BY KEITH LEWIS
Even by Brixton’s eclectic standards it was a surreal sight. A flotilla led by dustbins decorated with cakes, jelly and gingerbread men made its way past Windrush Square, pushed by dancing street cleaners.
Behind them, council recycling trucks acting as floats carried fancy dress-clad adults and children towards Windmill Gardens. They were heading to the annual Windmill Festival.
‘It makes you wanna live forever,’ one enthusiastic observer exclaimed. He was enjoying the period clothing of members of the Friends of Windmill Gardens (FoWG), who were dressed as mill workers and bakers (back in the day).
This year the festival’s theme was Cakes, Puddings and Pies. Thus, Sudbourne School’s girls wore glittery wigs topped with handmade fabric cakes and the boys were sporting waistcoats and Oliver Twist baker-boy caps. Today, however, there was plenty of bread to go around. That was exactly the point.
The main aim of the day is to provide a free event for the community. So as well as a large number of stalls, there was a full line-up of bands. This included US Folk Trio the Hobos and some Cockney frolics from Del, The Cockney Minstrel of London. The bill was topped with Buffalo Bill’s Mojo Dogs, a blues band, with Dan Smith of the Noisettes on guitar.
Children’s entertainment had also been arranged inside the windmill, where local residents entertained kids with a bit of baking based theatre.
Naturally, the future of the windmill itself was another focus of the day. In 2011 the Windmill received Heritage Lottery Funding and its consequent restoration included a new electricity-driven motor. Jean, Chair of FoWG, explained that the idea is to get the windmill producing flour again by 2016, which coincides with the windmill’s 200th birthday.
So the FoWG have launched a Flour Fund, to enable them to carry out a feasibility study into the production and marketing of flour. They are currently seeking sponsors and support for funding.
One such supporter, The Old Post Office Bakery, unveiled their Windmill loaf at the festival. Available at their bakery on Landor Road, as well as their stalls at Brixton and Herne Hill Farmers Markets, 40p from every loaf will go to the Flour Fund. One day they hope to bake the loaf using flour from the windmill. In fact, wheat is already being grown in the park in anticipation.
Brixton City Farm was also present. It is keen to open a space for animals in Windmill Gardens and currently seeks names in support of the proposal.
In addition, local placement opportunities were being advertised in collaboration with Lambeth Council. These include placements at the Council’s Arts and Heritage Department, The Old Post Office Bakery and Spare Tyre (a theatre company working with adults with learning disabilities).
Despite the intervening rain and wind, residents danced and drunk through the day. As the main aim was to provide a free, fun community event, then Brixton people did what Brixton people do best, by happily obliging.
Jean was keen to thank Lambeth’s waste management services company, Veolia. “They have always supported the maintenance of Windmill Park and like us they are very proud of it.”
So, in the hope that the Windmill fulfils its flour quota once again, here’s to breaking future Brixton bread together at a Windmill Festival to come.