Once again West Hampstead pulled off its successful local festival, the Jester Festival on Fortune Green. It started the same year that Britain joined Europe, so this year was the 44th. It was an eclectic mix of funfair, live music and stalls from a host of local groups.
If you wanted a glimpse of what Remain Britain looks like, then the Jester festival is in its own small way a good example. In some ways a typical British fete with balloons, cakes and jam for sale and a noisy traditional fun fair; but in other ways different. For example, the wide cross-section of locals and the most popular food choices – Greek filo pies (delicious), Indian curries and French crepes. However, not much sign of an out-of-touch West Hampstead elite; rather it was all, reassuringly, down to earth.
The local political party stalls, energised by recent activity, had a host of new faces. Local MP Tulip Siddiq visited the Festival on Saturday and promptly won in the Labour Party raffle, but any hint of it being anything other than free and fair were swiftly denied. The Lib Dems again boosted their coffers by selling sold more cakes and biscuits than one thought humanly possible. The Tories, bouyed by a long planned but well timed visit from Theresa May last week, were out in force.
The Jester remains a family-focused festival. Along with the funfair there were a whole host of other sponsored (i.e. free) activities for children; ranging from the spell-binding story telling tent, to the popular climbing wall and the entertaining circus school. Not forgetting the obligatory face painting. Additions this year were the mini-Olympics organised by Aston from Sidings Community Centre and trampolines at the fun fair, both went down a storm.
For adults, the Jester puts on a surprisingly good line up of music. Varying from the local Fortune Green choir via Jazz and Cajun, to Big Joe Lewis and his Blues band. Alas Saturday’s main band, local rockers Mr Meaner, were welcomed by a rain shower at the start of their performance and the audience melted. However, the shower didn’t last long, the sun returned, and they played with gusto. Overall the weather, which had threatened to be pretty mixed, turned out better than forecast – much to the relief of Jester organisers.
Other local groups at the Festival included the Neighbourhood Development Forum and – a safe distance away – Stop the Blocks. Lots of interest at both stalls, where the hot topic was redevelopment of 156 West End Lane.
The popular Jester Tester quizzes sold out, all 300 of them, boosting the coffers of the Friends of Fortune Green. Local community centres Sidings and WHCA were there, explaining their activities. WHAT, the local amenity group that has been at Jester pretty much since the beginning, was also present. Other groups included Hampstead School, promoting the school to potential parents and the WI, promoting its talks, workshops and social events.
All in all, West Hampstead’s social capital was given a useful boost at a confusing time nationally; and thousands of locals spent a pleasant couple of hours at a fun festival in our neighbourhood, meeting friends, supporting local groups and eating cake.