The Dulwich Festival returns this spring (11-20 May) with the theme of ‘Celebration’ and promises to be bigger and better than ever to mark its 25th year.

Highlights include rap royalty, The Last Poets, celebrating 50 years together; an evening with author Jane Robinson, celebrating the centenary of the Suffragettes; and a celebration of atoms, big bangs and DNA with award winning writer & performer, John Hinton’s, Ensonglopedia of Science.

Over ten terrific days, the festival will showcase art & culture in the various wonderful hidden gems to be found in Dulwich.

Dulwich, which pre-dates the Domesday book, has always had a vibrant community and been a pioneer for the arts. Dulwich Picture Gallery was the world’s first public art gallery when it was established over 200 years ago.

The Dulwich Picture Gallery won’t be alone in opening its doors at this year’s Festival, over 250 local artists will once again welcome the public into their homes and studios for the Artist’s Open House, taking place across both weekends, providing a unique insight into their creative processes.

To celebrate the centenary of women being given the right to vote, social historian and author Jane Robinson, will give an illustrated lecture at the Dulwich Picture Gallery on Friday 11th May on her latest book, Hearts and Minds: The Untold Story of the Great Pilgrimage and How Women Won the Vote. The book tells the remarkable, yet neglected story of the suffragists march on London. After the talk, author and journalist, Nicolette Jones, will lead a Q&A.

A truly memorable evening is in store at Dulwich College when The Last Poets make a rare UK appearance. The godfathers of hip hop and spoken word legends have inspired generations of performance poets and musicians since fusing poetry and rap on Harlem street corners during the Civil Rights era. Step up to the open mic with them as they give the festival a proper send off on Sunday 20th May. The ‘People’s Poet’, David Nieta, will host this event and lead an intimate discussion about their lives, from their youth in the ghetto, to their triumphs and defeats, their inspirations, and their legacy.

Also appearing at Dulwich College, acclaimed performance poet, comedian and musician, John Hegley returns to the Festival for an evening of wit and fun with A Potato Show on Friday 18th May. John is a regular sell-out at the Edinburgh Festival and appeals to young and old alike.

There are plenty more family-orientated events. Expect atoms and Big Bangs at John Hinton’s latest show, Ensonglopedia of Science, a song about science for every letter of the alphabet at Alleyn’s Great Hall on Tuesday 15th May. A Circus Skills Workshop; the Festival Quiz in aid of LinkAge Southwark and the Children’s Art Competition, will all continue the ‘Celebration’ theme. Saturday 12th May will be Festival Family Funday with workshops, concerts, performances and the start of Artists’ Open House to entertain all.

The ever-popular fairs will also be back at Goose Green (Sunday 13th) and Dulwich Park (Sunday 20th), both of which provide free entertainment for all ages.

Eric Richardson-Photography

There is something for all musical tastes at this year’s Festival. Opening the event on Friday 11th May, is a Festival of Choirs curated by local choir, Tongue & Groove, at James Allen’s Girls’ School.

For Classical music fans, a highlight will be a performance of works by Purcell, Debussy and Beethoven by the Doric String Quartet. Formed nearly 20 years ago, they are recognized as the leading British string quartet of their generation, with a worldwide reputation. They will perform on 16th May in the 400-year old Christ’s Chapel in Dulwich Village. There’s an opportunity to gain an insider’s view of the exquisite organ in the Chapel with an open day conducted by organist, Marilyn Harper, on 12th May; Marilyn will also give the Festival organ recital at Christ’s Chapel on Sunday 13th May.

The newly restored Georgian mansion, Bell House, on Gallery Road, will provide the perfect setting on 14th May for a relaxing evening of Poetry & Music. Formerly home to a Lord Mayor of London, the magnificent house will also host the Romeo Jones supper club in aid of LinkAge Southwark on 17th May.

Contemporary music lovers will be excited by the return of Post-Brexit indie folk band, Joe Innes & The Cavalcade, on 12th May, whose masterfully offbeat and often irreverent song writing has gained wide–spread praise.

Meanwhile, The Ned Bennett Quartet will provide an evening of Blue Note Bossa Nova on Monday 14th May at Copper Beech Café and Licence to Ceilidh will be taking up residence at the Parish Hall, inviting us to cast off our inhibitions and take to the floor with some irresistible tunes on Saturday 19th May.

An extensive programme of walks will be available to join; London Wildlife Trust guides leading the bat walk and the dawn chorus walk; Ian McInnes providing an insight into Dulwich’s Georgian Heritage; Lette Jones conducting the tree walk; Amanda Greatorex exploring local street art from Connor Harrington and Remi Rough, to Stik and the Festival will conclude with Brian Green’s history walk on Sunday 20th May.

If this hasn’t sated your appetite, then Dulwich Festival’s Food Trail will be offering culinary delights from local producers and retailers throughout the 10-day Festival.

The Dulwich Festival would not be the Dulwich Festival without the huge amount of support and enthusiasm shown by successive generations throughout its amazing first 25 years. The Festival celebrates the beautiful spaces, places, products and people Dulwich has to offer. Catch the film made of last year’s Festival by visiting the Dulwich Festival Twitter or Facebook page. Enjoy the wonderful sights caught last year via their Instagram feed.