(c) Stuart Keegan

Welcome to The New Bloomsbury Set


The New Bloomsbury Set was launched at the 2022 festival and culminated in exhibitions at the Bloomsbury Festival 2023, which took place between 13-22 October. ‘The New Bloomsbury Set’ was an arts and heritage project run by Bloomsbury Festival and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project brought together local community groups, residents, and artists in Bloomsbury to create a series of exhibitions and events that explore Bloomsbury’s diverse history, identity, and cultures past and present.

The festival teamed up with Kinetika to produce a set of six silk flags telling the stories of local people and places in Bloomsbury, from the view of local residents of all backgrounds. These beautiful, colourful flags were designed and painted by community groups and the general public over a series of workshops between March and July 2023.

Groups were invited to help create beautiful silks for The New Bloomsbury Set exhibition. We asked groups to take inspiration from the people, the streets, the buildings and places they visit in Bloomsbury to tell their own stories about their daily life. We also asked that they think about the food you eat and the plants they cook with, encouraging them to grow some small plants this year.

The flags were displayed in Holborn Library in October as part of the festival. Participants were also invited to take part in a walk around Bloomsbury with the flags at the launch of the festival and the flags went on to become the backdrop for events as well as continue in exhibition form.

See more information on what we asked of groups in our resource pack.

Download our resource pack

Themes & Inspiration

We worked closely with groups to produce six silk flags that reflected heritage and culture, and the wider diverse identity, culture and history of Bloomsbury. Each of the flags depict community and what makes it feel like home to you; the shops, playgrounds, squares, libraries, estates and streets that make up your daily life. Groups told us what is important to them, and we encouraged them to start collecting material that they associate with their life and culture in Bloomsbury now. These could be images, objects, textiles, clothing, maps or more.

Each of the groups was asked to produce their own flag, themed on one or more of the following ideas:

  • Identity & Culture
  • The streets you walk and travel in Bloomsbury
  • Food & plants from their culture
  • How you celebrate cultural heritage in Bloomsbury
  • Important local places – Shops, community centres and streets
  • Buildings and architecture that they like
  • Bloomsbury garden squares and what they mean to them

(c) Mark Massey

(c) Mark Massey

Kinetika drawing workshop

A hands-on design and drawing workshop will took place on 22 – 24 May where groups began to sketch out designs for the flags, based on the images and stories that they brought along.

Working with some of the festival’s New Bloomsbury Set Trainees, the Kinetika professional artists team finalised the patterns for the flags and then waxed the outlines of the full design onto plain silk.

Painting Days

On 12 & 13 July, the outlined flags were brought to Holborn Library to be painted.

The finished flags were then on display at Holborn Library from 14 – 22 October as part of the Bloomsbury Festival.

Bloomsbury Silks in progress. Images: Stuart Keegan

About the Bloomsbury Festival

Each October Bloomsbury Festival creates an annual festival of cultural events made by people and organisations in Bloomsbury presented in venues and outdoors across the area. The Festival works with artists and communities to present and produce events that add value to Bloomsbury and the surrounding area. Bloomsbury Festival connects artists, scientists and residents of all ages to present work that reflects and demonstrates the contemporary spirit of this vibrant multicultural area.

We inspire audiences with a trail-blazing original programme combining innovation with celebration to showcase contemporary Bloomsbury to the world. Bloomsbury Festival productions respond to the area and its people and the Festival develops these, and its outreach projects, in collaboration with partners such as King’s Cross Brunswick Neighbourhood Association, Holborn Community Association, Age UK Camden and Coram’s Fields.

2023’s festival will be taking place from 13th – 22nd October. Learn more on the website. 

Take a look at pictures of The New Bloomsbury Set flags from Bloomsbury Festival 2023, below:


(c) Mark Massey

About the Artists

Ali Pretty

Ali is best known as the founding member and artistic director of the international outdoor arts company Kinetika, which she founded in 1997 after an established career in carnival arts and a growing commitment to community engagement. Ali has collaborated with, and led teams of artists to deliver large-scale events to diverse audiences all over the world,
such as; WOMAD (1985-1991), FIFA World Cup (2009), the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In recent years Ali has been developing her practice to develop transformational walking arts projects with diverse communities. Through these Ali brings people together by walking, talking and painting largescale silk creations. Since 2012, Ali has led walking projects in Wiltshire, the Isle of Wight, Lincolnshire, Essex and Thurrock, where she has
developed an annual walking, talking and making festival, Thurrock 100 . This pioneering place-making model has been replicated internationally in various forms in Ethiopia, Chile and India. Her most ambitious project to date is Silk River, commissioned by the British Council as part of the UK/India Year of Culture in 2017.

Ali has recently completed Beach of Dreams, leading a 500-mile walk involving 500 participants and 500 silk flags from Lowestoft to Tilbury.

 Sarah Doyle

After graduating university, Sarah worked for ten years in the early years education sector and has always had a passion for art and inspiring creativity in young people. Sarah
is currently a cake artist specialising in creating sugar models and bespoke cakes.

After designing a flag for the Tilbury carnival in 2019, she soon fell in love with batik and creating stunning silk flags with Kinetika. Sarah has been working as an artist with
Kinetika for the past 18 months, supporting several projects including T100 mandalas, Grays community flags, Carnival Gold and Beach of Dreams.

Sarah loves working with communities and individuals to help bring their ideas and creativity to life.




The Bloomsbury Festival takes place only through the generous support of our funders, and collaboration and support of local organisations and individuals.