Community Features

Clerkenwell Festival Returns

EC1 Echo speaks to Jackie Casey, organiser of August Bank Holiday Weekend’s Clerkenwell Festival

A woman lying down on a stage, playing a guitar.
Last Year’s Festival. Photo: Jeff Pitcher

The Clerkenwell Festival is an annual knees-up that attracts hundreds of people to a day of revelry on Spa Fields. 

Jackie Casey, who started the festival and has run it for nine years, says that it fills a hole in Clerkenwell’s calendar. 

“I lived in Somers Town in Euston, then moved back to Clerkenwell in 2010 and noticed that there were no more festivals in the area,” says Jackie. “There used to be one here on Spa Fields, plus there was a festival on Exmouth Market, but they both disappeared. I thought this was a shame, so I decided to start the Clerkenwell Festival anew and now it’s almost a decade old.  

“Spa Fields lends itself very well to a festival. It’s small enough to be containable but big enough to host acts and quite a lot of people. It’s a great little spot, with space for a stage and DJ area, kids’ area, a rock n’ roll jumble sale and a dog show, which is a piece of fun. It has a very interesting history as the site of the Spa Fields riots in 1816. So it’s the perfect place for a festival.

“This year we have Chris Difford of Squeeze playing – he already played our Somers Town sister festival – and we’re getting some contemporary bands and an instrumental Bowie tribute band as well. Last year we had an all-female Slade tribute band called Slady. “We get some Council finding and otherwise make the rest ourselves – the bar helps. Everything has gone up this year. But we want to keep it going and expand it and make it as inclusive, multicultural and inter-generational as possible, with the kind of community spaces where people can come together, with stuff for kids including inflatables. There’s going to be a walk in the area starting at the Festival this year as well, by Islington History and Archaeological Society – and The Peel is potentially going to get more involved. 

“The something-for-everyone factor is important as Clerkenwell is an economically diverse area with people living in big townhouses and estates. It’s important to have that mix as some of my neighbours in Michael Cliffe House feel excluded from Exmouth Market as the bars and restaurants are financially prohibitive, while the festival is a great melting pot where all are invited. So come down. We want to grow the Clerkenwell Festival – not to lose it.”

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