What is the festival?

Since the Illuminate Rotherhithe festivities began in 2016 as a local lead up to the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower in 1620, this hand-made project has grown hugely, and engaged a wide variety of local people and partners.

Rotherhithe and Bermondsey are home to many people with amazing natural talents from diverse communities, and both areas are extraordinarily rich in history: the 2017 events demonstrated this, with people from all walks of life and ages illuminating our histories by participating in shows, processions, workshops, studies, screenings and debates.

All events are free so that Illuminate can be an inclusive festival. We need to grow our social cohesion by encouraging participation by all, and sharing our joint and personal histories, our skills, and our preoccupations – be they about local history, change, our futures, our well-being.

One way to encourage our communities to mix is through children. In 2017 and 2018 Ceilidh Tree band taught traditional folk dances to Year 4s and 5’s in seven primary schools on the peninsula. The children learnt the same dances. This made it possible for them to dance together with 500 children from local schools at a Schools’ Grand Ceilidh –  for 2017 in the big hall at Bacon’s college, and for 2018 at the Decathlon meanwhile space in Canada Water. 

IR 2019 will explore Trade, and IR 2020 will see a deeper exploration of the Native American story.

Below, free lantern-making workshops at local venues in 2018.

Header image: Duncan Grant, Rotherhithe 1933© Museum of London

Photographs: Annabel Stockman