Bloomsbury Festival

2023: GROW

FESTIVAL REVIEW

Rey Camoy - tarinainanika theatre company. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Rey Camoy - tarinainanika theatre company. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Festival Highlights

Taking inspiration from the 2023 theme of GROW, and The New Bloomsbury Set, over 100 creative partners and companies produced an exciting and diverse range of events and experiences. Some of the highlights include:

Exhibitions

Deaf Mosaic - Stephen Iliffe
A photographic portraits exhibition of individuals who are part of the UK’s deaf community.

New Bloomsbury Set Silks - Bloomsbury Festival & Kinetika at Brunswick Square Gardens and Holborn Library.
6 Bloomsbury community designed and painted silk banners. An ongoing exhibition of the banners at Holborn Library.

Theatre

Rey Camoy - tarinainanika theatre company
First time performers at the Festival, this Japanese physical theatre company brought the life story of painter Rey Camoy to the Bloomsbury and delighted audiences.

The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath - Vulcanello Productions and SHIVERS - an adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft classic
In the Crypt Gallery audiences were taken on a shadow-puppet and storytelling adventure.

Music

Grand Union Orchestra Presents: From Bengal to Bloomsbury - Grand Union Orchestra.
Global musicians and cultures met at this exploration of Bengali singers and instrumentalists.

Piano Works of Serbian Contemporary Composers - Ana Bursac
This breath-taking lunchtime concert explored a selection of pieces by Serbian 19th and 20th century composers.

Performance

Histoire Du Tango: Show & Milonga - Emma Lucia Reyes
A show about the history of tango, followed by a Milonga open dance session.

If Walls Could Sing! A History of 49 Great Ormond Street -

The Good Companions.
A musical social history of this central Bloomsbury address .

Talks

Inua Ellams and Fuel Present: An Evening with an Immigrant - University of London, School of Advanced Studies
Poems, stories and anecdotes. Inua Ellams shares his fantastic immigrant story for a place to call home.

Who Were the Bloomsbury Group? - An online panel discussion with Nino Strachey, Darren Clarke, and Thomas Kennedy
A great introduction to the 1920s Bloomsbury Group and their associated ideologies and lifestyles.

Walks

Hidden Bloomsbury - Camden Tour Guides Association and the New Bloomsbury Set Trainees
Uncovering the hidden histories, stories, and locations of Bloomsbury.

Free Opening Night Taster Walks - Camden Tour Guides Association
Offered to the public on Friday 13 October, these taster walks took audiences around the streets of Bloomsbury.

Workshops

Cold Islanders Presents: Caribbean Folklore - Cold Islanders
A celebration of Caribbean storytelling, folklore, fairy tales, and culture.

Bellydancing Workshop - Lucy Andrina
Sharing her knowledge of Egyptian belly dancing this 2 hour workshop took people through the fundamental movements.

Photo by Stuart Keegan

Photo by Stuart Keegan

From Bengal to Bloomsbury - Grand Union Orchestra. Photo by Stuart Keegan

From Bengal to Bloomsbury - Grand Union Orchestra. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Inua Ellams: An Evening with an Immigrant - Inua Ellams, FUEL, and School of Advanced Studies. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Inua Ellams: An Evening with an Immigrant - Inua Ellams, FUEL, and School of Advanced Studies. Photo by Stuart Keegan

‘A great festival, well-organised, with high quality events, and very inclusive.’ - Audience, Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street

‘Fantastic festival, visionary and innovative, with a high level of community involvement.’ - Store Street Partner, Dragon Cafe Singers

‘A well thought out and meaningful show performed and created by two excellent tango artists’ - Audience Member, Histoire du Tango: Show & Milonga

‘Awesomely weird and evocative.’ - Audience Member, The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath (Vulcanello Productions and SHIVERS)

‘Wonderful music in a wonderful Bloomsbury environment.’ - Audience Member, A Music Party at Montagu House (Bloomsbury Baroque)

‘Brilliant programme. Never thought I could laugh about classical music so much, and enjoy exquisite repertoire at the same time!’ - Audience Member, Stand Up Comedy Meets Classical Music (Aïda Lahlou)

‘Really fantastic show: innovative, moving and splendidly performed.’ - Audience Member, Phoenix

‘Community and colourful’ - Audience, Store Street Food & Flower Market

‘Quality of performance and interaction with artists’ - Audience Member, Bloom

‘A great festival, well-organised, with high quality events, and very inclusive.’ - Audience, Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street

‘I was absolutely amazed by this show. I was totally mesmerised and fascinated by the storytelling and the dancing was fantastic.’ - Audience Member, How to Run Away (Lucy Andrina)

‘Wonderful performance in a unique location’ - Audience Member, If Walls Could Sing! (The Good Companions)

‘As always, being part of the Bloomsbury Festival is an outstanding experience.’ - Partners, Hidden Keileon CIC

‘Great vibe!’ - Audience, Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street

‘Magical performance.’ - Auidence Member, Rachmaninoff at a Mirror (Flavio Villani)

Bamboo Tower at Store Street. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Bamboo Tower at Store Street. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Festival Overview

Bloomsbury Festival 2023 brought 130 events to the buildings, squares, and streets of Bloomsbury, with an estimated total festival audience of 37,000.

For ticketed events 37% of audiences* had been to Bloomsbury Festival before this year.

32% of audiences* came to explore the Bloomsbury area and the overall festival programme.

70% of audiences* came to see a specific event.

90% of audiences* have said that they would be interested in coming back to Bloomsbury and next year’s festival.

*Online Ticketed Audience Feedback Survey as of November 2023

Deaf Mosaic by Stephen Iliffe. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Deaf Mosaic by Stephen Iliffe. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Theme Overview

From Friday 13 - Sunday 22 October Bloomsbury Festival 2023 welcomed an extensive programme of theatre, music, indoor galleries, outdoor exhibitions, talks, walks, performances, science and community outreach activities, as well as workshops to the streets and buildings of Bloomsbury - all inspired by the theme of GROW.

Entwine: The Avocado Sculptures - Ghost and John. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Entwine: The Avocado Sculptures - Ghost and John. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Caribbean Folklore and Storytelling - Cold Islanders. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Caribbean Folklore and Storytelling - Cold Islanders. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Alongside the main Festival programme were events connected with the The New Bloomsbury Set, a year long project funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and dedicated to reassessing Bloomsbury and its connections to its communities, locations, and history.

This programme included exhibitions, guided tours and walks, community activities and a series of literature events including a celebration of Caribbean folklore, sessions related to the festival's Writers of Colour Digital Book Club, bookshop tours of Bloomsbury and an indie zine creation workshop.

Live and digital events of the Writers of Colour programme were supported by Bishop & Sewell

Street Food & Flower Market - Store Street Festival Opening Day

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Jessica's Flowers exhibition and Trans-Siberian Marching Band. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Jessica's Flowers exhibition and Trans-Siberian Marching Band. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Fran and Jess. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Fran and Jess. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Bloomsbury Flowers Stall and the Bamboo Tower. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Bloomsbury Flowers Stall and the Bamboo Tower. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Radio Neighbourhood. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Radio Neighbourhood. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - The Iberian Folk Dancers. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - The Iberian Folk Dancers. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Dragon Cafe Singers. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Dragon Cafe Singers. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - If the universe is in Movement and Not at Rest. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - If the universe is in Movement and Not at Rest. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - The Trans-Siberian Marching Band. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - The Trans-Siberian Marching Band. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Treefellas. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Treefellas. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - GOSH. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - GOSH. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Store Street - Open Day at St Giles in the Fields Rectory Garden. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Store Street - Open Day at St Giles in the Fields Rectory Garden. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Tabla, Guitar and Bass Trio. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Tabla, Guitar and Bass Trio. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Jessica's Flowers. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Jessica's Flowers. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Community banner walk. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Community banner walk. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Banners made with community as part of New Bloomsbury Set. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Banners made with community as part of New Bloomsbury Set. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Banner designs by Kinetika with local communities. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Banner designs by Kinetika with local communities. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

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Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Jessica's Flowers exhibition and Trans-Siberian Marching Band. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Jessica's Flowers exhibition and Trans-Siberian Marching Band. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Fran and Jess. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Fran and Jess. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Bloomsbury Flowers Stall and the Bamboo Tower. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Bloomsbury Flowers Stall and the Bamboo Tower. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Radio Neighbourhood. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Radio Neighbourhood. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - The Iberian Folk Dancers. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - The Iberian Folk Dancers. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Dragon Cafe Singers. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Dragon Cafe Singers. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - If the universe is in Movement and Not at Rest. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - If the universe is in Movement and Not at Rest. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - The Trans-Siberian Marching Band. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - The Trans-Siberian Marching Band. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Treefellas. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Treefellas. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - GOSH. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - GOSH. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Store Street - Open Day at St Giles in the Fields Rectory Garden. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Store Street - Open Day at St Giles in the Fields Rectory Garden. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Tabla, Guitar and Bass Trio. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Street Food & Flower Market on Store Street - Tabla, Guitar and Bass Trio. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Jessica's Flowers. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Jessica's Flowers. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Community banner walk. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Community banner walk. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Banners made with community as part of New Bloomsbury Set. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Banners made with community as part of New Bloomsbury Set. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Banner designs by Kinetika with local communities. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Banner designs by Kinetika with local communities. Photo by Stuart Keegan.

Bloomsbury Radio

Daily radio coverage on Bloomsbury Radio took place from 3pm to 9pm through the days of the festival with live and pre-recorded interviews. With content still to share, including behind the scenes conversations, live exclusive performances and award winning radio plays, Bloomsbury Radio goes live at 9pm everyday after the festival with a festival highlights segment.

Audiences can re-listen to their favourite interviews and hear more about the variety of events and creators through Bloomsbury Festival’s digital archive - found on the Festival’s Spotify and Podcast account. 

‘The interviews with Bloomsbury Radio were a brilliant part of the festival.’ - Partner at 26 Writers

‘We are able to stay connected and feel like part of the community.’ - Partners at Hidden Keileon CIC

NEW WAVE 2023 Programme

A platform for emerging creatives

2023 saw the return of the Bloomsbury Festival NEW WAVE programme, dedicated to offering a platform to emerging artists, playwrights, and musicians.

Language is a Skin by Vyte Garriga. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Language is a Skin by Vyte Garriga. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Theatre and Radio Drama

Following an Open Call for submissions, scripts and productions were selected in 2022 by a professional theatre panel for performance in 2023. Six emerging playwrights presented productions and rehearsed readings in the 2023 festival. These included:

3 theatre productions by Lucy Andrina, Vyte Garriga, and Rowenna Mortimer.

2 rehearsed readings by Lizzie Milton and Parbati Chaudhury.

1 radio play by Theo Hristov (produced and broadcasted by Bloomsbury Radio).

‘I laughed, shed tears and loved the passion in Lucy's story telling.’ - Audience Member, How to Run Away by Lucy Bailey

‘Excellent artistic production and it related personally to my experience and so shared the difficult content within the audience and the beautiful actress well casted as the protagonist.’ - Audience Member, The Morphea by Rowenna Mortimer

We look forward to working with further emerging playwrights in in 2024 . The selection for 2024 NEW WAVE theatre and radio productions are:

Radio Drama 2024 - Max Raeburn

Macready Theatre Script 2024 - Georgina Dettmer

Theatre 2024 - Jim Osman, Patrick Bayele, and Princess Bestman

How To Run Away by Lucy Andrina. Photo by Will Gillham

How To Run Away by Lucy Andrina. Photo by Will Gillham

Fine Art Competition

Ella Jackson and Tara Ryan were joint winners of the 2023 Fine Art Competition with an exhibition at Holborn House supported by HCA.

Alongside the winners' exhibition we welcomed our shortlisted artists to display their work in 2 locations within Bloomsbury, supported by The Bedford Estates and Greater London Properties.

The Big Bang by Tara Ryan

The Big Bang by Tara Ryan

A Love that Never Tires. Part 3: Friendship by Ella Jackson

A Love that Never Tires. Part 3: Friendship by Ella Jackson

Lunchtime Concerts

For the first time we invited a music panel to curated our lunchtime concert series from an Open Call to musicians to respond to present a programme relating to the theme Grow. Audiences enjoyed music from Serbian composers, a violin and guitar duo, a sonic exploration by solo clarinet, and more.

‘Performances were great and showcased individual talent.’ - Audience Member

'A serendipitous dip into old London and experienced something new on the musical front.' - Audience Member

Karen Wong (flute) performed with Lance Mok on the piano. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Karen Wong (flute) performed with Lance Mok on the piano. Photo by Stuart Keegan

New Bloomsbury Set Trainees visit Charleston House in Lewes

New Bloomsbury Silks Walk. Photo by Stuart Keegan

New Bloomsbury Set Trainees visit Charleston House in Lewes

New Bloomsbury Silks Walk. Photo by Stuart Keegan

- Heritage Project -

The New Bloomsbury Set

As part of the The New Bloomsbury Set the Festival was proud to recruit 10 young adults from the local area to participate in a 9 month part-time traineeship and to offer a year long programme of events in the community.

Working with partners, venues and creatives throughout Camden and Holborn the 10 trainees learnt about the rich history of Bloomsbury from the 1920s to the current communities, as well as broadened their skills and experience with digital, publishing, creative and archival workshops and the opportunity to collaborate on exhibitions.

Working in partnership with Kinetika and collaborative workshops with Holborn Community Association and Kings Cross Brunswick Neighbourhood Association six silk banner flags were created to tell the stories of the heritage and lives of local communities. The banners are exhibited at Holborn Library on Theobald's Road.

The New Bloomsbury Set Newspaper was produced by the trainees and features articles about the project activities, book reviews, Bloomsbury recommendations and a crossword all created and designed by the trainees.

‘I feel more connected to the area after taking part in this project.’ - New Bloomsbury Set Trainee

‘Being part of the actual festival and engaging with so many different events allowed me to have the most fun I've ever had this year.’ - New Bloomsbury Set Trainee

‘It's built a lot of confidence within me to work with people.’ - New Bloomsbury Set Trainee

2023 Partnerships

The Festival presents work from over 100 creative partners who offer exhibitions, performances, talks, walks, and other events.

The work of the creative partners is the heart of the festival and we welcome new and returning partners each year.

Histoire du Tango: Show & Milonga - Emma Lucia Reyes. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Histoire du Tango: Show & Milonga - Emma Lucia Reyes. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Venue Partners

At the core of the Festival programme are our Venue Partners, who provide support to the festival and open their doors to our audiences and creatives across 10 days in October. With these venue partners the festival brought 130 events to Bloomsbury in 2023.

‘Community collaboration is important to us and it was great to be able to do that and help young artists with a venue.’ - The London Welsh Centre Venue Partner

‘I am always interested in access to interesting buildings that aren't usually open to the public.’ - Audience Member, If Walls Could Sing! A History of 49 Great Ormond Street

Venue Partners of 2023:

Birkbeck Cinema, British Library, City Lit, Conway Hall, Corstorphine & Wright, Friends House, Goodenough College, Greater London Properties, Holborn House (Holborn Community Association), Holborn Library, Holy Cross Church, London Welsh Centre, Pushkin House, RADA, Royal National Hotel, Senate House (University of London), SOAS (Brunei Gallery), St George’s Bloomsbury, St Pancras Church, Swedenborg House, The Art Workers’ Guild, The Building Centre, The Crypt Gallery, The Music Room, Waterstones

'I enjoyed walking around the area to discover venues I did not know existed, despite living here for 20 years.' - Audience Member

New Venue Partnerships

The Festival has been proud to welcome and work with new partners in 2023 both in events, venue spaces and The New Bloomsbury Set.

Discovery Hub at Holborn Library. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Discovery Hub at Holborn Library. Photo by Stuart Keegan

Holborn Library and Discovery Hub

This partnership brought the 2023 Discovery Hub to Holborn Library. Featuring stalls from academics and institutions across Bloomsbury, as well as crafting activities from origami to flower pressing. This year’s Discovery Hub truly highlighted the growth of technology and knowledge that exists, from viewing a drone’s flight path through VR to seeing how medicines can be grown with a 3D printer and more. 

Hosting launches, 3 exhibitions, the Discovery Hub, family events, and the New Bloomsbury Set Silk Banners Holborn Library became a central location for Bloomsbury Festival activity. 

The Mayor of Camden visited the Discovery Hub along with other key sponsors and partners with the Festival, exploring the various projects and activities on offer. Speaking to stall representatives from GOSH, UCL, University of Southampton, ARC North Thames, and others.

‘Great collaboration between stall runners, lovely school groups and really engaged kids.’ - Discovery Hub Exhibitor (ARC North Thames)

‘This was my first time and I look forward to the next festival’ - Discovery Hub Visitor

I Dream in Colour by Jasmin Thien - Extant. Photo by Stuart Keegan

I Dream in Colour by Jasmin Thien - Extant. Photo by Stuart Keegan

City Lit

At the time of the festival, City Lit became a hub of events across both weekends. Music and recitals taking place in Room 101, theatre productions within the John Lyons Theatre, and a variety of talks and readings finding an audience in the Cultureplex. The Festival and UCL also contributed to the City Lit’s own Mental Wealth Festival over the first weekend.

‘Very different from anything which I had experienced before. Visually stunning; superbly coordinated.’ - Audience Member, Rey Camoy (tarinainanika theatre company)

‘Bold and unapologetic, a journey that was a wonder to follow and be taken on.’ - Audience Member, I Dream in Colour by Jasmin Thien (Extant)

The Mayor of Camden explores the stalls of the Discovery Hub. Photo by Stuart Keegan

The Mayor of Camden explores the stalls of the Discovery Hub. Photo by Stuart Keegan