To young kids, Joseph Elliott is a pirate named Cook. To older kids, he’s the author of epic fantasy novels with an unconventional heroine. And to Wanstead residents, he’s a neighbour as well
Hi, my name’s Joseph and I’ve been living in Wanstead for just over four years. For me, Wanstead is the perfect location for life as an actor and author; close enough to London for auditions and meetings, but far out enough that it doesn’t feel oppressed by the hectic speed of the city. With its art trails and Fringe Festival, it’s a real creative hub, and I love being a part of the local community.
I’ve been acting professionally for the last 12 years, mainly in comedy and children’s TV. Those of you with small children might recognise me from leaping about in ball pits dressed as a pirate in the BAFTA-winning CBeebies show Swashbuckle. Last year, I co-created, wrote and starred in Big Fat Like, a comedy sketch show for CBBC, which parodies the bizarre world of YouTube. From hyperactive vloggers to singing pineapples, the show has it all, and the majority of it was written in Wanstead – a couple of shots were even filmed here! If you’d like to check it out, the whole series is available on BBC iPlayer.
As well as an actor, I’m also an author. My debut novel, The Good Hawk, was released last year; described as a mix of Game of Thrones and His Dark Materials (a comparison I’m delighted with), it was a Sunday Times Book Of The Year, and praised as ‘thrilling’ by The New York Times. Set in a mythical version of Scotland, it’s an epic fantasy adventure, featuring a protagonist with Down’s syndrome. During the early days of my acting career, I worked as a teaching assistant at a special educational needs school and Agatha – the unconventional heroine of the novel – was inspired by some of the children I taught during that time. She’s brave, feisty, impulsive and, in my opinion, totally awesome. My second novel, The Broken Raven, continues the trilogy and was released in January.
Children with special educational needs (SEN)have always been part of my life. My mother is a primary school teacher specialising in SEN and, as a child, my parents provided foster care for kids with additional needs.
A large proportion of my books were written in Wanstead. Pre-lockdown, I spent my afternoons writing in Wanstead Library or in one of the coffee shops on the High Street. During lockdown, Wanstead Park has become an absolute haven, and I can often be found jogging around its lakes whenever I need to clear my head or find inspiration.
I occasionally leave signed copies of my books in the Little Free Library on Overton Drive because it’s such a fantastic initiative, so next time you pass, keep your eyes peeled! Do also support the local and independent Wanstead Bookshop. They can arrange signed copies of my books and are giving away free signed bookmarks with every purchase.