Life of the party

Person painting a portrait onto a wall

The team behind Whitecross Street Party on what we can expect from this year’s event

Bunhill has long been associated with artists. Painter and poet William Blake, writer Daniel Defoe and sculptor Eleanor Coade are all buried in Bunhill burial ground – known as “the main burial ground for nonconformists” – and recently, an ‘artist-in-residence’ was appointed by Islington Council to create public art and run workshops for the community, as part of the Bunhill Heritage Project.

Each year, this unique heritage is celebrated with the Whitecross Street Party, where local artists come together to paint live. On Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 July, the party returns for its 12th year with the theme ‘reclaiming public space’, and is dedicated to female artists. WOM Collective kicked things off with a specifically commissioned poster by Lours, street artist and co-founder of WOM Collective. The poster featured Jamaican-born, London-raised community activist Olive Morris. Other female street artists who will be painting live on the day include Sophie Mess, Carleen de Sozer, Pixie, Jelly J and Neonita.

“Working on WXSP is always really exciting. We are making it bigger and better every year,” says street art curator Henry Buckle, aka ‘Mr Jiver’. “The artists always look forward to it and the varied line up means there are always new people to meet and lots of inspiration for the future.”

As well as live street art there’ll be a music stage, curated by local young people, and a words stage, featuring performances by Islington locals and special guests.

Aleks works for Loud Futures, a collaboration with SoapBox youth centre that supports young people to enter the music business. With the help of two young people, she put together the programme for the main stage. “I’m working with two young people from Soundskool, which is currently based at SoapBox. They’re helping to organise a great line up for the weekend event,” she explains. “The main stage will showcase a variety of artists and I’m super excited for everyone to see what we have planned. We have the brilliant Suedejazz Collective returning to the stage for a full 45-minute set at the end of the weekend, so be sure to catch them!”

Also joining the party this year is The Ecological Street Commons, a new and exciting addition supported by Arts Council England. “This year we are excited to have programmed five ‘eco-artivist’ projects responding to themes like food waste, biodiversity, fast fashion and waste materials,” explains lead creative producer Anila Ladwa. “Artists have been working with schools and communities over the last few months and will be running activities for audiences at Whitecross Street Party at the weekend. The aim is to highlight our city space as a place for communities to come together – for creativity, and for the care of our environment and each other.”

There are plenty of activities for all ages to get stuck into, too, including an upcycling stall, where you can bring along an old sweatshirt and give it a new lease of life; a bunting-making workshop; and a zero-waste cooking workshop. “There is so much going on,” Henry Buckle continues. “Artists painting live, activities for children, lots of delicious food stalls, music and more. The whole weekend is so much fun and always a great atmosphere – it’s not one to miss!”

Whitecross Street Party is a free event that’s open to all, taking place Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 July, 12noon–6pm. Visit the Whitecross Street Party website to check out the full party programme.

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