From the best-known cultural venues to the less discovered areas and outdoor spaces, this year’s Kensington and Chelsea Festival – the third since its inception – has made use of every inch of the borough to host a multitude of live art performances, large and small, showcasing exceptional established artists alongside the very best emerging talent.
With a cultural offering that spans theatre, circus, opera, dance, music, outdoor arts, family shows, participatory activities, talks, walks and public art pieces, the festival was born out of a desire to lift spirits by celebrating culture and creativity. In 2022, more than 35,000 people attended events within the festival programme, and many of these were locals.
The borough is exceptionally diverse and the festival’s curation is driven by a desire to provide an event for everyone who lives within the borough and all visitors. This means that it has been designed so that budget and spoken language are no barrier to enjoyment of what the festival has to offer.
Here are some of the highlights that you can enjoy in these closing days.
606 CLUB OUTDOOR POP UPS – all day, daily until 31st August
Enjoy free evening performances of live music along the King’s Road in a special series curated by Chelsea’s much-loved jazz venue, the 606 Club, this August. Sponsored by Cadogan and the King’s Road Partnership as part of the 2023 Kensington and Chelsea Festival, world-renowned musicians are set to bring some pizzazz to the neighbourhood with pop-up performances every Thursday.
MAKESHIFTS & REALITIES – until 2nd September 7.30pm (+ 3pm on Fridays and Sundays)
Aardvark Theatre presents a triple bill of Makeshifts and Realities by Gertrude Robins, and Honour Thy Father by H. M. Harwood. In Makeshifts – a moving and unexpectedly humorous look at the sexual double-standards and the pressures imposed on women in the early twentieth century – two unmarried sisters face uncertain futures unless they can find husbands. In Realities, we catch up with Caroline two years later as she reviews the choices she has made. And in Honour Thy Father an upper-class English family, ruined by the father’s gambling habit, have fled to Bruges in 1912 where they live in exile in straitened circumstances, anxiously awaiting a visit from their eldest daughter, woman whose career provides them with their only income.
THE TREE RINGS (Physical theatre) – 29th August 7.30pm: Trees hold stories, in more ways than one. They hold memories and myths. The rings within a tree’s trunk are archives of changes and events in our environment. What if they could tell you those stories? What if a tree could ring you? Using physicality, shadow puppetry, music and quirky humour, The Tree Rings explores a boy’s relationship with a tree over several decades, combining a childlike delight for magic and myths, stories from trees around the world, and a concern for our natural environment. Suitable for age 8+
Cost: Pay what you want
THE MARINER’S SONG (Theatre) – 30th August 7.30pm: This award-winning ‘round the campfire’ verse storytelling experience from London-based writer-performer Rajan Sharma, takes audiences aged 12+ on a lyrical voyage, navigating ancient myth, family history and life at sea. Contemplating humanity’s primal connection to oceans, rivers and seas – and our connection and responsibility to one another – Sharma’s narrative odyssey is directly inspired by his unique first-hand experience crewing on a Deep-Sea Challenge, interweaving his grandfather’s timeless wisdom and familiar characters from Greek mythology.
Cost: Pay what you want
KENSINGTON + CHELSEA ART WEEK ART TRAIL 6TH EDITION – until 31st August, all day
Throughout the festival, visitors are invited to explore Kensington + Chelsea Art Week (KCAW)’s Public Art Trail, delivered in partnership with Kensington and Chelsea Festival with assistance from Kensington and Chelsea Council. Located across nine zones, the Art Trail will take up residence at some of West London’s most beautiful and iconic sites, including Duke of York Square, Sloane Street, Royal Avenue on the King’s Road, Earl’s Court, North Kensington, Holland Park, High Street Kensington, and Knightsbridge. The final line-up for 2023 was chosen by an esteemed select committee following an Open Call, and includes Ai Weiwei, Misha Milovanovich, Baker & Borowski, Josephine Chime, Satur Chong, Lucy Oates, Malgorzata Lisiecka, Norma D Hunter and Peter Morris.