Jesmond Community Festival

Jesmond Community Festival 2021

Until its forced cancellation in 2020, Jesmond Community Festival had been an annual celebration of the wide range of community organisations operating in Jesmond.

Later in 2020 the decision was made to go ahead with another festival in May 2021, if possible, but to ensure that it took place within the confines of whatever public health advice would be in force at the time.

When public health advice began to clarify, in Spring 2021, it became apparent that the vast majority of indoor events, such as talks and meetings, would have to take place on Zoom (or similar), with most outdoor events in the first part of the month being for 6 people or less. After 17 May it became possible for some indoor events to be held (for example, in the Cricket Club, which has a licence to sell alcoholic drinks), while outdoor events could cater for larger numbers. In all cases strict requirements for social distancing etc remained in place.

Despite all difficulties, it was possible to organise 55 events in May 2021, compared with 85 in the 2019 festival. At a rough estimate over 3,500 people attended or took part in festival events in 2021, compared with over 7,800 in 2019. (This total will include some double counting, i.e. the same people attending several events.)

This success is largely a result of the huge amount of voluntary time and effort which goes into the events, by speakers, organisers and host organisations. And this year many organisations had to struggle with Zoom and other IT innovations, perhaps for the first time.

While many people greatly regretted the absence of flagship events, such as indoor concerts and large outdoor fairs, a few examples were noted of Zoom enabling people from many miles away to join in, including someone from California who attended one of the online talks!

Winner of the Small Gardens Award


With so many events taking place over Zoom, several organisations showed particular enterprise in stretching the boundaries of the medium, such as the daily online fitness challenge run by Jesmond Pool and Gym, the Pool’s online disco, the Ouseburn Trust’s virtual tour of the Victoria Tunnel, and Jesmond Library’s murder mystery, cookery demonstrations and virtual tour of the Newcastle city walls. Perhaps the most extraordinary technical and musical achievement was the Newcastle University Jazz Orchestra’s recording of Chick Corea’s “Spain”, with all the musicians performing in their own homes, and edited together into a single performance.

Particularly popular Zoom talks tended to be the ones of specific local interest, including the City Walls (see above), the St George’s Bell Ringers,  Art on the Metro, Jesmond Local’s local election hustings, Jesmond WI’s talk by the Tyne Rivers Trust, and Jesmond U3A’s talk on Lord Armstrong and Jesmond Dene.

After so many weeks of limited social contact all the guided walks were very popular (despite a problem with several people who had pre-booked not turning up on the day), as was the Community Orchard’s Open Day and the Cricket Club Quiz. The Orchard volunteers also deserve a special mention for spending most of a day in the pouring rain for their very popular plant stall in Acorn Road! Other particularly popular events included the Teddy Bear Trail, organised by volunteers from Jesmond Library, and the Food Fair on Armstrong Bridge. Every effort was made to include all age groups, from the Teddy Bear Trail and Children’s Stories for young families to the Wellbeing and related events for Elders. A number of successful competitions were also linked to the festival, including the Glorious Gardens Awards and the Plastic Free Jesmond awards.

It is not possible in a short report to mention all the festival events, but it is worth stressing how many times audience members and event participants expressed their heartfelt thanks to all the event organisers who had made such efforts to provide bright spots in what had otherwise been rather a depressing year.