A feast day to remember

After a sunny September morning mass there was great food, drink, laughter and dancing at St Giles’. The weather stayed fine and as is traditional now, we rounded off a special occasion with a beautiful choral evensong.

The joy that St Giles’ day has brought this year will echo on down the ages, as it has for many centuries; this day has long been a source of brightness and hope in countless peoples’ lives. St Giles’ day traditionally ended Camberwell Fair – and whilst we hold our festival a little later these days, it’s fantastic to see the newly relaunched fair grow into such an inclusive and positive event in our parish. Of course, the relationship between the parish authorities and the original fair had its ups and downs!

The original fair ran from 1279 to 1855 and was held in ‘Gods Acre’ – the immediate grounds of the church. It probably moved to Camberwell Green in 1444 when the Archbishop of Canterbury banned fairs on church property. The parish authorities eventually closed it down as it seemed to have gotten a little bit out of hand by the 1850’s. A visitor once wrote that it “teemed with stalls of food (oysters, pickled salmon, fried plaice, gingerbread), ‘pedelerie’ (junk), toys, makeshift zoos, mystery plays, merry go rounds, hawkers, pickpockets, jugglers, performers and magicians.” It even had it’s own catchphrase – ‘Rare doings at Camberwell’!

Of course, things have changed quite a bit over the centuries and both the church and the fair are very good neighbours these days. In fact Camberwell Community Choir, who are based in the St Giles’ Centre, took part this year for the very first time! And whilst St Giles’ day and the fair don’t overlap in the calendar as they once did, both events continue to excite and enthuse Camberwellians as they have been doing for centuries.

Thank you to all who made St Giles’ day 2019 such a wonderful occasion!