LONDON—Thousands attended the popular and much-loved annual Armenian Summer Festival (ASF) in London on Sunday. What has become a yearly ritual for UK-based Armenians is also recognized as the largest Armenian event of the summer in Europe.
Armenians and non-Armenians alike from across the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland gathered to celebrate their identity and their roots.
“When I first came to the UK as a primate, the time coincided with the ASF. I did not know what was going to happen. Back then it was a much smaller scale,” recalled His Grace Bishop Hovakim Manukyan. “Now, we see thousands of Armenians and non-Armenians come together to enjoy the many elements of our rich culture. It is a day that we all wait for until it comes and miss when it ends.”
The way meat should be cooked and lahmajun should taste was dictated by those cooking up a heavenly range of Armenian cuisine that sent guests on a one-way journey to Yerevan. The food was complemented by several Armenian specialties—one of which was a perfectly chilled bottle of Kilikia beer. As is prevalent in most Armenian get-togethers, the food and drink was a prominent part of the day. ASF chair Bedros Aslanyan relayed the importance of “bringing the entire Armenian community together irrespective of their background, political or religious persuasions.” He said, “The festival helps unite different parts of the Armenian community and continuously sends a strong message to the next generations.”
The day was led by dynamic duo Teni Matian and Vanouhi Petrosyan, who were the emcees and ensured seamless entertainment. Petrosyan is passionate about the festival and how it “provides the opportunity to explore the full spectrum of Armenian arts and culture.” She said, “It was my pleasure to emcee the festival this year. I was really able to feel the energy of the crowd right from the epicenter of it all happening!”
Gifted Armenian performers from the UK and Armenia left the crowd infatuated throughout the day. The famed Sofi Mkheyan was flown in from Yerevan as the headliner. She arrived with infectious energy and gave an unforgettable performance. “I am really happy the UK Armenian Church organizes such events. It has such a positive impact on the Armenian community. I loved being part of the festival and meeting so many incredible Armenians living in the UK. It is great to see the love and dedication from everyone,” shared Mkheyan. It was an honor for all to see such a recognized and adored artist who represents Armenia perform in London. The crowd was bursting with energy when Mkheyan performed “Hayastan” and her latest single “Amperic Vac.”
DJ Sipan Dro Petrosyan made it his mission to deliver a full range of the best Armenian music from start to finish. Singer Katya Janoff also performed. Some of her songs were inspired by her trip to discover her roots in Armenia. Well-known entertainer Kev Orkian was interviewed by Andre Simonian and touched on many key topics, one of which is how we can evolve as Armenians. The festival also featured an open-mic segment.
The accomplished ‘Akhtamar’ APG dance group gave a masterful performance leaving many eager to join in. The energy soared when the group performed ‘Yarkoushta’ and other signature songs. The group delivered exemplary synchronicity and showcased Armenian culture proudly. “ASF is all about Armenian culture, values and beliefs,” said dancer Elberg Grigoryan. “Performing Armenian traditional dances is the best way to gather all Armenians together and ensure that our rich culture is being treasured and passed onto the younger generations. As an Akhtamar performer, I am always fueled by the love of the dance but also the love reciprocated from the audience.”
The festival hosted over 20 Armenian-led businesses and organizations enabling them to share their visionary works with all. The children’s corner gave the younger ones a chance to explore their heritage in crafting Armenian related artworks. All age groups were destined to have an enjoyable time.
The day to remember was thanks to the many organizers and volunteers who made it possible. Each aspect of the day embraced excellence, even the weather. Bishop Manukyan concluded, “In London, it usually rains. But when asked how we manage to make it sunny every year on the day of the festival, I answer, ‘We are the Armenian church. We have a direct line of contact above.’”
Editor’s Note: The author served on the organizing committee of this year’s Armenian Summer Festival.