The teacup ride by Birmingham photographer Barry Robinson

Kings heath 2016

The biggest yet…

Now in it’s third year, the Kings Heath street festival is rapidly becoming a firm favourite of the Birmingham summer’s end, and this year it was true to say that it was bigger and brighter than ever, with only a few small niggles. Some of the changes were definitely an improvement over the years before, and most of what didn’t work could easily have been avoided with slightly more forward thinking. I should add right now that these are really very small gripes about what was a fantastic day out enjoyed by all.

The main music stage, most of the food and beer stalls were all there on York road, but that led to a crowd that was simply too big to fit into such a small space. With the stage taking up pretty much the whole road a bottleneck quickly formed at either side. People naturally fell into a constantly moving in and out flows, but unfortunately the space past the stage was also taken up with smaller stalls selling novelties. This caused a bottleneck that slowed things down to a crawl that was particularly uncomfortable for wheelchair users, the elderly, and families with pushchairs. I could help feeling that slightly better planning could have averted this, and a few other things, with minimal effort.

Silver Street in comparison was the mirror opposite, with the space hardly being used at all. This clearly hadn’t been the plan as a large ride was waiting in the middle of the afternoon for enough people to board to make it worth the expense of getting it going. On the other hand the peace and quiet make it a great place to enjoy a drink with friends without the noise and bustle of the main stage. I couldn’t help feeling however that an opportunity was missed to create a chill out zone.  With the right combination of music and outlets it could have been taking to a whole new level, and made the festival that much better. Perhaps that was the intention all along, but the siting of stalls with respect to their respective shops prevented that from actually happening. Perhaps next year streets could be themed slightly better, with more emphasis on the vibe than the existing retail outlets to create a more manageable and streamlined event.

The addition of portaloos was an obvious improvement, though uniformed security with radios randomly challenging people taking photographs felt somewhat oppressive, and unwarranted. A festival on a sunny day was bound to attract photographers, particularly given that Kings Heath are currently hosting a photographic competition, something that was advertised the length and breadth of every road.

On the more positive side the area around the church was very well used, and had a very relaxed and chilled out vibe with children playing, and parents of all ages enjoying the atmosphere and relative calm. It was a clearly family focused area, with rides for younger children, and a welcome addition to a largely wonderful event.

On the whole the festival managed to retain its inclusivity with a high standard all round, and I personally can’t wait to see what they pull out of the hat for what’s bound to be an even bigger and bright festival next year in 2017…

Thanks for all the hard work, and great entertainment. A wonderful day out 🙂

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