Festival Season is Upon Us

“I would give anything – anything at all – to see Boris participate in the Big World Dance and would be eternally grateful to whoever would film him doing it”

gotham girlMy friends, my friends – Gotham Girl is back and how I have missed you! Everyone’s winter went well? Wasn’t too snowy or bone-chillingly cold?   I must say it went rather smoothly here in Gotham. Oh, sure we had lots of snow but the city is efficiency itself when it comes to clearing the streets. The snow is simply plowed into the nearest river – and Manhattan being a narrowish strip of land, the nearest river is never more than a few blocks away.

But winter is behind us now – which means festival season is upon us. Obviously festivals can happen at any time of year – I don’t say they can’t. Winter festivals are quite rightly scheduled in winter and pumpkin festivals during any season other than autumn would just be wrong.  But there is a density of festivals when the weather warms — festivals celebrating everything from music, sport, history, or holidays and which draw crowds from near and far, bringing people and their enthusiasms together.

Since there’s no way to cover all upcoming festivals in a single post, consider it a teaser of what awaits you when you check out the local “what’s happening” calendar online or in your local paper.

Both London and New York cities host major film festivals such as Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival or the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival but both are also home to film festivals that celebrate specific genres such as NYC’s Horror Film Festival or its London counterpart, Frightfest Film Festival) or gatherings that focus on particular neighborhoods – East End Film Festival in London and the Queens International Film Festival in NYC).

One of my favorite NYC film festivals is the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival. I have already set aside my Monday evenings from late June to the end of August for these free outdoor movies. Think of it as a cross between a drive-in movie and a picnic. This year’s lineup is fantastic and every year, the musical selection – this year it is the 1956 hit Carousel – sees a park full of people singing in unison with enough enthusiasm to make up for any lack of skill (well, almost). I’m sure the crowd at last year’s screening of Sound of Music wouldn’t have won any awards but we had a great time.

I am told that there is a similar film series held at Somerset House each summer called the Film4 Summer Screen. Now, I don’t know what this year’s line up of titles is but if previous year’s selections are anything to go by, there is quite an entertaining range of films to choose from – everything from classic sci-fi to films fresh from their debut at Cannes.

Another thing that London and NYC share is a multi-layered, very robust food scene so it’s not surprising that food festivals are heavily featured in the event schedules for both cities. If food is your thing – all kinds, a certain kind, talking about it, eating it, cooking it, looking at it – there are more and more festivals every year aimed at food lovers on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Taste of London (June 17-20) offers live demonstrations so you can watch chefs in action, champagne master classes and tasting menus. If all that talk of food has made you thirsty, never fear – beer is here. Or rather it will be at the Great British Beer Festival (Aug 3-7).

One of the great food festivals in NYC is the San Gennero Festival (Sept 16-26) down in Little Italy. I’m not sure how to do the colors, food and people justice. What I can tell you is that after consuming all the food you were unable to resist – and why would you want to? – you may feel more like rolling than walking. Of course, there’s more than food – there are live bands, shopping and book signings as well. But you know the real reason to go is the annual Cannoli Eating Competition, right?

Travel to foreign lands is great not to mention educational but let’s face it – it takes time and money, two things none of us seem to have going spare these days. Not to worry! There is a way to immerse yourself in other cultures with much less travel time, significantly less money and in a way that does not involve dodging clouds of volcanic ash. In both New York and London, you’ll find festivals featuring the sights, sounds and tastes of almost any culture you can imagine (and some that might never have occurred to you).

Thinking Thai? For one day, the food and fashion, the music and sport and regional variations that make up Thai culture will be in one place at one time – the place is the Thailand@Trafalgar and the time is June 5. Want something with a more Latin vibe? Try Carnaval del Pueblo (August 1), the largest Latin American outdoor festival in Europe. Activities include salsa competitions (warm up those hips and get twirling), food (you don’t realize how diverse Latin American cuisine is until you see it stretched out before you region by region) because you can’t have Carnaval without it – a Carnaval Parade. Looking for more scope? Toast Festival 2010 (September 24-26) celebrates not a single culture but the whole Southern hemisphere! Maori performers will perform, Gumboot dancers will dance, African drummers will drum and festival attendees can enjoy all of it while sampling regional delicacies and drinking regional wines.

Over here in NYC, Caribbean Week is on my must do list this year – “Rum & Rhythm” event in particular. There’s something really exciting about Caribbean culture – that mix of Dutch, French and Spanish that comes through in the food and the music in so many ways. While Sweden Day promises less spice than Caribbean Week, it sounds no less interesting and I’m always up for a good maypole raising.

There are so many ways to celebrate the arts in both New York and London, visitors and residents of each are spoilt for choice. But one of the great things about going the “festival” route to get your artistic fix is that so many of the events are free!

One event I look forward to every year in NYC is the Museum Mile Festival. Museum Mile is a 20 block-stretch of Fifth Avenue that is home to some of the greatest Museums in the world (the Cooper-Hewitt, Guggenheim & the Metropolitan Museum of Art to name just a few) and on Festival day, those blocks become a pedestrian plaza featuring live musical performances in front of each museum and special programs (indoors and out).

Feeling bookish? Try the London Literature Festival (July 1-15). This is more than just literary types deconstructing Derrida (do they even do that anymore? Have I dated myself?). There may well be a few people discussing Derrida (and dating themselves much as I have here) but there will also be debates on democracy, writing workshops, author talks, outdoor performances of great works – and yes, reading.

I did notice that London will be getting its groove thing on this summer with The Big Dance 2010 from July 3-11. Apparently it all comes to a toe-tapping, hip-swiveling, hand-waving climax on July 10 with the Big World Dance – 10,000 people dancing their way to Trafalgar Square on Saturday 10 July 2010. I would give anything – anything at all – to see Boris participate in the Big World Dance and would be eternally grateful to whoever manages to film him doing it.

Some festivals strive to be all things to all people. And some – like River to River here in NYC and the City of London Festival – are big enough to accomplish it. These mega-festivals bring events of all kinds to spaces across the cities. They might be musical concerts, dance performances, film screenings, lectures and walking tours – and – again – the majority of events are free.

Those pianos scattered randomly around London last summer? That was part of the City of London Festival and they are coming back by popular demand. This year, the City of London festival has an interesting triptych of themes including: 1) culture and arts from the Portuguese-speaking world, 2) the 200th birthday of Chopin and finally 3) most intriguing to me a program of events featuring bees and beehives. Yes, I said bees. There will be bee-related poetry and bee seminars. The Festival will also be ‘commissioning’ new honey. And by commissioning, they appear to mean through the installation of beehives throughout the City.

I didn’t seen anything bee-related on the schedule for the River to River Festival, the mother of all NYC festivals, but there was quite a lot that did catch my eye – like the Swedish Midsummer Festival, the World Financial Center Restaurant Showcase and the New Amsterdam Walking Tour.

So, go on and get festive! Try the food, dance the dance, watch the film, “travel the world” in your own backyard. There are so many festivals I didn’t have room to include – the Mayor’s Thames Festival for one but he knows what deadlines are like so I hope he will forgive me. Here are some online resources for finding upcoming London festivals:

23 thoughts on “Festival Season is Upon Us”

  1. http://cyberboris.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/harriet-harman-a-sex-and-the-city-girl/

    Hey Gotham Girl, the new Sex and the City movie is out soon. We have a girl here who is so like Carrie and her friends, she should have been in the new movie. Her name is Harriet, and although she may need a bit of help with makeup,shoes and hair, I think you will agree that as far as her attitude to men is concerned, she and the SATC girls are coming from the same place.

  2. angelneptunestar, yes the hype over the new Sex and the City has reached fever pitch here as well. Gee, I wonder who you mean 🙂

  3. “I would give anything … to see Boris … [dance] and would be eternally grateful to whoever would film him doing it.”

    I think he has some-one trailing him around town and taking pictures of his every activity ;  likely on a cell-phone, given the low quality of them.

    No time to read the article yet ;  later.


  4. The people camping in Parliament Square was a bit like a festival.

    “Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, has instructed his officials to seek legal action to remove peace protesters camping outside the Houses of Parliament.”

    Jenny Jones, a Green member of the London assembly, said: “The mayor clearly doesn’t respect the right to demonstrate as he says, or else he wouldn’t be seeking the legal power to evict legitimate protesters from Parliament Square. His commitment to democracy is laughable – he has launched this action on the day that the words ‘allowing members of the public to protest peacefully without fear of being criminalised’ are in the Queen’s speech.

    the people in Parliament Square will of course mostly not have homes or cars, and therefore be living a much less selfish and sustainable lifestyle than the wealthy public-school silver spooner Boris Johnson.

  5. Not Derrida anymore (though it was exactly like Beatlemania when I saw him give a talk in his heyday); it’s Slavoj Zizek now. And there is a petition on FaceBook to get him to host Saturday Night Live. (Hey, it worked for Betty White . . .)

  6. Haha dmnyc! There are plans for a SATC3. Miranda’s frumpy Brit cousin Hatty comes to NY for advice on her love life. Married herself, she has fallen for a married colleague, goodlooking, smoothy Dave, but he is repelling her advances.

    First of all the girls give her a total makeover, in the style of Jacqueline Susann, circa Valley of the Dolls.

    The SATC girls provide their usual wise advice. David is in need of therapy, he is a commitment-phobe and has huge problems with intimacy. When he took out the restraining order, they tell the distraught Harriet, it was only because he was fighting his feelings. When he said to her “I never want to see your face again, is that plain enough” he just wasn’t serious. They advise her to carry on stalking him and when he has her hospitalised, they all turn on him in a body, screaming how could you be so mean to her? They tell him he is an SOB, who doesn’t understand women, and they know all about him and Nick Clegg. The last scene shows the girls kissing each other,really a lot, because they are so close, crying and saying all men are b…..s. They are all off their bonces because they have slurped too many cocktails as well as their medication. The movie shows them visiting all the great places you mention in your article. New York women are just so lucky to have these strong, feisty, independent women as role models!

    I don’t understand why there aren’t more women in Parliament either.

  7. @Pericle: ” I would give anything to see Boris dance… ”

    Please ensure the stage is reinforced.

    Lovely Gotham Girl looks like Maria Callas.

  8. I must admit that festivals are a great way to get people together to do something positive instead of crime and all the other negative things that go on constantly.

    The only problem is with every one person that is willing to participate celebrate life and just get on with each other for once…
    there seems to be 6 more, far more willing to do the opposite. I mean take notting hill, so many people are put of or to be honest, scared stiff of going due to the knife crime and pickpocketing.

    Well, as for me, i would opt out of such a get together although, that’s just as Ive never been one for crowds of people. However, i am having my own private festival every day and have been since no.10 was given back to its rightful owners!
    Oh i know i said private but… anyone is invited to join in should they wish 🙂
    The days events include

    – a slide out of recession
    – throwing sponges at brown in the stocks
    and a slight adaption to the normal coconut shy
    we have a specially made Boris version we call it


    and there will be no cancellations as its all run by

    “a party that keeps its promises”

    (ok perhaps i went a bit ott there lol)

    talking of boris dancing …..

  9. Pumpkin festivals are wrong period … er (.)  Actually, I don’t mind the pumpkins ;  just the pies.

    You know, Edna, you’re right :  she does look like Maria Callas although, I suspect, too young to remember her.  somewhere I have a gramophone record of Bohème with Maria Callas.

    ~ · ~

    “… crime and all the other negative things that go on constantly.” — Janina Davison Forder

    (Hope you don’t mind my using capital letters for your name ;  perhaps, on the other paw, you are the new k. d. lang.)

    Considering how many are usually at the Notting-Hill Festival, there is actually little trouble ;  I feel sure the perception of lawlessness is an irrational fear on the part of those that never go.  I too care not for crowds but, were I a Londoner, I should be delighted to join in the festival.

    How can you say that Number 10 is in the possession of its ‘rightful owners’ ?  Surely that would have to be the Conservatives ?  Coming soon, perhaps.

    ~ · ~

    Finally :  to composer Sir Arnold Bax is attributed the dictum :  ‘Try everything once, save incest and Boris dancing.’  (Or was that Morris dancing ?)


  10. This could start a whole new genre, complete with bells, garters and straw hats – Boris Dancing.

  11. Edna: “Please ensure the stage is reinforced.”

    Awwww, by the time they’fe danced their way down the route, they’ll be shadows of their former selves 🙂

    Marie Callas? You all flatter me FAR too much. Goodness me, I’m blushing. And while I was quite young when she passed and therefore not around to see her for myself, I’m certainly familiar with her more notable recordings – and they number among my favorites.

  12. I expected, and looked for, a vivid description of the Sky Guardian Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, where half of London is today ?

  13. Pericles, if you want to see Boris dance, there is a You Tube. Will try to find link for you.

    When I saw it, I went to bed, then woke up screaming, Make it stop! Make it stop!

  14. Why did Boris Johnson say his website was hacked during the mayoral campaign, then never mention it again?

    Was it because his “dirty tricks” allegations were a nasty little slur that couldn’t be disproven?

  15. Well, thank you, Janina and angelneptunestar, for the link to Boris’s hokey-kokey.

    Not sure I’d go as far as to say ‘he was doing the hokey-kokey’ ;  I got the distinct impression he was walking gingerly around the stage in fear that one of those plastic panels might give way beneath him !

    Tiresias :  I think you forgot the blond wig.  That would be obligatory, don’t you think ?

    ~ · ~

    “… I forgot about the monkey whilst speaking of the organ grinder in that comment.” — Janina

    You mentioned a coconut but I don’t see an organ grinder or a monkey.

    Association of ideas, perhaps.


  16. @Pericles:
    I think i would call it optimism, the glass is always half full, actually if you put parliament in place of the glass and start filling it with tory’s….
    the glass is slightly more than half full
    the rest being filled with bitter lemon and cranberry juice
    and ive never liked either to be honest…

    (ok ummm which nice one of you would be good enough to call those nice men in white coats for me?)

    the guy who’s comment is hidden…
    does it not occur to you that the people who acquired the password to boris’s blogger site could not get their point across by certified means such as;
    perhaps starting their own site
    writing to city hall to express their concerns
    commenting in an appropriate fashion on here or other sites
    word of mouth
    so on and so forth..

    No, instead they decide to do something malicious such as hijacking and ruining a perfectly reputable site.
    By doing so does this not tell us how valid their arguments actually are?
    Had they been that intent on getting their point across they would of started their own blogger site that takes literally takes a few minutes to set up.
    Or had they been really passionate about this they could of even (god forbid) gone to the trouble of chipping in and purchasing a domain name or even acquiring a free co.cc or similar . then making statements/posts all with information from various sources to prove they were right and perhaps even consulting/debating with the relevant people/organisations to see what they thought.
    What they actually did was, acquire a hacker or such like with nothing better to do then post one or two bits then gave up on the site.
    Maybe they came to the realization that Boris is not in fact the king of smear, the boogie man, the monster hiding under the bed or the devil reincarnate?
    What i don’t understand is why they chose to target someone who has done all they can to improve the lives of the public, probably the only politician to keep up the same amount of public relations as he had before elected…
    and surprisingly enough he is also not one to resort to petty things such as holding a grudge…
    hmmm… could this be the reason why he chose not to remind everyone day in day out about some unimportant fact that is neither of benefit nor actually harms anyone just shows those involved up to be exactly what they are.
    I would consider the idea that Boris may have more important things to do such as …. run the capital,put more police on the streets, support green spaces, meet the public and find out how his decisions actually effect them and adjust accordingly?
    Well i don’t know , i could just be making it all up?

  17. “(ok ummm which nice one of you would be good enough to call those nice men in white coats for me?)” — Janina

    Already tried that ;  when I told them whom to pick up, they wanted danger money …


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