As the Urban Village Fête – a contemporary twist on the traditional village fair that celebrates the best in design, music, art and modern craftsmanship – returns to the Greenwich Peninsula for its second year, The Resident meets the design powerhouse behind the event, Wayne Hemingway of House of Hemingway
Words: Trish Lesslie
On a sunny Sunday afternoon last May, the first Urban Village Fête brought more than 10,000 revellers to the Greenwich Peninsula. It’s set to return on 15 May, with many of the attractions that made last year’s event a resounding success – and plenty more to boot.
Conceived by Hemingway Design, founded by husband-and-wife team Wayne and Geraldine Hemingway, the innovative twist on the traditional summer fête will again celebrate the best in design, music, art and craftsmanship.
‘It’s going to be bigger and better,’ says Hemingway. ‘There’s just more of everything that people enjoyed last year.’ Those things include headline DJ Giles Peterson, ‘because he’s the best DJ you could find for a lovely Sunday afternoon’, more creative workshops and a bumped-up beverage offering. BBC London’s Robert Elms will again take to the stage to interview fête-goers, and there will once more be the chance to become a DJ for the day thanks to The Charity Shop DJ’s Garden Party.
‘To see families getting up and learning how to DJ – and hundreds of people dancing to someone who’s DJing for the first time in their lives – was really special,’ says Wayne, picking out one of his many highlights from last year’s extravaganza.
This year’s free event will see the addition of roaming walkabout acts, including a brass band and life-sized slinkies. There will be a range of curated designer marketplaces, an en-masse drumming workshop, dance classes and even a radio controlled ‘pigeon’ race.
The standard of the architecture at Greenwich Peninsula is pretty strong, so a design-led event seemed right
The fête will again take place in the flourishing Peninsula Garden designed by Alys Fowler and Thomas Hoblyn in collaboration with Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio. ‘They are using good designers all across the site,’ observes Wayne, who was invited to ‘christen’ the new park by the Greenwich Peninsula cultural events team last year. ‘The standard of the architecture of the buildings is pretty strong, so a design-led event seemed right.’
When invited to come up with a concept for the inaugural event, Wayne was inspired by the Alternative Village Fête which took place at the Victoria & Albert Museum. ‘It was in the courtyard of the V&A so it was only a very small, but it looked at the traditional fête in a modern way,’ Wayne recalls. ‘I took my kids – they’re grown up now so it must have been about 20 years ago – and I still remember how much fun we had.
So when I was approached about “christening” the park, I thought: “Here’s a chance to do something on a much bigger scale, take the village fête principle and a family event but make it urban and make it London and make it about design”.’
The concept was presciently fitting. Greenwich Peninsula is fast emerging as new a London cultural hotspot with recent and forthcoming design and lifestyle collaborations with luminaries from across the worlds of art, design and architecture – Tom Dixon, Conran Design, Lazarides Print Editions, Shunt and Conrad Shawcross among them. The NOW Gallery, opened 18 months ago, sits within a hub designed by Marks Barfield Architects, formed of two curved glass pavilions linked by a patinated, brass-edged canopy.
It’s great when you see parts of London help the city expand and provide places for people to live, but Greenwich Peninsula is doing more than that. It’s not just packing in houses. It’s creating good landscapes and interesting places to get outside
‘It’s great when you see parts of London help the city expand and provide places for people to live, but Greenwich Peninsula is doing more than that. It’s not just packing in houses. It’s creating good landscapes and interesting places to get outside,’ says Lancashire-born Wayne, who has a degree in Geography and Town Planning from University College London and is a Professor in The Built Environment Department of Northumbria University.
‘It’s early days yet as only a fraction has been built. We’re seeing nothing close to the finished article, but the fact that they’re employing a creative team to do creative things helps with “place making”. It looks like that’s going to continue, so as more people move in, they’re not just moving into a sterile environment. They’re moving into something where interesting things are happening. Lots of people just associate the Greenwich Peninsula with the O2, but it’s going to be a great place to live.’
Known for his love of all things vintage, it’s no surprise that the founder of fashion label Red Or Dead has long been a huge fan of Greenwich and its famous market. ‘It’s a great bit of London,’ he says of the area. ‘You can’t fail to be impressed by the grandness of the naval buildings and the Maritime Museum, but it’s also got a village-y feel. I’ve run the London Marathon a few times and one of the best bits is running around Greenwich because of the architecture and history.’
The Urban Village Fête, on the other hand, looks set to be a part of the area’s future. ‘It felt like Britain’s creative community having a party last year,’ says Wayne. ‘For a first event, the numbers were massive.’
The food selection this year is wonderful. You could just go along for the street food. We’re introducing a locally sourced food market as well
The food selection this year is wonderful,’ he says. ‘You could just go along for the street food. We’re introducing a locally sourced food market as well, so you can go and eat good food but also take good food home.’ There will be more bars this year, too, serving, among other things, an even wider selection of craft beers. ‘The queues were massive last time,’ admits Wayne, ‘so that’s something else we’re dealing with.’
The inaugural event took place on a gloriously sunny day, but Wayne isn’t too phased by the prospect of the elements being less favourable this year. ‘I don’t want it to rain all day, but there are plenty of things to do if the weather isn’t brilliant,’ he says. ‘All the stalls have covers and the food market is under cover by the NOW Gallery, so there’s plenty of shelter.’
A great day out not even the London weather can spoil. Now that’s worth drinking (a craft beer) to.
The Urban Village Fête takes place on 15 May from 12-7pm. See urbanvillagefete.co.uk