Hackney creates an alternative World Cup celebration in Gillett Square

Visitors and residents are being invited to enjoy an alternative World Cup celebration on Saturday 12 June at Gillett Square in Dalston, Hackney.

An afternoon of free play events for all ages will be followed by an exclusive preview of costumes from participants in this year’s eagerly awaited Hackney One Carnival.

To round things off, the first England World Cup match, against the USA, will be shown on a giant outdoor screen, accompanied by live improvised jazz. JazzBall, run by the Vortex Jazz club, was conducted four years ago to great critical acclaim and, in partnership with Hackney Council, will go bigger and better this time round.

Cllr Guy Nicholson, Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, said: “Dalston is a real hub of culture and creativity and these events put a twist on the more traditional World Cup celebrations.”

As one of four Total Play Days running from 1 to 4pm every Saturday in June, visitors to Gillett Square can play chess on a giant board, take part in chess master classes, enjoy ping-pong, and try new and traditional games, from Oware, the national game of Ghana, to magnetic football. Experts from Universal Board Games will be on hand to help out and the days are funded by the West Hackney Parochial Charity.

Children will also be able to get creative with the arrival of new ‘Snug’ play equipment that they can move around and join together to create their own exciting play areas. The play equipment has been bought by Hackney Council using London Development Agency funding.

A colourful carnival extravaganza will follow from 5 to 7pm, showcasing dance performances, steel band music and a workshop from groups taking part in this year’s Hackney One Carnival, which will bring the borough’s streets to life on 8 August. The carnival procession will start from Gillett Square and this sneak preview will give a taster of what to expect from the main event in August.

From 7.30pm, the focus will turn to the England v USA World Cup match with all the action being shown on a giant screen in Gillett Square. The game will be accompanied by Billy Jenkins’ JazzBall – football-inspired improvisation featuring some of London’s finest jazz musicians organised by the Vortex Jazz Club.

Billy Jenkins said: “Jazz is just like football. It’s the most kinetic and spontaneous art form we have. Both of them are about organising joy from chaos. It s like the musicians will play to a giant musical score by following the bouncing ball on the screen.”


Gillett Square opened in November 2006 as a flexible urban space that hosts a variety of cultural events. The Square has been developed by the Gillett Square Partnership, which currently comprises Hackney Co-operative Developments, Groundwork East London, Hackney Council, Design for London and the Vortex.