Festivity and inclusivity: celebrating Latin American London in Finsbury Park
During our FESTSPACE research into the festivals and events staged in Finsbury Park, one event was consistently mentioned by a range of stakeholders as one that made a positive contribution to the park. La Clave Fest – a day long celebration of UK Latin American music and culture – was staged in Finsbury Park for the first time in August 2019. One of our researchers attended the festival and was impressed with the way it opened the park up (to new audiences), rather than closing it down. Given the threat to a local Latin American cultural hub (which has now been saved), this festival was an important reminder about the significance and precarity of London’s Latin communities.
La Clave Fest was cancelled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but when we heard that the 2021 edition would go ahead we were determined to explore further why this festival was appreciated so much.
The festival was renamed Latino Life in the Park and was staged shortly after coronavirus restrictions were lifted in August 2021. Alongside our observation work at the festival, we hired the services of a local film maker, Tamanna Jahan, and worked with her to make a film to capture ten qualities that we thought made Latino Life in the Park a good example of an inclusive music festival that contributed to the publicness of its park seting.
The ten inclusive qualities the film highlights are listed below:
1. It is free to enter – inviting accidental interest and a wider audience.
2. It has no perimeter fencing or security gates – which provides a welcoming venue.
3. It doesn’t take long to set up or take down – so doesn’t disrupt normal park activity for very long.
4. It is a positive celebration of Latin American migrant communities, and their diversity.
5. It involves a diverse range of co-produced activities: music, dancing, football and food.
6. It is flexible enough to allow people to co-create their own mini-festivals and performances
7. It encourages people to come into the park who wouldn’t otherwise be there.
8. It encourages people from different groups to meet and interact.
9. It makes visible people and activities that occupy the park on a more regular basis.
10. It attracts people of all ages, including children and older people.
Identifying these qualities helps to clarify what we mean by festivals that contribute to the inclusiveness of public spaces. For us, inclusion means maximising access, making everyone feel welcome, co-production with communities and inter-group interactions. It also means minimising the loss of amenity for members of the public not interested in the festival.
Of course, there are elements of inclusion that are not addressed in our ten point list – not least the various ways that people with disabilities can be better accommodated within festivals and public spaces. These aspects are vitally important too, but the focus of our research is the extent to which park programming reflects London’s ethnic and socio-economic diversity. And we think the ideas listed above, and illustrated in the film, help to clarify the ways that music festivals can be staged in ways that maximise social benefits and minimise social exclusion.
London’s music festival scene is dominated by expensive, fenced events, and although these can also generate positive representations of marginalised communities, we do need to protect the diminishing number of free festivals staged in London’s parks. Latino Life in the Park proves that it is still possible to stage large scale, free music festivals that are underpinned by socio-cultural, rather than financial motives.
The film was shown for the first time at the FESTSPACE conference on 10th March 2022. Earlier this week (16th March 2022) we also screened the film at the cinema nearest to Finsbury Park. This gave local people an opportunity to see the film and a chance to ask questions to festival organisers, FESTSPACE researchers and film makers.
We’d love to know what you think of the film, so please get in touch with any comments or questions. The 2022 edition of Latino Life in the Park will take place over 2 days, so if you can get to Finsbury Park on 20th or 21st August you can experience the festival for yourself. Everyone welcome. No ticket required…