The aim of the Berrylands Festival is to provide more of an old fashioned village fair experience rather than some big corporate event with say the latest fads in artisan food or outdoor shopping as they are all over Surrey. The idea was that different ages could all find something that they would like to do in one place and to be able to do things together so we always book a big attraction or two like a climbing wall or giant trampolines, whilst giving people a chance to have a go at tug-o-war or winning a coconut or to smashing crockery as those games are rarely seen now, and breaking things or throwing things is fun (it's just they don't come in a 1950s vintage French van). We wanted Berrylands to have an event that is about the residents running it and visitors getting to join in rather than just being customers of it.
Underpinning this is a big effort behind the scenes to keep our attractions very affordable or sometimes free so we do seek sponsorship and grants to subsidise stalls where we can and the volunteers calculating the prices on food and drink make sure that they are kept down as we do not want 'market rates' at the Berrylands Festival. There is a big emphasis on supporting local businesses in what we buy for the day if we can and in providing them with opportunities for a stall, and in providing space for other local civic groups to have a day where people can hear about them as this event can only happen because the people of Berrylands are all joining in.
An important part of what we do too is to give children a chance to join in with running some stalls or helping with setting up so that they get experience of working with other people and to start picking up a few skills for running their own events, so you'll see them running things like the coconut shy or lucky lollipops.
The money raised from the festival goes back into running the event the following year, in building up our own equipment so it is sustainable over the long term, and makes a contribution towards the fund to save the scout hut.
The History Behind the Berrylands Festival
The Berrylands Festival began as an idea back in 2014 when the residents and scouts organising the annual Berrylands Fireworks event were discussing how the centre of Surbiton had a thriving festival each year and a monthly farmers market, and yet Berrylands with it's population of 10,000, lots of open space and people known for being active in the community only had school fairs as our summer event or two. Everyone knows that Berrylands is a hotbed of people doing all sorts of volunteering, activism, running successful businesses and yet they were all quietly hidden away and that just didn't seem right to us. After various ideas were explored an an idea for a village fair was born.
The first year was small by today's standards as it was just an experiment funded by the National Lottery so we tried out some bouncy castles and accidentally created what became the tradition of a massive tug-o-war and a few other ideas. Over the years this has grown to things like Laser Quest and giant climbing walls whilst our BBQ is now about local hand-made burgers and a varied drinks menu. In 2019 we experimented with live music as the United Reform Church kindly lent us a portable stage so hopefully that too will become a regular feature. Both the Police and Fire Brigade have continued to support us by bringing down vehicles so that the children (and adults) can set off sirens and have a go with the hoses.
Today the Berrylands Festival still has a large amount of support from the scout group as it uses their building and equipment, but the team of volunteers is now made up of other residents who want to contribute something to their area, to be part of an event, and to meet with new people rather than just scouting families. But importantly all the planning team and nearly everyone you will see manning a stall on the day is a volunteer drawn from people of Berrylands or friends from further afield that we have roped in to lend a hand.
If you are interested in helping out in some way (big or small) then find out more here.