‘Happy Streets’ was an outdoor arts festival, focused on community cohesion and wellbeing, that took place for the first time in July 2019, inspired by London artist Yinka Ilori’s colourful redesign of a railway underpass on Thessaly Road, a key north-south route in Nine Elms that links the Savona, Patmore and Carey Gardens estates.
It was held in the outdoor and public spaces. The festival programme included 46 performances, participatory events and workshop opportunities, themed around happiness and well-being, including taster sessions of activities that were available locally for residents and which could help improve neighbourliness and longer-term wellbeing.
For the festival itself, community participation was key: the content of the festival was developed hand-in-hand with local artists and community groups and so brought together local choreographers, beat-boxers, church youth groups, school teachers, puppeteers, gardening groups, café owners and musicians, alongside professional artists and arts organisations from further afield.
During the festival, attendees were invited to try out anything from hula hooping and pizza-making to circus skills and virtual reality theatre screenings. The focus was more on ‘doing’ than ‘watching.’
‘Happy Streets’ was entirely free to attend, with all events wheelchair accessible and BSL interpreted. Brochures were hand-delivered in advance to every residential address in the local neighbourhoods, including existing estates and new developments. Attendance totalled 1872 during the afternoon with people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds coming together.
What the judges said:
‘This project made me realise what drab surroundings we put up with. And the potential good design has to brighten our liminal and often forgotten spaces. The council’s willingness to take the risk, the weighty talent of Ilori, and the push for this project from the community all came together at the right time. On Ilori, his work has that rarest combination; it’s exceptional but not exclusive. Happy Street made me smile.’
‘A fantastic outdoor festival, which in real partnership has really helped to improve the environment for the people of Nine Elms.’