Friday, 10 June 2011

The Archbishop of Canterbury makes it rain on our parade

Every year around this time, St Michael and All Angels Church holds its two-day Green Days fête on Acton Green, across the road from Turnham Green Tube Station. This event kicks off the annual two-week Bedford Park Festival, which consist of a series of cultural events (concerts, recitals, readings, art exhibitions etc.).

The fête features children’s games, a children’s fancy dress parade (with prizes), craft stalls (all very trendy, professionally-made stuff), a beer tent, all kinds of food, an excellent second-hand book stall and lots of live music. And, inevitably, face-painting. 

The festival’s primary aim is, I suspect, to foster a sense of community – which it does, in spades. As it’s extremely well attended by middle-class families who seem largely to have escaped the economic downturn, it raises a decent amount of money for various local charities. There are plenty of well-known faces to spot while munching banana cake in the Tea Tent or scarfing down bacon butties at the Beer Tent. There’s usually
someone from the media to kick proceedings off – we’ve had that John Humphreys off the radio (who was awful, as you’d expect),Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine, the artist Sir Peter Blake, Mary Nightingale from ITV News and, tomorrow, it’ll be long-term local resident, the actor Richard Bryers. (We’re so media-heavy round these parts that the main festival organiser is the BBC’s tireless Media Correspondent, Torin Douglas.)

This is a living, breathing event for me because Mrs Grønmark is always heavily involved – she used to organise all the craft stalls, but has moved onto children’s games. A large, colourful, homemade cardboard ticket booth has been a prominent feature of our sitting room for the past two weeks: in the fact, downstairs generally looks like a gnome’s workshop.

An open-air service is always held on Sunday morning at 10.30, which is up there with Easter Sunday and Christmas Day for me. The choir always turns out in all their red and white finery, and a brass band stands in for the organ. The whole thing feels oddly rural, timeless and right - and so quintessentially, traditionally English I’m surprised it hasn’t been banned for constituting a hate crime against recently-arrived non-Anglicans. It was a bit overcast for the service one year, but for at least a decade, the sun has shone on the second Sunday morning in June. Our vicar always takes full credit – “I had a word”.

The festival is the Big Society made flesh. This is what it looks and feels like. Decent people doing benign things together to the benefit of others unfortunate enough not to live in places like Chiswick – and devoting masses of time to it without any hope of personal reward, apart from the chance to have a bit of fun while doing a lot of good, and all without the slightest hint of coercion. 

But for the first time in years, rain is forecast. I blame Rowan Williams and his disgraceful attacks on the Coalition government. (Given how steeply the Church went into decline following Robert Runcie’s attacks on Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, I’m starting to think the Supreme Being has right-wing tendencies.)

The thing the Archbishop - silly old beardie communist that he is – just doesn’t get is that the Big Society concept (which he dismissed as “stale”, whatever that means) is alive and well and thriving in a church that he simply doesn’t deserve to lead. Anglican communicants are already doing all that Big Society stuff, without asking a penny from the state or extracting money from people without their express permission. But, of course, like every other lefty who ever lived, Rowan Williams thinks charity means stealing other people’s hard-earned cash and spreading it around your favourite mascot groups as if it was your own. I’m pretty sure God won’t take kindly to the Archbishop’s desire to deny people the right to practice benevolence on a voluntary basis.

The Bedford Park Festival makes me feel proud and lucky to be an Anglican. Rowan Williams makes me ashamed – but at least I know the church will be there long after this fool has left office. 

I have no idea what our vicar’s views are on this matter – but I do wish he’d “have a word”.

If anyone’s passing Acton Green tomorrow or Sunday, proceedings get under way at 11, entry is free, and it’s all terribly civilised. John Betjeman opened the first festival in 1967 with a specially-written poem, and his genial spirit suffuses the whole admirable event.

1 comment:

  1. We're nearing the end of the first day of our church fair, and, as always, the sun is shing and there hasn't been a drop of rain, despite the forecast. Seems our vicar's "had a word" after all. Given he evidently has the ear of the Deity, maybe I should give him a jog about the Archbishop of Canterbury...
    Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 03:35 PM