A ‘key cultural and entertainment’ festival to kickstart summer of recovery in the West End

By Julia Gregory, local democracy reporter

A “key cultural and entertainment” festival will help kickstart the summer of recovery in the West End.

The Underbelly Festival will set up its Spiegeltent in Cavendish Square, near John Lewis in Oxford Street.

The festival will run from July 1 until  September 26 and it’s hoped it will encourage people back to the area and boost the economy and will create 120 temporary full and part-time jobs.

Acts include Basil Brush and family circus show Hotel Paradiso and  West End improv favourites The Showstoppers  who are staging musical adventures for children.

CBBC and Crackerjack presenters Sam & Mark will be making their Underbelly Festival debut with the On The Road Show. 

Underbelly Spiegeltent, which will be used for entertainment in Cavendish Square, pic Underbelly

And headlining the festival is Bernie Dieter’s Berlin Underground  cabaret show. 

Comedians include the presenter of  BBC’s quick-fire quiz show Lightning  Zoe Lyons and star of last year’s Royal Variety Show Daliso Chaponda.

The tent has space for 500 people and there will also be food and drink stalls with an overall capacity of 2,000 at any time.

The family festival includes cabaret, comedy, music and theatre. People will need tickets to watch the shows but they can visit the stalls without pre-booking.

Westminster City Council’s planning committee gave the go-ahead to organisers putting up the 24 diameter tent. (Tues May 25).

However they heard that residents from the  only block of flats in the square were concerned about noise.

Organisers will put the tent at the furthest part of the square from the residential block at Harcourt House.

Performances will end at 10pm on Sunday to Wednesday nights and 11.30pm on Thursday to Saturday nights.

Police also wanted 24-hour security at the square because of the “high level of crime” there.

The Parks and Garden Trust also objected to the plan.

Ed Bartlam, the co-founder of the Underbelly Festival said it aimed to be accessible and affordable.

Sam And Mark who are playing at the Underbelly festival, Cavendish Square, pic supplied by festival pr Dee McCourt

The team have put on Christmas events at Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square.

Mr Bartram said: “We have robust noise management plans.”

He explained there have been numerous site visits with police to address their concerns and the team have robust stewardship plans.

Underbelly also works with Connection Crew, which offers people a route out of homelessness, to set up and break down the site.

Last year plans to demolish an underground car park at the square was approved. It will see spaces for shops, gyms or medical centres.

Councillor Guthrie McKie said: “This is meant to attract people from all over London, not just Westminster.If we cut (hours) back it will not make it viable.”

Chairman Jim Glen said: “It’s so important that we bring the West End back.”

Fellow committee member Selina Short commented “it’s a very elegant temporary building”.




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