Ten years ago professional artists Jessica Rost, Simon Tipping, and Paul Smith, along with their colleagues Julie Morton and Julia Roach, returned from a research trip to Trinidad. They had been to experience what is claimed to be ‘De Greatest Show on Earth’. The Caribbean Mardi Gras had fired up their imagination, they wanted to keep the party going and, on the 21st December 2005, the decision to form Festive Road was made around a humble kitchen table in Milton Keynes!
Festive Road, takes both inspiration and name from the colourful children’s TV series,’ Mr Benn’ and the adventurer himself, who lived at number 52 Festive Road. The company was formed as a not for profit Community Interest Company, specialising in outdoor arts.
The company produces relevant and creative activity for people from all walks of life, all year round: spectaculars which are rooted in local communities (such as night time parades, street theatre and carnival parades). Their work brings people of all cultures, abilities and ages together, with an emphasis on cohesion, confidence building and cultural celebration.
Harminder the mechanical Elephant, Hillary the cycle powered Triceratops, Jurassic Jockeys, 3 metre high Rugby puppets Gareth and Thomas and a life-size WW1 tank are just a few of the many amazing pieces of art created by Festive Road and used at events this past year.
Previously the company has toured their giant steaming kettle around the country in the run up to London 2012. Their show Brewing Up was awarded the London 2012 Inspire mark and the company’s famous dancing tea cups entertained sponsors in the Olympic Park at the Opening Ceremony.
Festive Road has played an intrinsic part in supporting a number of local events, from the formation of a carnival on the Lakes Estate in MK for three years, supporting West Bletchley and Woughton Carnival and Bletchley Lights switch on, to raising funding to start a special needs group named Starlight Samba. Community engagement is a crucial part of what Festive Road do, working closely with a number of schools across the regions to provide workshops and creating a number of interest groups - Stitch & Bitch sewing group, The Kettle Band and the Extreme Ramblers stilt-walking group.
Over the last ten years Festive Road has produced and created numerous outdoor events, shows and art installations, many of them locally in Milton Keynes, and on average working with around 5000 participants annually. Many thousands more have enjoyed their work as audiences.
In addition to working in partnership with many other organisations, Festive Road has organised the hugely successful Walking with Giants parade, the largest carnival in Milton Keynes, attracting over 10,000 visitors. This December Festive Road organised Paraffinalia, the second annual winter fire festival. This free event saw pyrotechnics, live performances, illuminated structures and a magical lantern parade culminating in local schoolchildren showcasing lanterns, made themselves at free workshops run by the team.
Festive Road has a very positive track record of partnership work, excellent links with local communities and with the local arts community; as active members of the Milton Keynes Arts and Heritage Alliance, and also a 'key partner' for Milton Keynes Council. The company works closely with the UK Centre for Carnival Arts in Luton and Northampton Carnival and hosted a 2 day Carnival Network South East Conference in Milton Keynes.
2016 is an exciting year for Festive Road, with a move to new premises imminent, which will not only have the capacity to house the vast number of projects and installations previously created by the team, but also the space to build upcoming projects including Mr MerryWhipple’s Giant Mechanical Marvels.
Over the past ten years Festive Road has worked closely with a number of schools, youth clubs, housing trusts and local councils.
Here’s to the next ten years!