The ninth Wanstead Fringe – which runs from 9 to 25 September – will include the first Wanstead Book Festival. Here, Giles Wilson offers a glimpse of some of the writers taking part
It amazes me to write that 2022 marks the ninth Wanstead Fringe, the annual celebration of culture which takes place each September and which started with about a dozen hastily arranged events in the summer of 2013.
With the exception of the year of lockdown, the Fringe has grown year-on-year, gradually expanding as more and different activities and new venues have been added to the line-up. This year’s new attractions include the launch of something that could become a big affair in its own right: the Wanstead Book Festival.
A joint effort between Wanstead Bookshop, Vision RCL and the Oxfam Bookshop, the festival will include local and national authors, and will cover everything from children’s books to music, crime and poetry.
Heading the bill is Hannah Lowe, the Ilford-born poet who last year won the Costa Book Award with The Kids, an anthology of sonnets inspired by her time teaching at City and Islington College.
Justin Webb, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, will be speaking about his memoir The Gift of a Radio: My Childhood and Other Train Wrecks, in which he unpicks his upbringing jostled between his mother’s undiagnosed psychological problems and his stepfather’s untreated ones. His former colleague John Humphrys says Webb is “a great broadcaster because he sounds like a real human being,” and we’re lucky he will be coming to our inaugural festival.
We’re also delighted that one of the most creative characters from around these parts, John Rogers, will be taking part too. He has built a huge following for videos of his walks during which he talks about the history which made east London. His book, This Other London, has been described as being like the adventures of a “redbrick Indiana Jones in search of the lost meaning of our metropolitan existence.” It will be a return to the Fringe for John, who in 2015 played the part of William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley in a mock trial staged on Christ Church Green, which is appropriate since Hannah Armstrong, the historian who has done more to document the history of Wanstead House than anyone else, will be giving audiences another chance to take a virtual guided tour around the former palace.
Ted Kessler spent his career at NME and then as editor of Q magazine until its closure in 2020. His book, Paper Cuts, is the inside story of the death of the British music press, but also a love letter to it. A familiar figure in Wanstead, Ted has been described as a great writer by none other than Paul Weller.
These and other authors will be taking part in what we hope will be the first of many Wanstead Book Festivals.
For full details and Wanstead Fringe event tickets, visit wnstd.com/fringe22