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Kensington + Chelsea Festival 2021

A summer-long celebration of art, performance and community is taking over Chelsea

Light installation by Lauren Baker on Sloane Street
JR: Chronicles, supported by Art Explora, at Saatchi Gallery

This summer will see a celebration of art, performance and community take over the neighbourhood with the inaugural Kensington + Chelsea Festival, which promises a diverse programme of arts experiences in venues and unusual spaces, putting culture at the heart of pandemic recovery and highlighting a wealth of talents whose careers have been on hold for a year.

The festival kicked off on 21 June with the annual Kensington + Chelsea Art Week (KCAW), which ran over 11 days and saw the fourth edition of the beloved Public Art Trail throughout Chelsea, with artists, creators, performers and curators exploring this year’s theme, ‘Reimagine’.

The Public Art Trail is an opportunity to see the neighbourhood with fresh eyes, with the possibility of unexpected delight around every corner. It places joy, innovation and celebration at its core, providing space for the public and the creative community to rebuild and reconnect, after a difficult period of uncertainty.

Highlights of this year’s Public Art Trail include incredible works by Anthony Garratt, Amy Jackson, Lauren Baker, and Rand Abdul Jabbar, whose diverse, thought-provoking and influential works forged new connections between the artists and their art, as they were brought into conversation with the local environment.

Lauren Baker’s arresting neon poetic light typography installations appeared throughout Chelsea in unexpected locations. Inspired by local icons such as Vivienne Westwood and Oscar Wilde, her evocative works were intended to inspire shoppers and locals to pause and contemplate life, joy and existence.

Last year’s Chelsea Windows art initiative was such a hit that it returned for 2021, bringing an enhanced sense of discovery to shoppers and passers-by alike.

While you’re walking down the King’s Road, keep an eye out for store windows that have been transformed by local artists and creative studios. Turn your inner autopilot off or you might miss some sensational sights, such as a large-scale installation at the King’s Road Curve comprising of recycled materials and live plant installation by Yan Skates, a contestant in Netflix’s The Big Flower Fight.

At Saatchi Gallery, JR: Chronicles (4 June to 3 October) will be the largest solo museum exhibition of the work of JR, the internationally recognised Parisian artist and storyteller, featuring some of his most iconic projects from the past 15 years, including The Secret of the Great Pyramid (2019) to mark the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Louvre Pyramid, and Tehachapi (2019), which follows JR’s experiences with inmates of a Californian maximum-security prison.

Beyond KCAW, the Kensington + Chelsea Festival will run until the August bank holiday. Expect a multi-disciplinary celebration of creativity and culture for everyone.

The festival programme features fun, inspirational, surprising experiences spanning visual art, design, theatre, circus, opera, dance, music, outdoor arts, comedy, spoken word, young people’s take-over stages, family shows, talks and micro-commissions, with creative experiments enabling audiences to see artists bringing new ideas to life.

All events will be safe and accessible and held across Kensington and Chelsea’s iconic venues, including the Royal Court, Chelsea Old Town Hall, Cadogan Hall, and Chelsea Theatre, which will host up to 18 nights of fringe-style performances, as well as unusual public spaces, with online and interactive ways to get involved.

Visit kcaw.co.uk to be kept in the loop as more events are announced and make sure to sign up to the K+C Festival newsletter to be the first in the know

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