the passing of almost 50 years, Lambeth Council were still unable to support, promote and guarantee the future of such an amazing play space for young and vulnerable children in such a deprived area of the Capital. Francis McLennan pointed out that the facts and circumstances that Grove Adventure Playground faces right now with a temporary lease, voluntary staff and a lack of any funding is exactly the same as the problems he faced in Angell Town all those years ago as he struggled to provide this incredible and vital children's service within the community.
The audience then made their way out into the warmish evening air and settled down for the appearance of Potent Whisper, a local activist, rapper and poet who is a new friend and supporter of the playground.
Potent Whisper then delivered a powerful and dramatic version of "Estate at War" from his fantastic new volume of work "The Rhyming Guide to Grenfell Britain" followed by "Importance of Art in Education" which held his new legion of fans spellbound.
A quick turnaround saw the fabulous 17 piece Youthsayers pack the stage and launch into a brilliant mix of afrobeat, jazz, reggae and ska, including a fitting tribute to Brixton legend Jimmy Rogers at the end of the set.
The audience were on their feet as the live music almost lifted the new roof over the stage as it took over the evening drawing in curious and interested locals of all ages towards Gordon Grove and the playground.
To complete the evening, our new resident DJ grooved the Grove with some classic dance tunes as the community danced together outside on the last warm night of the year. Everyone was smiling and everyone was happy.