“Not another street party!” wailed the kids as we bundled them out the door and set off in the searing heat towards Gwydir Street. They did have a point - we had just spent the morning at an Olympiad and Big Picnic at our local playing field and were all starting to feel a little jaded by the number of outdoor parties we’ve been going to in recent weeks. There are only so-many neighbourly wingdings even I can take. Still, “This one will be really different,” I promised them reassuringly, “and we won’t stay long…”
And different it truly is. For anyone who’s never jostled with the crowds down Gwydir Street during the festival, think Camden comes to Cambridge. This normally quiet, terraced street is transformed into a Bohemiam marketplace. As we edged our buggy carefully through the crowds which were thickening by the minute, there were plenty of sounds, sights and smells to keep the kids’ senses fully occupied.
Stalls of every kind spilled onto the street: second hand clothes, books, henna tattoos, homemade jewellry – we had a job keeping the kids away from the scrabble pieces which had been creatively turned into bracelets and necklaces.
Those lucky enough to live on the street had quite literally opened their doors and were hosting numerous private parties of their own, some taking advantage of passing trade to sell off unwanted household items. And when things got too cramped, the parties just moved up the side streets.
It is astonishing just how much can be packed into one street when there’s a will. Music blasting out from 2 official stages competed with an array of street musicians including a group of children who had set up camp at one end of the street to entertain passers-by with an impressive range of toy instruments, their proud parents watching over them.
Hog roast, burger stalls and the Cambridge Blue beer festival, pulled in the crowds. 'Arty Farty’- a citrus ale - was going down a treat with the revellers but had all sold out by the time we got there mid-afternoon.
“Try the Orange IPA!” joked Richard, here for the fifth year in a row. As its name suggests, this beer proved to be a somewhat contradictory mix of flavours. “So what keeps you coming back?” we asked our loyal festival-goer. “It’s just the friendliness of it,” he explained. “Everyone’s here to have fun and I’ve just bumped into people I haven’t seen for 14 years! This year the weather’s a biggy and it’s really busy. Considering it’s a small street, it’s brilliant!”
By placating the kids with some home-made lemonade and a couple of lollies, we joined in for a beer or two and managed to stay just that little bit longer than planned…