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John, South Norwood Community Festival (South Drawood exhibition)

  • Year Invented: 2018

The man behind the famous South Norwood Community Festival is John Rother, who also runs the SouthNorwood.net website. He has lived in South Norwood for all his life and got involved in the community life about 15 years ago litter picking and selling raffle tickets. He then took over the South Norwood Community Festival (previously the South Norwood Arts Festival) ten years ago. The budget for his first festival was a mere £150 and back then people would sit on the street and the stage was made out of pallets. The festival began to grow and once it had moved into South Norwood recreation ground the council became more involved and has grown to the event it is today. 

His community involvement does not stop there though, although John builds websites for his day job, he still finds time to organise a jam night in the Conservative Club one a month and he also used to help out with Stanley Arts. 

John’s favourite parts of South Norwood are the parks and lakes. As a child he used to take his BMX bike around the country park and play pitch and put, so the park has a dear place in his heart. He also likes to go and take photos around the South Norwood Lakes in his free time.

In the development of South Norwood John would like to see more restaurants bringing people to the area. He says that there should also be more parking, which would encourage people to come and spend more time here. 

Words by Elizabeth Walters

Interview with John, organiser of South Norwood Community Festival and southnorwood.net, April 2022




This project was part of the South Drawood exhibition in 2022 by artist Jonny Kemp. A community art project celebrating the people of South Norwood, SE25.

From autumn of 2021 to summer 2022, Jonny drew 40 portraits of independent business owners, volunteers, and other movers and shakers from South Norwood, his local area. His partner Lizzie interviewed them.

South Norwood is regenerating yet doesn’t want to gentrify: it wants to keep its character and support people who already live in the area to prosper. This was Jonny and Lizzie’s way of ‘giving South Norwood a hug’: by representing the diverse people of SE25 through portraits in fine liner pen, and their own stories.

The portraits were displayed in Stanley Arts, a beautiful Edwardian arts venue on South Norwood Hill. Over 150 people attended the opening night: Friday 29th July 2022.

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