By Richard Boon
With all the talk about community regeneration from above, the first Butterfield Green Fair showed what can be done by the community itself.
‘If this carries on’, quipped one local wag after the event, ‘we’ll be calling the streets round here Butterfield Village.’
He may have had a point. The first ever Butterfield Green Fair on May 20 was a huge success for the organisers, the Shakespeare Neighbourhood Residents Association (SNRA), and a great afternoon out for some 1000 local residents of all ages. But it was nevertheless a contemporary spin on the notion of a village fete – and all the more enjoyable for that.
Apart from local entertainers (of whom, more later), there was a fancy dress dog show (two entries as Xena, Warrior Princess!) and a competition for Best French Poodle, in keeping with the event’s spirit won by Mrs Miggins, a chocolate Labrador.
The most hilarious and engaging event was the duck race – ‘in the stream in the Enchanted Garden, just past the Silver Fairy’, as it was announced – with huge crowds of all ages urging on their plastic favourites. Better than the greyhounds at Walthamstow, any day.
The day itself kicked off with klezmer band Freyleyk, encouraging a few brave souls to try their hand at Balkan dancing (even before the drinks, so thoughtfully supplied by The Shakespeare in plastic glasses, could’ve taken effect), followed by Young Hackney Jazz, featuring many music students from Stoke Newington Media Arts College.
Poet John Hegley (surely a Children’s Laureate in waiting?) poetised and satirised and otherwised, with The hKippers ending the live entertainment in characteristic style. ’It was a great audience’, said front man Paul Bradley, ’Actually one of the best we’ve had. Everyone was saying what a good vibe there was and a real sense of community.’
And that’s what made this unique: the 10-strong Association members plus some 40 or so volunteers put it all together themselves (of course, with much appreciated local business sponsorship), to celebrate their previous work rehabilitating an often ignored or forgotten piece of public space, including its new orchard (see previous issues) – and the Enchanted Garden – and well deserve the thanks of the wider community.
‘It was a great day for all’, remarked Community Police Officer Sue Wright (well, the cops did beat the estate agents in the side-splitting tug of war). ’Count us in for next year.’
And it’s the future that counts: apart from the ongoing work of the SNRA to rehabilitate and enhance the space, it’s the comfortable, contained nature of the Green which made this event special, and should prevent any future hysterical expansion beyond its natural remit. The area’s best kept secret, kept well. Let’s hope it’s kept that way.