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The Carnival’s heartbeat: The News meets the men behind Bermondsey Carnival’s Bermondsey Beat

On July 2 music and laughter will fill Southwark as the Bermondsey Carnival gets underway, featuring headline act Paul Young and a host of stalls and activities to keep families entertained.

Behind all the glitz and glamour of the big names and games to play, there will no doubt be the two men behind Bermondsey Beat charging around making sure everything goes off perfectly.

The News caught up with Phil Burkett and Russell Dryden before the big day to hear how the carnival has come along.

“We started working on it in October and with a free gig it’s always really challenging to book someone,” Phil said.

“The carnival’s really important because it brings the community together and gives them all an excuse to come and enjoy themselves. Each year I do it I love it more.

“People want to check it out if they don’t live in the area anymore, it encourages them to come back. It’s bringing Bermondsey together. When you walk around the event you can sometimes see three different generations and mixed nationalities.

“We have got to get it right and have to sell it to people. It really gives people the excuse to visit and discover Southwark Park.

“That’s what we want. We want someone to come up and really entertain people. I don’t relax during it, I am stressing and working. I won’t relax till the last band gets off!

“Russell and I usually meet up in September and throw some names into a hat to see what groups we can get. First thing is to get the main artist and then build it around them.”

Operating on a small budget due to austerity measures introduced by the government, Southwark Council and Bermondsey Beat have fought hard to keep the carnival going each year.

Russell said they were very lucky to keep the carnival and since Southwark Park was done up with a lottery grant it has kept getting better each year.

“It’s a great community event. Sometimes we have London-wide crowds coming in. It may have got too big for the council at one point. It was more like Glastonbury. We moved it away from a gig-y type thing to make it more of a family type event.

“It’s starting to get on the map. The carnival is a treasure of the area and the people who don’t know about it always have the opportunity to discover it and Southwark Park.

“The last three years when the weather’s been on-side it’s been really good. There’s a proper buzz. We book performers who really do it for the crowd and entertain everyone.

“Things do go wrong but you make the best of what we can. I used to be a promoter everywhere in London in small clubs and I’ve been all around, so we know what we’re doing.

“We used to go to the carnival when we were kids and back then it used to run for two weeks. When we heard it was starting up again we knew that we could deliver it.

“We try to provide a nice backdrop to all the other events happening. It’s good for people just to walk by and listen to great music. It’s a nice easy day and perfect for families.

For more information about Bermondsey Carnival, visit http://bit.ly/28Z9hEf

For a fill list of the day’s events, visit http://bit.ly/29pjvfP


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