Festival Preview: Bonkerfest!

Saturday 2 June, noon – 9pm
Camberwell Green,

For nearly 600 years, an annual fair provided “Rare Doings in Camberwell”. It featured a range of stalls, dancing and general merry-making. All such entertainment was abolished when recently arrived wealthy ­residents bought the Green in 1855 and turned it into a park.

Last year, the “rare doings” were reinvented as “mad doings” as more than 2,000 people wallowed in Bonkersfest!, a day of inspiring performance, live music, poetry, art and sound installations. It was as mad as a box of frogs, and it’s hopping back again this weekend.

Thanks to the local mental health and arts charity, Creative Routes, Bonkersfest 2007 will be bigger, better and madder, showcasing mad creativity for the whole community. Everyone is welcome.

The opening will see popular comedian Jo Brand fire a banana-laden cannon. And Jo won’t be the only brand of ex-mental health nurse on show – as John Hegley will also be there tending to your comic poetic needs. His most recent poetry collection – Dog – proves he is still in barking form.

Other off-the-trolley attractions include comedian Kim Noble, glamorous hostesses The Launderettas, and performance artiste Bobby Baker with her show, Pull Yourself Together.

To get you off your rocker, there’ll be music from former member of ska band The Specials and Fun Boy 3 Neville Staples, hip hop collective Lazy Habits and local musical talent.

There’s also a theatre tent, an insect circus, fairground rides, acrobats, the London School of Samba, and “an audio visual tour of the local loony bin (The Maudsley)”. Deeply dippy.

Despite its nutty taste, Bonkersfest! exists to encourage community spirit by celebrating the acceptance of individuals and tolerance, and to promote ­better mental health.

As one of Camberwell’s sons, the poet Robert Browning might well have written: O, to be in England, now that Bonkersfest! is there. You should be there too. You’d be mad to miss it.

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