Once abandoned and used as a dumping ground for 40 years, the steps opposite St Stephens church in Bandra are now brimming with life. A brainchild of Bandra couple Anca and Alan Abraham, these newly renovated steps have now become a prime location for community celebrations.
With the place rapidly growing into a wasteland, the couple took it upon themselves to give it back to the community. It took the Abrahams three years, right from conceptualising, reaching out to the concerned authorities, cleaning and re-designing the stairs spread over more than 18,000 sq ft of open space. While they marched towards their goal, municipal councillor Asif Zakaria actively supported the initiative.
Boasting of vibrant murals made by local artists, the couple envisioned these steps more than just a transit space — connecting the upper and lower part of Mount Marry— and converted it into a multi-use barrier-free space, where the steps act like an amphitheatre. And to celebrate this transformation, Festival At The Steps comprising culture, art and, community, is to connect the locals to this space.
“We created this festival for people to discover this place because not even the people living on the Mount Mary knew about his place. They were so used to this place being a garbage dump that they shut it from their memory. We wanted to change that perception and help them make new memories,” smiles Anca.
The festival, that takes place over the weekends is an amalgamation of several community activities. Arts and crafts, singing, and storytelling to Kathak performances, dance recitals, open mics, film screenings, yoga classes, book swaps and much more.
“We are doing the festival over five weekends; now we have three more to go. We have a photo exhibition of Monobina Roy coming up in January. Her son lives in Bandra and after we spoke to him about holding the exhibition here, he readily accepted. We will also be showing documentaries as we are in the process of setting up the projector,” informs Anca.
While the festival is just a means to bring the community together and make new memories, the space is also open to cyclists. “It has got ramps which make a great place for the cyclists to practice. But of all, it is the children who are making the most of the space. The last festival, we saw kids jumping around, which is such a joy to see,” smiles the open space advocate.
In a city that hardly has a meter open space, Anca is immensely pleased to see people using the steps. “The success of public space is when people are using it, otherwise it gets misused. The festival is the celebration of this change, and we hope that it will continue to be one,” she says.
With the festival gaining momentum, more artists are coming on board pro bono to support the community initiative. While they have support from the BMC to keep it clean, Anca believes, “Maintaining something is a task. We believe if people coming here will find the place clean, it will automatically motivate them to do the same.”
For Christmas, they have a Christmas tree installation made out of marble that will be lit throughout the day.