Well this fes­ti­val sounds promis­ing! One of my favourite bands, the mighty Alaba­ma 3 are play­ing at Par­adise Gar­dens, a free Lon­don week­end fam­i­ly fes­ti­val with lots of enter­tain­ment for all ages. Up till this year, Par­adise Gar­dens Fes­ti­val has tak­en place at leafy Vic­to­ria Park in East Lon­don. This year, the fes­ti­val is the open­er for a new cre­ative art and adven­ture space going by the name of Lon­don Plea­sure Gardens.

This new park is in Newham, next to Pon­toon Dock DLR sta­tion. We skip the Sat­ur­day and arrive for Sun­day after­noon, look­ing for­ward to a retro moment with eight­ies teen band Musi­cal Youth, plus sets from Ska Cubano and Alaba­ma 3.

Paradise Gardens Festival, London Pleasure Gardens

Lon­don Plea­sure Gar­dens takes its name from the small plea­sure gar­dens that exist­ed dur­ing Vic­to­ri­an times, but there’s noth­ing about this mod­ern space that recalls those Dick­en­sian times. Views are cer­tain­ly impres­sive. The new park mean­ders along the Thames, board-walk style, inter­spersed with art­works and instal­la­tions. A dome hosts swing-dance class­es, there’s a fun­fair, chil­dren’s activ­i­ties and a huge tent for music. Here is Lon­don cap­tured in a pre-Olympic moment, with all the evi­dence of its mas­sive invest­ment and con­fi­dence. Planes from City Air­port take off only min­utes away, the DLR zigza­gs along an ele­vat­ed track, and the cable cars add a new ele­ment to a back­drop replete with icon­ic Lon­don imagery – the O2 Are­na, Canary Wharf. Across the riv­er is brash ExCel and the derelict Mil­le­ni­um Mill, impres­sive in its decay, with one wall now serv­ing as the can­vas for a pow­er­ful 42m-high mur­al pro­mot­ing free speech, by Shep­ard Fairey.

Musi­cal Youth are greet­ed with huge affec­tion by all the old­er peo­ple in the audi­ence, although sad­ly there are now only two mem­bers of the orig­i­nal Brum­mie line-up. They play a col­lec­tion of reg­gae num­bers includ­ing ‘I Shot the Sher­riff’, and even­tu­al­ly sing the num­ber every­one had been hold­ing out for, ‘Pass the Dutchie’. Ska Cubano know how to work the crowd and treat us to a live­ly sum­mer set of their Cuban ska fusion, which has every­one enter­tained from adults down to the toddlers.

Alaba­ma 3 have a deserved rep­u­ta­tion of being a great live act, and this set is no excep­tion. The musi­cians arrive on stage in famil­iar style, look­ing as if they have just strolled out of a mid­west­ern bar, hav­ing drunk, smoked, brawled, gam­bled and wom­an­ised the after­noon away. Lar­ry Love’s voice is its usu­al growl. ‘Hel­lo… I’m John­ny Cash’ gets every­one going, and by the time they get to ‘Hypo Full of Love’, with the band doing their sexy chore­o­graphed down-low side-step, we are all singing the refrain, ‘shoot me up’, like a vast gospel choir. They don’t play my favourite, ‘Too Sick to Pray’, but no mat­ter, we’ve been treat­ed to an uplift­ing, free gig from A3 and I’m more than happy.

On a cau­tious note, this new park was only devel­oped recent­ly and is still a work in progress. There is almost no green­ery, grass, flow­ers or trees, so as yet the ‘gar­den’ aspect is yet to hap­pen. The hard sur­face, parts of it with loose stone was­n’t easy for those with bug­gies. The breeze cre­at­ed huge gusts of swirling dust, which the organ­is­ers did apol­o­gise for. I would advise any­one with con­tact lens­es to think about wear­ing glass­es as the grit was painful. And with no grass to sit on, you had to look for seat­ing areas. Hope­ful­ly with time, this space will bloom, not only to pro­vide a sym­bol­ic flow­er­ing of a for­mer waste­land, but also to cre­ate a bet­ter back­drop to the art­works and do jus­tice to the all work that has been done.

Cable cars against the sky­line at Lon­don Plea­sure Gar­dens

UPDATE: London Pleasure Gardens no longer exist. Shortly after this festival, a two-day dance event BLOC was a fiasco with poor management, overcrowding and queues. Not longer after this, the London Pleasure Gardens went into administration.

Paradise Gardens Festival, London Pleasure Gardens

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