Festival review: Bonkersfest! 06

Bonkersfest! 06
Camberwell Green, Camberwell, South London
3 June 2006


It’s not every festival that opens with the local mayor firing a banana from a cannon, but then this wasn’t your usual summer event, writes Mark Drinkwater.

Bonkersfest was billed as “a one-day music and arts festival celebrating madness, creativity and eccentricity”, with the aim of dispelling myths and de-stigmatising mental health issues.

The idea was the brainchild of Creative Routes, a south London arts charity run by people with mental health issues.

Unlike many mental health events that take place in ghettoised day centres, this festival took place on a public space in inner city London. Situated on a green, equidistant from Camberwell Art College and the Maudsley psychiatric hospital, this space proved a fitting setting for a festival celebrating madness and the arts.

The green is a favourite summertime haunt of street drinkers, so it was nice to see the middle classes enjoying their Rioja and sitting next to the resident park drinkers with their Tennants Super. With such a harmonious atmosphere there seemed to be little chance of anyone getting an Asbo.

I’d seen the flyers locally and had been intrigued by their irreverent approach and use of politically incorrect terminology – “nuts” and “bananas” among them. If I’m honest I expected to see a poorly organised event. How wrong I was.

I loved the whole festival, which included jazz, rock, samba, punk and world music in a big top. My personal favourites were the rock band A Suitable Case for Treatment and the Creative Routes band. With local statutory and voluntary services providing information on mental health from stalls outside I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had their preconceptions challenged.

This was an innovative way of drawing attention to mental health issues using the arts in a way that was fun. I’m still not overly keen on the name of the festival, but I’d certainly look forward to Bonkersfest! 07.

Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark, south London

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