On the 25th of September the much anticipated Surbiton Festival took place on Maple Road, St Marks Hill and Claremont Gardens. Music and food flowed in abundance, with every corner busy with bodies and the booming of up and coming bands. Local shops and businesses advertising themselves in every direction. The smell of pastries and breads, coffee and cakes was tangible whereever you were. There was something for every taste, and every style. Some stools included HEADMASTERS hairdresser “little princess stool” where young girls where being doused in pink and purple glitter commanding “Elsa plaits” and “Rapunzel curls”. As well as local churches and food banks. A familiar face stood behind each stool and a sense of community pulsed through the excitement to be back in business. 

 

It was evident that small businesses had been struggling without this sort of branding and socialising to the local community. Being able to advertise products and ideas was a breath of fresh air for many.  Carol Benning Kingstonfoodbank volunteer said that “Before COVID-19 the charity was able to use events like this all the time to advertise food crisises in Kingston” she made it clear that being able to get back out here and encourage donations not only helps the charity but gives her and other volunteers a “chance to help their community” which she loves doing. Before leaving I was made sure to guess how many baked beans were in the jar, with guesses ranging from 200-5,700. 

 

In Claremont Gardens it was like squeezing through a bottle neck. The crowds where immense and something I was definitely not used to. Bare footed children ran wildly through the gardens dodging  drunken dancers and fried food stools. The Gardens where laden with sizzling food trucks including a popular crowd pleaser the Grumpy dumpling. However, it wouldn’t be a local festival if there wasn’t a German Frankfurter stand. I was aware over lockdown of the staggering increase in dogs, with the BBC stating that Households bought “3.2 million”new canine friends,  or more typically referred to as “lockdown pups”. However, I did not know that they would all be in Surbiton! With the amount of dogs that filled the streets on Saturday I am left wondering  that as a town we could make up at least 30% of those dogs in that statistic. Ironically, the event was sponsored by one of our favourite local coffee shop/casual dining restaurants “Wags and Tales”. With its very own Dog menu and infamous pup-cake, made of peanut butter and tuna! 

 

With the Festival starting at 10am live music, stalls, rides and attractions had been running all day. At 12pm a local Ballet School named Bellarinas  run by Ellen Maybe a ballet teacher performed a classical performance with the young girls that attend her ballet school. After the performance I spoke to Ellen Maybe she said “the girls loved performing at the Surbiton Festival. It’s chance for them to…. display some of the dances they learn in class.” It was the Bellarinas 7th year performing at Surbiton Festival. Ellen stated “it’s a wonderful feeling for both the girls and myself when we hear the clapping and the cheering at the end”. Although the Bellarinas take part in a few local fairs and events each year she said “this has been our first open event since lockdown 2020, so it’s even more special to be back again this year”,  “it’s good for the girls and the business”. This relief and happiness to be back was mirrored for every stool and stand around. 

 

  These gatherings are something we would have taken for granted two years ago. We would have found the bustle and the hustle, the traffic and panic quite a nuisance but this time it was a breath of fresh air for me. I was able to see my home town busy and erratic swarming in the way that I remember it. I encourage you to attend as many local festivals and events that are on after such a dormant period, we can support so many small businesses and enjoy ourselves in a different way to hibernating with Netflix.  The children’s laughter, the market’s shouting and the dogs yapping filled my ears and I wasn’t complaining.