The London Pleasure Gardens historically a place to experience music, admire art, mingle, drink and dance in the 16th – 18th Centuries. The 21st Century Gardens offer the best in street art, circus, visual arts, live music and an international food market. The Gardens are a cultural answer to the Olympics, an innovation from the brains behind Glastonbury festival set in the heart of East London, situated on the Royal Victoria Dock.
The grand opening event ‘Paradise Gardens’ was scheduled to open at 1pm, but started with a glitch that prevented the large crowds from entering, luckily for me I arrived just as the crowds were let in. Once the gates were finally open we were pleasantly surprised with the variety of activities, despite the actual garden area and Millennium Mills section of the garden not yet open to the public.
Our first stop was the ballroom, where we were greeted in a large, low-lit room, filled with the sound of the 20’s, complete with swing dancing. There was a crowd gathered around participating dancers, as well as others learning from the ‘London Swing Society’ who were on hand to demonstrate. We moved to the next venue keeping our shades firmly in place as we made our way through the urban dust jungle, we headed straight to the big tent. The main stage throughout the day featured a selection
of live music from funk, jazz, hip-hop, blues and swing style influenced bands including ‘Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’, a new generation funk Brass Band comprising of eight brothers who previously played with ‘Erykah Badu’ and ‘Mos Def’. The main stage had a great atmosphere as crowds embraced the festival vibes; dancing in colourful apparel.
The vintage funfair was one of my personal highlights, with the retro Ferris wheel reminiscent of the one featured in ‘Grease’, there was also an antique Helter Skelter, swings and a Carousel providing entertainment for the whole family. In the sun we enjoyed delicious food from the international market, and we stumbled upon a pop-up, interactive, street art ‘Mafia Wedding’ by ‘Cocoloco’. In this dream- like affair, members of the audience were asked to help marry a young pregnant bride, to an older
Italian mafia member, before she gave birth in front of the onlookers. Everyone was in stitches as the bride proceeded to give birth in the gardens to a disturbing stuffed toy, just look closely at the picture.
Elsewhere, eccentric Street artists, ‘Mask of Joy’, fascinated the crowd with their rendition of Katy Perry’s’ ‘Firework’, dressed in full 17th Century attire. Adults and Children took part in the ‘Sillylympics’ as well as the world record attempt for the biggest Hokey Cokey, which I sadly missed.
To end the day there was a pyrotechnic spectacular, fusing music, projection, theatre and pyrotechnics by ‘The World Famous’. Guests danced the night away at the after show party held in the Ballroom, with music artists including dubstep crew, ‘Jazzsteppa’, and ‘DJ Switch’, the first ever DJ to play at the proms with a 160 piece orchestra. As others partied into the night, it was easy to get back into Shoreditch as the Gardens provided a shuttle bus for a few pounds back to Liverpool Street. I will be heading back to get my dose of alternative East London cultural entertainment.
The London Pleasure Gardens is hosting events all summer, ‘The Last Mile Festival’ is open from the 28th July throughout the Olympics, and it will be showing the games on the big screen.
Written By : Gemma Jamieson
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