As you may have noticed from the flyers and banners that keep popping up around Brockley, this year’s Brockley Max Festival is nearly upon us.
For the uninitiated, the Festival is a week long celebration of Brockley’s creative life, consisting of a programme of music, theatre and arts events that will be staged across all of Brockley’s main public spaces and venues, including Hilly Fields, Moonbow Jakes, The Brockley Jack, Toads Mouth Too, Café Neu, and more.
There is a full calendar of events on the Brockley Max website but this year kicks off with an open-air concert, between 4pm and 10pm on Friday night, featuring a range of Brockley musicians playing in front of the mural, by Brockley Station. Elsewhere on Friday, there will be performance art and an art exhibition at Café Orange, near Telegraph Hill.
In the six years since it was first established, the Max has become an institution and provides a focus for the artistic spirit which helps to make Brockley unique.
We recently met up with Moira Tait, founder and organiser of Brockley Max, at Moonbow Jakes, the spiritual home of Brockley Max and a key supporter of this years’ festival.
Before the interview really got going, a whole host of people turned up for a meeting to put the finishing touches to the programme. It was an eclectic and inspiring bunch: firework and outdoor event organisers, artists and musicians and Moira herself is an ex-TV producer who can “turn my hand to anything.” The Festival runs on their passion.
While we talked, a guy at the next table (who modestly declined to be named but whose anonymity was undermined by the fact that Brockley probably has relatively few natives of Detroit living in its midst), was enjoying a coffee, caught a few of our questions and was moved to interject:
“I’d like to say that what I love about the Brockley Max is what I love about the area – it feels like a community, coming together. It’s like a village.”
This community spirit was something referred to time and again by the team of organisers. There was an overwhelming desire that the Brockley Max should be inclusive and give an opportunity for local talent to shine.
Moira, who has lived in Brockley for twenty years, explained:
“The festival has grown enormously over the years and we now have a database of more than 400 people on our mailing list for planning the festival. That means we’re in a situation where people come to us, asking to get involved – last year we even had two musicians from New York who came to play at the Festival. However, while it’s a really fortunate position to be in, the focus is always on promoting local artists.”
In fact, Moira explained that this was the initial inspiration behind Brockley Max:
“One of the things that makes Brockley special – one of the things that many people enjoy about this area – is that is home to such a large artistic community. But before Brockley Max, there was no opportunity for local people to enjoy and celebrate their work in Brockley.
“I went to a meeting of the Brockley Cross Action Group some years back. Everyone was saying that they’d love the chance to celebrate Brockley creativity – so the Max was born.”
So what events is Moira looking forward to most this year?
“Last year, opening night was the biggest night. This year, I expect closing night to be a real highlight. I will start off with events for children during the day, including arts, crafts and songs and then morph in to an event for grown-ups, ending with some beautiful pyrotechnics.
“But my personal favourite will be a show called “Looking Behind” at the Brockley Jack Theatre on June 8th. It’s a celebration of a woman called Sara Baartman, the ‘Hottentot Venus’ who played an important role in the abolition of slavery. There will be spoken word, song and dance. It should be great!
“Last year, the Festival attracted more than 2,500 people, many from outside Brockley. This year, we’ve been supported by a fantastic PR woman, who’s helped us to get wider coverage in advance of this year’s festival. I’m expecting it to be the biggest Max ever."
The first Max consisted of 12 events, centred around Moonbows. Now, it has spilled out in to the streets and parks and is supported by Lewisham Council, in recognition of its status as a jewel in the Borough’s cultural landscape.
So how big does Moira think it can get?
“I believe it will continue to grow. There are more venues in Brockley now than when we started and more people involved, producing a more diverse range of events. In five years’ time, I hope that someone else will be running it! I love doing it of course, but it needs to take on a life of its own. Long-term, it will need fresh ideas and energy.”
For now though, the team behind Brockley Max have ideas and energy by the bucket load.
For more details, visit http://www.brockleymax.co.uk/