Smithfield Market celebrates 150 years with Bank Holiday party


Smithfield Market is no stranger to a good party.

For more than 700 years between 1133 and 1855, traders would open their doors to revellers joining the annual Bartholomew Fair – three days of merrymaking, dancing, selling and music which, as the centuries passed, became the most debauched and drunken holiday in calendars across Europe.

OK, so there were probably one too many flagons of ale poured back in the day, but the point still stands: Smithfield knows how to have a good time. And that’s exactly what present-day traders, local businesses, and partygoers intend to do when the market celebrates 150 years in its current home.

Originally based just outside the City boundary on the edge of St Bartholomew’s Priory, the market we know today was opened in 1868 – 13 years after its original home of seven and a quarter centuries was shut for the final time.

Now the stage is set to honour that milestone with a two-day festival featuring six interactive zones and 200 performers.

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Auntie Maureen’s suffragette-themed bingo.

The bash, running across the weekend of 25 and 26 August, is being laid on by the City’s Culture Mile strategists, a movement to reinvent the Square Mile as a world-class destination for culture, heritage and creativity. Here’s what to expect:

Main Stage – Grand Avenue

Grand Avenue, the intricately beautiful Victorian walkway running between the meat markets will become Smithfield 150’s Main Stage, featuring live bands, choirs and DJs. The performers’ message is as important as their music: 75% of the acts are female and the centenary of women’s suffrage is a key strand across the weekend.

Grand Avenue will be filled with distinct and inspiring acts ranging from poetic soul to disco-punk to ancient jungle music, a mash up of stories and rhythms, joyous and danceable for young and old.

Saturday 25 August

Disco Loco: Hackney’s wild and wonderful family party kicks off the weekend with its trademark dancefloor hosted by MC Chu-I with guest DJ Earl Gateshead. There will also be live cabaret performances and a dance floor filled with giant beach balls, hula hoops, dance ribbons, wigs and space hoppers and party surprises galore.

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Kick things off with a bang at Disco Loco’s weird and wonderful family dance party.

Girls Rock London: Girls Rock London (GRL) is a music project for girls, women, trans and gender non-conforming folks in London. GRL are part of a movement of rock camps that take place all over the world, the aims of which are to empower girls and women through music-making and performance.

Resis’Dance: Resis’Dance is an events collective made up of a diverse group of women who take hold of the tech and decks while smashing the patriarchy and supporting underfunded radical grassroots organisations. They came together to organise banging events, but to also challenge gender norms in the party and political scene.

Fay Milton (Savages): Fay Milton, the drummer from the Savages, will be DJing music of all genres, mainly by women, which is the theme of her monthly club night Too Many Man.

Dylema Collective: Sweet neo-spoken-soul is the infectious blend of groove and swag, and Dylema Collective has diverse musical influences including Russian classicism, neo soul melodies meeting Latin American rhythms, and spoken word poetry, all woven into London’s contemporary jazz and sound.

Sunday 26 August

Nabihah Iqbal: Formerly known as Throwing Shade, her debut album Weighing of the Heart is a big statement as she’s taken her real name to stand proudly as a female British Asian artist moving her music in a bolder direction.

Total Refreshment Centre DJs: DJs will play throughout Sunday from the iconic venue.

The Flamingods: A four-piece, multi-instrumental, multi-cultural band from Bahrain and London formed in 2010. The Flamingods’ most recent EP Kewali came out on Moshi Moshi Records in May 2017 featuring the singles Kewali and Mixed Blessings. The band are currently writing tracks for their next album, due out later this year.

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Electro-pop trio Stealing Sheep will bring their unique soundscapes to Smithfield on Sunday.

Stealing Sheep: Electro-pop trio from Liverpool who share lead vocals, making weird and wonderful harmonies with ‘old skool’ synth sounds, full luscious kit and funky bass. Expect euphoric dance-pop beats, experimental soundscapes and sparkling visuals.

FUN ZONE – West Smithfield Rotunda 

Enter the West Smithfield Rotunda opposite the stunning Victorian market buildings to have a slide on the helter skelter, take a ride on the carousel or get made up, dress up, and get creative in the fabulous ‘make-and-do market’. There will be magical free fun including face painting, glitter stalls, henna tattoos, dressing up, growing workshops, cake and biscuit decorating, cookery demonstrations and pop-up market stalls.

George Irvin Funfair: Fairground rides including a carousel, helter skelter, swing boats and old-fashioned games. (Sat & Sun, charged £1-£2 per ride).

Little Inventors: Little Inventors will be bringing its food waste challenge, created in partnership with online supermarket Ocado, for children to stop in and come up with fanciful ideas for how to reduce the amount of food wasted at home (Sat & Sun).

Anorak: Printing and stencilling workshops run by Anorak, the happy mag for kids. Create a free poster based on the themes of kindness and ice cream (Sat & Sun).

Hackney Henna House: A London-based company founded by Henna Artist, Nora Aalit. Designs range from intricate floral detail to bold tribal art; a fusion of her North African and Western heritage (Sat & Sun).

Culture Mile Tent: Find out more about Culture Mile and experience family-friendly workshops and performances from the core Culture Mile partners: Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and Museum of London (Sat & Sun).

Between the Storeys – an Ode to Smithfield: Join Poet in the City to experience brand new poetry and film commissions for Culture Mile, with live performances (Sun) and film screenings (Sat & Sun). Poets Imitaz Dharker, Joshua Idehen and Murray Lachlan Young guide audiences through the hidden histories of Smithfield, from its hospital waiting rooms to meat market moments and encounters with midnight ravers. Film maker Charlotte Ginsborg will also premier new work for Smithfield 150, translating the poems into a trilogy of films to be shown across the weekend.

Bartholomew Carnival of Delights Puppetry Procession: Prepare to encounter magnificent installations and a carnival bringing to life the rambunctious wonder that was Bartholomew’s Fair. Artists Mia Harris, Andrea Greenwood, Amber Donovan and Moussa Dembele have collaborated with Culture Mile Learning and the Museum of London to produce and deliver this project with children from five local primary schools, and festivalgoers will be asked to help create the final puppet (Sat).

Company Drinks: Test the tastebuds and mix new flavours to create a mocktail and design the label (Sat).

WAH Nails: WAH Nails will be offering free express manicures for adults and kids, making sure you go into the Bank Holiday looking your best. All done by the team hailed by Vogue as ‘Dalston’s coolest nail salon’ (Sat).

MOLA Time Tent: Join MOLA animal bone expert Alan Pipe and team as they show the archaeological evidence for the Smithfield meat trade and consumption, the disposal of animal waste, and the bone evidence for wildlife in London over the past 2,000 years (Sun).

Kino Van: A travelling cinema on wheels, Kino Van presents a film on the centenary of women’s suffrage and is part of Courage & Communities, a series of events marking 100 years since the Representation of the People Act (Sun).

Games Zone (West Smithfield and East Poultry Avenue)

Get game ready to try ping pong, hula hooping or show-off fly moves in the Poultry Market Roller Disco. Compete in the Butcher King’s street games with Nigel and Louise or take part in the ‘bring your own dog show’.

Nigel and Louise: Celebrate the Butcher King’s Birthday with a mass party game area by artists Nigel and Louise. For two days they will be celebrating the best birthday ever with a feast of street games, competitions, races and general mayhem (Sat & Sun).

Marawa’s Majorettes: A world-record holding troupe of hoopers from East London will be offering hula hooping workshops for all ages (Sat & Sun).

Silver Wheels Roller Disco: Offers something for all ages and abilities and, for one weekend only, will be based inside Smithfield Market with DJs and cocktail bar (Sat & Sun).

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Get your skates on for the roller disco.

The Smoothfield stage (cabaret stage in West Poultry Avenue)

Visit the ‘Smoothfield Stage’ in West Poultry Avenue for a weekend of party entertainments with Horrible Histories, Comedy 4 Kids, brass bands, magicians, dance classes, tea dances, cabaret, circus, and Suffragette-inspired bingo by Auntie Maureen.

Comedy 4 Kids: Since 2005 Comedy 4 Kids has been getting the best stand-ups and sketch acts from the international circuit to do their thing for an audience of children (aged six and up) and their families… but without the rude bits! It’s just like a normal comedy club, but it’s on in the day. (Sat).

Fulham Brass Band: Fulham Brass Band present some of your favourite musical numbers from the classics through to show tunes, film scores and pop. A true mix of music for all ages to tap their feet, sing-along and dance to (Sat).

Puppetry Procession finale with Kinetika Bloco: Kinetika Bloco will be performing music created at their summer school and inspired by New Orleans. Young drummers and brass players aged between 14 and 25 will lead the Bartholomew Carnival of Delights puppetry procession before bringing the flavour of mardi gras to the Smoothfield Stage (Sat).

Horrible Histories Best of Barmy Britain: Everyone would like to meet people from history. The trouble is everyone is dead! So prepare for a special free one-hour production of Horrible Histories featuring favourite characters from our barmy past. Find out why the Romans were revolting or how to survive the vicious Vikings. Can evil Elizabeth entertain England? Clap along with crazy King Charles. Vomit with the vile Victorians and prepare to do battle in the frightful First World War. It’s history with the nasty bits left in! (Sun).

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Only the barmiest characters in Britain’s history make the cut in Horrible Histories.

Luck be a Lady Bingo with Auntie Maureen: a game show bursting with rock ’n’ roll, women and lucky numbers to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage. Cards for each of the three round of bingo are free and fab prizes are up for grabs (Sun).

Baltika: Culture Mile network partner City Music Foundation presents London-based Balkan music octet Baltika, made up of some of the UK’s top jazz and world session musicians, led by acclaimed accordionist Bartosz Glowacki. Performing traditional Bulgarian and Hungarian folk tunes with high-octane brass and percussion, this foot-stomping band are not to be missed.

Under-fives Hangout (Rotunda Garden)

The place to be for the littlest Londoners is the dedicated under-fives festival zone in the beautiful Rotunda Garden, curated by Motherbrunch. Take part in creative, arts-led activities and feast on healthy food. Drop-in activities include artist workshops, pilates and yoga, live music, storytelling, a dedicated baby area and lots more (Sat & Sun).

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Motherbrunch has curated a special programme for under fives.

Food and drink

Local bars and restaurants from the area will be opening their doors especially for Smithfield 150. There will also be food stalls located along Long Lane with a wide variety of foods from around the world; three bars on the site;  a craft beers / local ales bar in West Smithfield rotunda; a cocktail bar near the Roller Disco. There will also be vintage ice cream vans, popcorn and candy floss, and a coffee kiosk, plus free water to help revellers beat the heat.