Despite having lived in Hampshire for almost nine years now, there is a lot I’ve still not done or seen in the local area.
However, discovering local, hidden gems and supporting local theatres and independent businesses are among my favourite things to do. Needless to say, then, when I was alerted to an annual event taking place in Eastleigh this summer, I was keen to go along and experience it.
And so it was that, last Saturday, I found myself with Pimms in hand, standing in the sunshine, watching an acrobatic show at one o’clock in the afternoon, in Eastleigh town centre.
Did you know that, every year, The Point – Eastleigh’s own little theatre – hosts a whole day dedicated to free street theatre, dance and family fun?
Nope. Neither did I.
Eastleigh Unwrapped is an annual festival that sees vibrant and varied acts, from across the UK and even Europe, descend upon this little town in Hampshire, bringing it to life with colour, noise, and mayhem for one whole day.
This year was their sixth anniversary, and I was invited along to experience it for the first time, to see what I’d been missing.
So, what exactly is Eastleigh Unwrapped? Well, to sum it up, it’s rather like a huge summer fete; except, instead of stalls, there are coloured zones, each with their own different act or activity. Some are child-friendly, and some are for all ages. Some involve audience participation, while others showcase magic or impressive mechanics.
Saturday was an utterly beautiful day, and the team behind the festival could not have been more lucky with the sunshine! From about 11am, the park was filled with noise and smoke and colour and activity. There were deck chairs and BBQs, bunting and conga lines, and it was pure magical mayhem from start to finish.
It was wonderful to see Eastleigh town centre and Leigh Park Recreation Ground so busy and bustling! I invited my friend Amy along to enjoy the day with me, and she commented that she had never seen so many people out and about in the town before, and how wonderful it was. I couldn’t agree more. This is what local events like this are all about.
The beauty of the layout meant that we could easily move from one show to another and really make the most out of the day. We spent hours wandering around taking it all in at our own pace, soaking up the atmosphere.
The first event we stumbled upon was Glass House Dance‘s Time Machine Disco; a steampunk-inspired DJ booth, with Dr Spin blasting out hits from the decades. Within minutes, everyone was up and dancing, encouraged by the Sisters of Stylus; it was just such a joyful experience and you couldn’t help moving to the music. Everyone was just so happy, and it really encouraged us all to relax, let things go and simply enjoy moving to the music.
Next, we saw Highly Sprung‘s wonderful production, Urban Astronaut, which told a dystopian tale through dance and performance, exploring the issue of climate change and the environment. It was incredibly powerful.
The staging was impressive, with great choreography and a very talented team; the arrival of the astronaut in question was really quite spectacular, with a unique machine that elevates him 20ft in the air. I was blown away.
Finally, we saw the festival’s headline act, Sur Mesure, with their show, Fillage. Having travelled all the way from Belgium to delight audiences old and young, their show combined trampolining, acrobatics, live music, and juggling, and was a real highlight. It was old-school, classic entertainment and we loved it.
There was so much to see and do on the day, we couldn’t fit it all in, but we wrapped up our day with a visit to The Sorting Office, which had opened its doors for a local Etsy market. We browsed the stalls of talented small, local businesses selling their wares; from beautiful illustrations and stationery to jewellery, baby clothes, and homeware. I picked up a few little treats; I couldn’t resist!
I had a really fantastic day and, honestly, I probably wouldn’t have known about Eastleigh Unwrapped if The Point hadn’t got in touch to see if I wanted to come along; purely because of its local nature. Finding out about these events can be tricky, but now with the power of social media, it’s getting easier to spread the word.
So it’s my duty, I think, to tell you about this brilliant event, and to encourage you to go along next year. Support your local and nearby communities, even if you don’t live there, and your local businesses and arts venues.
What’s in it for you? Fantastic, eye-opening experiences you can’t find just anywhere, fun for all ages, a fantastic vibe, and an event that really does let you relax and have fun the old-fashioned way.
I’m not sure about you, but it’s not every day I get to watch an astronaut leaping across my local park while, just meters away, acrobats throw themselves into the sky and disco dancers in silver lycra do the twist; all just ten minutes from home by train.
See you at Eastleigh Unwrapped 2019!
I was invited to attend Eastleigh Unwrapped by the team at The Point, but since it’s a free event I was not paid or reimbursed to review my experience in any way; as always, with anything I write, my views are honest and 100% my own.