Market forces: West Norwood Feast

Sometimes an awayday can show you what you’re missing.

All the people. So many people.

First Sunday of the month, centred around St Luke’s Church (appropriately) a mass congregation of local West Norwood residents and fellow travellers get together for West Norwood Feast. April to December, for the last seven years. Almost totally generated and maintained by more than 100 volunteers. How very Bugle.

Farmers market, vintage stalls, free children’s activities, flea market, crafts, street food, spread over five patches of this end of the high street.

Throw in talks, art and fashion shows, a kaleidoscope of performers, live music … this is not just vegan cupcakes and a well-meaning attitude. It’s a bit of a day out.

And interesting that nothing quite like this has taken off in downtown Brixton. Attendance is in the thousands. Norwood has got itself a new sports centre, a radically revamped library (in the age of the death of libraries), a cinema, and, first Sunday, has its own country show.

Food is pretty central. Don’t think they called it Feast by accident. Coffee, cakes and confectionary from cupcakes to fudge, dirty burgers to souvlaki, dim sum to curries. And for home cooks, charcuterie, fruit and veg, cheese, pickled and preserved stuff.

The “Artisan’s marketplace” is a chirpy buzz of kids’ activities amidst handmade ceramics, jewellery, T-shirts, bags, artworks and crafty ephemera while the “Retro” hub (in the forecourt of Rosebery Auctioneers) hosts everything from vinyl to vintage clothing, collectors’ items through to quirky upscale bric a brac.

The “Family” hub jumps all over healthy living with a picnic and play area, free cake and tea stand and stalls hosting everything from maths workshops to themed family activities – gardening club? apple pressing? Sporty workouts?

In a nutshell, this still emerging high road gets a major monthly makeover, seemingly in harmony with the permanent retailers. The cafes and shops along the whole boulevard are just as busy as Feast itself.

Even the gentrification warriors would be hard pressed to deny that this is a vibrant, local, community-led takeover that doesn’t have to cost you a penny to wander round and join in. Or you could join in and volunteer.

Brixton could learn a thing or two from West Norwood Feast.

Next date for West Norwood’s big foodie, crafty, family, community day out is 7 July.

St Luke’s Church, 13 Norwood High Street, SE27 0DT | | @WN_FEAST