AFTER rescuing it from the brink of collapse, the organisers of this year's Chelsea Festival aim to make the popular extravaganza bigger and better than ever.

When the British economy sank into recession earlier this year, the future of the annual community event was in doubt.

The credit crunch had led its board to announce it would be cancelled, shocking the close-knit artistic community of the King's Road.

But a group of dedicated locals was determined to struggle through the crisis to reinvent the iconic festival.

Now, as Arts Festival: Chelsea, they are determined to wow crowds throughout west London with an improved event - set to rival similar festivals in the City of London.

Speaking from his base in St Luke's Church, Sydney Street, festival director Stewart Collins said: "Times were hard but under no circumstances could I back away from an event with such tremendous momentum and success."

Far from keeping the blue-print of the Chelsea Festivals of old, the team now wants to diversify from its 'old Chelsea' appeal.

This year, primary schools will be involved in the proceedings and every community is set to be targeted by performers - who include poet Roger McGough, 'Dead Ringers' impressionist Jan Ravens, and singers Rick Wakeman and Mica Paris - who will be performing from locations in Sloane Square, to the World's End Estate.

Mr Collins added: "We have been trying to find out what the people of Chelsea - which is a vibrant part of London - want for their festival.

"The history of the festival is a bit old Chelsea, which is important, but it has moved on."

That is not to say that traditions will not be kept up.

The annual cricket match between the Chelsea Arts Club and The Marauders XI is set for June 24.

After a launch party in the Chelsea Potter in King's Road, the stage is set for a festival to remember. With a diverse lineup including comedy, music and sport, it is hoped that more people will feel like they can be involved, making the festival a draw for arts lovers throughout London.

Board member David Gregory said: "It may be a celebration of Chelsea but we want to cross borders of neighbouring boroughs and get people from areas such as Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham to come along." 

*  The Chelsea Festival runs from June 13-24. For more information or to book tickets see  or call 0845 890 2435.