Cheers to meatspace


As the Wanstead Fringe limbers up for its ninth annual showcase – with a range of real-world events running from 9 to 25 September – founder Giles Wilson has one eye on the 10th anniversary next year

It’s not a pretty word, but it is powerful: meatspace. It’s the opposite of cyberspace. While for two years we conducted all sorts of social interactions online, we are now back, fully, in the world of meatspace, where real people actually meet other real people, in real life.

When we started the Fringe in 2013 it was a bit of a joke at our own expense. We loved Wanstead, yes, but we knew that cultural activities were a bit thin on the ground here, and we had a limited choice of venues. So, we decided to improvise with what we had – the open-air Kinema being the prime example.

We didn’t have any money either, so again, we improvised with some sponsorship – from its earliest days (as now) with Petty Son and Prestwich being the first to put a hand in their pocket.

Things seem to be working. Starting on Friday 9 September, there will be a wider range of Wanstead Fringe events than ever before. Three different plays; some 10 book events in the inaugural Wanstead Book Festival; pottery classes; live music; comedy; more open-air cinema; quizzes; talks; spoken word artists and the return of the jumble trail.

The number of venues has grown. For the first time this year, we’ll be in the excellent Wanstead High Theatre, something of a hidden gem.

And more sponsors have joined too. Along with Petty’s, we now have Edwards Duthie Shamash, THP Chartered Accountants, The Wanstead Society, Eton Manor RFC and The Duke – names I never tire of reciting because, without them, there wouldn’t be a Fringe.

So, as we head into a 10th anniversary year, where do we go from here? How do we embed the Wanstead Fringe as a cultural anchor? What do we need to do now to make sure it’s around for a 20th anniversary?

Part of it is having the right people involved. Part of it is having the right ambitions. Part of it is growing as Wanstead grows. But I’d be a fool if I didn’t say a large part of it too will come down to having enough money.

So, we’re coming up with some ideas for how people can join in this homegrown venture, either with their time, their ideas, or if they prefer, with their money. Thousands of people will be taking part in Fringe events this month. If you’re one of them, and you want the Fringe to be around for future generations of Wanstead people, please take a look at the website to see how you can help.

But for now, it’s back to the meatspace. I love the internet as much as anyone, but I can’t wait for this Fringe to begin, in real life.

For more information and to book tickets for all Wanstead Fringe events, visit wansteadfringe.org