Penge Festival now in its 40th year


Adjacent to Sydenham and Crystal Palace is Penge, which at the moment is in the middle of Penge Festival, an event that was first held in 1972.



Although I have a Sydenham postcode and usually give my address as Sydenham, technically I live in Penge, so having recently covered the forthcoming Sydenham Arts Festival, I thought I’d better write something about this other local event, Penge Festival, which has something of a history. Recently, I caught up with one of the organisers, local librarian Vanessa Williamson, who sits on the committee of Penge Partners, the organising body. This is what she had to say.

AB: How long has Penge Festival been running?

Vanessa Williamson: Penge Festival as we know it has been running for 40 years this year, but there is evidence of carnivals and festivals in Penge dating back to 1905.

AB: Penge Partners is a relatively new organisation; who organised the first Penge Festival?

VW: The first festival was organised by the Groves Community Association, Penge Churches Housing and the Penge and Anerley Ratepayers Association. The planning started in 1972 to produce the first festival in 1973, consisting of 9 days of events culminating with 19 floats processing from Maple Road, through the High Street and finishing in Royston Field where over 50 organisations had provided stalls for the fête.

AB: We’re halfway into the Festival right now. What sort of turnout are you expecting altogether?

VW: The events are usually attended by fairly small groups of people; we attempt to provide something of interest for all groups of the community so some events are “closed”, such as the Teddy Bears Picnic, which we do at a local nursery and the karaoke which we are providing for the Beckenham and Penge Gateway Club.

AB: When and why did you link up with Help For Heroes?

VW: Each year we nominate several charities and the committee vote for 2 from those nominated. We have supported many local and national charities over the years but Help for Heroes and Living Well were selected this year by secret ballot and we hope to be able to raise a good sum of money for these worthy causes.

AB: From your programme you appear to have garnered a great deal of support from local businesses and other organisations. There aren’t any big companies in Penge. Are you happy with what you’ve got or would you like to attract major corporate sponsorship?

VW: Publicity is difficult. We have always advertise through posters wherever we can in churches, schools, libraries, any shops that will take them – and we use the Bromley Council website and Penge TownTalk. Facebook and Twitter have been very helpful in this regard.

AB: What about Penge Partners and funding issues?

VW: Penge Partners was formed in 2007 to manage a number of events which fell outside the scope of Penge Festival. Many of our members sit on other local committees so we are well placed to aid and support other organisations in the area. We have recently formed the Penge Over 60s Network to serve the older and more vulnerable members of our community, receiving some council funding to proceed with this project. Funding is difficult to obtain but we have managed to obtain some small grants to enable us to continue, and to improve some of our events. I have personally been involved with Penge festival for about 10 years, firstly by organising some children’s events in Penge Library and then as a committee member. The committee was very small at that time but we now have 11 valuable members plus the local Councillors who sit on the committee in an advisory capacity.

Penge Library, Maple Road, photographed sometime in the early 1990s.

AB: How do people get involved, if not for this year then next year?

VW: Penge Partners is currently recruiting new committee members, and in particular, we are looking for candidates to fulfil the following voluntary roles: Grants Officer, Publicity Officer, Youth Officer. In addition, we are also looking for people who, whilst not wishing to be part of our committee, would be willing to assist with our events as part of our working team. Anyone who is interested in joining us in any capacity should contact us through our Facebook page.

AB: Vanessa Williamson, thank you very much.

A photograph from the 2011 Penge Festival: the football festival

A photograph from the 2011 Penge Festival: one of the children’s events.

A photograph from the 2011 Penge Festival: another photograph from the fête.

A photograph from the 2011 Penge Festival: a stall at the fête.

[The above was first published May 14, 2012; the original wasn’t archived.The photograph of Penge Library was taken by me around 1992 and was added to the Image Gallery on November 7, 2010. Like the Maple Road market, this library is now long gone, although at the time of writing – June 2021 – it is still included in many on-line directories. It was replaced by a new and bigger library at the junction of Green Lane and Penge High Street. The caption for the first photograph is lost forever. Links have been omitted.]

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