Every year from 1985 to 2019, Filipinos are drawn together for a day of music, food and Pinoy culture whenever the London Barrio Fiesta is held.
The London Barrio Fiesta event attracts not just Filipinos from the United Kingdom but also from other parts of Europe and even outside the continent.
“I used to live in London and during the time I was studying there, I was able to attend the London Barrio Fiesta. It was really great to see the Filipino culture alive while I was in London. I would expect that three decades on, The London Barrio Fiesta has a far reaching impact not just to the Filipino community but to the people of London,” says Lloyd Tronco, an advertising executive in Manila who is a part of the British Alumni Association in the Philippines.
Barrio Fiesta really brings everyone together, especially the Filipino community. It used to be a one-day event, but as the years went by, one day was not enough so it was extended for another day.
Today, the two-day London Barrio Fiesta, is a gathering of the biggest names in the Filipino food business curating food and delicacies representing various regions in the Philippines.
It is amazing to see people travelling hours and hours away to be able to get together, spend time with the Filipino community, and of course, eat good Filipino food like those prepared at fiestas back home.
Prior to the COVID 19 pandemic, the London Barrio Fiesta has been on annualy without fail for 35 years!
The event features the best of Filipino food, cultural performances and live music from local musicians and artists flown from the Philippines. It aims to bring together and capture the unique qualities and spectacles of the Philippine’s fiesta.
The London Barrio Fiesta started in 1985 as a small gathering in Holland Park by the Philippine Centre.
In the book, Hinabing Gunita: Filipinos in the United Kingdom, Nona Tomelden recalls the first-ever fiesta in Holland Park: “The stage was the grass. The emcee stood on a plastic container. No microphones, no nothing… It was a mini, mini barrio fiesta.”
“There weren’t even any tables and chairs,” Tomelden recalls. “We put some bunting up, and there! We had a fiesta! It was very enjoyable. We didn’t make much money but it was okay. People heard about it by word of mouth.” By 2003 Tomelden noted, “sixty thousand people [attended the] two days.”
Although it is still referred to as “London Barrio Fiesta,” the celebration is now held in Surrey, not too far from the famous Hampton Court Palace. The London Barrio Fiesta draws Europe’s largest gathering of Filipinos outside of the Philippines.
It is sad though that this year's COVID-19 pandemic has doused out all the fun expected from the London Barrio Fiesta. Hopefully, it will be back next year.