Community events like Roman Road Festival are a great opportunity to bring village life to urban living, showcase local businesses and traders, promote community cohesion and support local shopping. Events increase a sense of community and civic pride and also bring new visitors to the road.
Unlike many festivals, enormous effort is put into making sure our events are ‘made from 90% local ingredients’. Rather than use national agencies to source entertainment, food stalls, crew and management services, we turn to the local community wherever possible:
- Local design, print and distribution services to print and send flyers and posters
- Local grocery stores, hardware shops and photocopying services to purchase festival materials and supplies
- Local designer-makers, artists and new businesses for the Sunday market, including many first-time stall holders
- Local artists, singers, dancers, school Promoting localism. choirs and drama groups to stage productions
- Local food and drink suppliers for the street food and drink stalls, and local community groups to help deliver elements of the event.
Keeping it local means local businesses are the ones that benefit and we retain the maximum benefit from every money spent on the event.
Showcasing local talent
To ensure benefit is retained locally, we also encourage local businesses to host special events, workshops and discounts during the festival week, exploiting festival publicty and increased footfall. This year 14 local businesses hosted festival events. All ‘fringe events’ are listed in a dedicated section of the printed festival programme as well as online (see list of Festival Fringe Events 2015). Over 30,000 printed festival programmes are distributed in the shops along Roman Road; in community hubs in Bow; to every child in six local primary schools, and hand-to-hand outside local tube stations.
Trialling public realm
Each time we produce Roman Road Festival we try out different concepts and ideas to test their viability and demonstrate the possibilities of Roman Road. In summer 2014 we trialled a cross-shaped festival space near Parnell Road. In winter 2014 we trialled back-to-back stalls in Roman Road market. In summer 2015 we trialled two different areas of public realm on two different festival days: Gladstone Place and Roman Road car park. The results of our events created the basis of a exhaustive audit of Roman Road’s event spaces. These were sent to both the local authority and Circle Housing, the largest housing association in Bow and owner of the newly formed ‘square’ extending from Gladstone Place.
Promoting community cohesion
To be as inclusive and accessible as possible the event is free. There is no ticket entry and the entertainment costs such as the face painters, henna tattooist, craft workshops, guided history tours are free, funded by the festival so that it costs residents nothing. Additionally, this year the festival teamed up with Summer Night Lights to give away tokens for free food, which went down a treat of course. Our Teeny Tiny Theatre is the backdrop for preformances by local choirs and schools, ensuring a good turnout from friends and families of the performers – an inclusive cross-section from all ages and ethnic groups.