On Saturday 11th July, DAGFEST came alive in Dagenham Village, attracting over 5000 people for a fantastic day of art, circus, craft, comedy and performance.
DAGFEST was the biggest event so far that Creative Barking and Dagenham have organised – from our Cultural Connectors initiating and steering the event, the number of volunteers on the day (57), down to the amount of balloons tied and slushies bought! Here’s our report on the day, with selected quotes from people who were there and kindly filled in our surveys.
Dagenham saw so many varied activities. Kids went wild for the manic energy and hilarious performance from the Lords of Strut.
"We loved the Irish boys"
Many children joined in the arts and craft workshops with Disney’s Art Attack presenter Lloyd Warbey.
“Omg Lloyd was here, my kids loved him!”
The local dance groups, from Versatile’s accomplished hip hop dance to the brilliant Jordan Irish Dance Academy, drew big crowds and added a real sense of a developing art practice in the borough. Along with the incredible Max Calaf on the trampoline, the Dance Zone was a constant hive of activity and performance.
Sweltering under a hot sun, the talented performers from Creature Feature aped around their Gorilla Zone, posing for selfies and interacting with anyone who came their way.
"You have transformed the Dagenham, it’s amazing."
Escaping the heat and inside the old Cross Keys pub, audiences were treated to amazing music from around the world, including Nepalese ballads from Ganga Thapa, African kora (lute) from Kadialy Kouyate and Colombian lowland harp from Diego Laverde Rojas.
The most spectacular visual feast came from Les Vernessiuers, who blasted pink and blue paper trails and confetti all over Dagenham village much to the delight of young and old. The sheer amount of colour and mayhem they produced was quite brilliant – transforming Dagenham village into a chaotic, beautiful and incredible sight.
"The confetti guys are hilarious even though couldn’t understand a single word!"
Wandering the site throughout the day were fantastic walkabout acts including the hilarious East End Dodgy Boys, Dagenham Park School students with their absurd street theatre show made with Cocoloco.
We also saw Baloonatics with their extreme balloon creations, the joyous Bollywood Brass Band and the Galloping Cuckoos singing personalised sea shanties to everyone they met.
Les Vernessiuers then led the crowds to the Circus Zone where the Lost in Translation Circus rounded off the day was with their high-flying trapeze, juggling and storytelling 45-minute super act.
It was such a great pleasure to see the planning and decisions from the Cultural Connectors coming to life and entertaining all who came. Creative Barking and Dagenham is committed to co-creating art events with and for local people in areas where sometimes there aren’t many opportunities to bring everyone together and have fun.
What DAGFEST showed was that great art can connect with everyone, particularly when the organisation and decision making is steered by the people it is designed to engage. Lots of people are already asking about when the next DAGFEST will happen, so we hope the festival has sparked an appetite for more great art in the future.
"Today we got the Dagenham spirit in everyone"
Special thanks goes to all the Cultural Connectors who made DAGFEST happen, all the volunteers who kept the site moving smoothly and answered all questions that came their way, Dagenham Parish Church and the Cross Keys Pub for so generously giving us space, advice, support and equipment, all the acts and artists involved, and the thousands of people who came on the day,
Here at Creative Barking and Dagenham, everything we do is new and so we understand it takes a leap of faith to get things going! Thank you to everyone we worked with for bringing an adventurous spirit, endless enthusiasm and a passion for transforming Dagenham on the day.