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50 Years of the Bedford Park Festival

The Bedford Park Festival was launched in 1967 by the vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Jack Jenner, and its appeal committee to celebrate the arts, raise money for repairs to the church and “foster a spirit of friendliness and community”. 

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THE SAVING OF BEDFORD PARK IN 1967

The Bedford Park Festival has had a profound effect on its community – it helped save the area from developers. In 1967, Victorian buildings were out of fashion, the area was run down, and some of the largest and finest houses had been demolished to make way for modern blocks of flats. See The Exhibition That Saved Bedford Park.

The Bedford Park Society was formed in 1963 by two local residents: Harry Taylor, a community activist, and Tom Greeves, conservationist and architect, with John Betjeman, the poet and heritage campaigner, as the Society’s first patron. They were horrified by the rash of demolition and inappropriate development and decided to act after a large Norman Shaw house in Bedford Road was replaced by a yellow-brick, flat-roofed old people’s home – the antithesis of the suburb’s steep roofs, red tiles and gables. Although the Society grew to 200 members in its first year, Greeves was aware that the only real protection for Bedford Park lay in statutory listing for the buildings. 

The breakthrough came with an exhibition staged in the Vicarage as part of the first Bedford Park Festival in 1967, highlighting the history of Bedford Park and the dangers it faced. One visitor was a Ministry of Housing & Local Government inspector, who was so impressed that within a month he recommended the Grade II listing of 356 buildings, including the former Stores (now offices), the Tabard Inn, the Club (now the London Buddhist Vihara), the Church of St Michael and All Angels and its Parish Hall. A few years later both Ealing and Hounslow councils designated Bedford Park a conservation area. 

John Betjeman was the first patron of the Festival as well as the Society. He said Bedford Park was "the most significant suburb built in the last century, probably the most significant in the Western world". He called its parish church, St Michael & All Angels, "a very lovely church and a fine example of Norman Shaw's work"

You can read the full story in the biography of John Betjeman by Bevis Hillier and we shall be celebrating the 50th anniversary of this achievement, alongside The Bedford Park Society, during the Festival's Golden Jubilee. The Exhibition That Saved Bedford Park will run from June 9th to 16th in St Michael & All Angels Church, and there will be a Golden Jubilee Garden Party on Saturday June 24th.