Features

Wanstead is…

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As the Wanstead Fringe gears up for its 10th season, festival director Giles Wilson wonders if the annual series of events can help change perceptions of Wanstead – both here and further away

What would you say Wanstead is like? Young or old? Rich or poor? Your descriptions will no doubt depend on what you do, where you live, who you mix with. How you think about the place you live in can have a huge impact.

This idea of the stories we tell about ourselves is going to be one of the things considered in this year’s Wanstead Fringe.

The Fringe started as a very modest venture in 2013 with a handful of events spread over just eight days. This year, it will run for more than three weeks and will have more than 50 events in venues all over Wanstead. Hundreds of people will be taking part in one way or another and, as before, it will be put together entirely by volunteer residents. Though we are very grateful for the practical support Vision RCL gives us, we receive no public money. It’s all funded by your ticket sales and the continuing generous support of our sponsors.

The details of events will be revealed over the coming weeks, but at this stage, I can tell you that there will be more theatre than ever, and once again we will be having a pop-up pub theatre at The Bull. The book festival, part of the Fringe, has a fascinating and diverse range of names coming. The Kinema returns, as does the jumble trail, The Duke street party, star-gazing evenings and the spoken word night. 

One major development this year is a renewed emphasis on music. Anyone who came to St Mary’s churchyard last year to hear internationally renowned opera and concert singer Lucy Crowe sing will not forget it – and we’re delighted that she and husband Joe Walters will be returning to the programme this year. But, inspired by Lucy, who was recently awarded an OBE, we are stepping up our musical ambitions with a number of concerts, from brass to guitar to voice to musical theatre. Many of them will also be taking place at St Mary’s, a gem of a venue, especially lovely since it’s Wanstead’s oldest building.

The idea of the Fringe is to encourage cultural activities in Wanstead. Our most treasured vision – the story we hope we can tell about ourselves in years to come – is one where Wanstead is alive with all sorts of cultural activities which appeals to and benefits young, old, rich and poor. And the gifts of our geography, not least our train, rail and road connections, will mean the joys can be shared with those living nearby too, with the rest of Redbridge and other boroughs.


Wanstead Fringe 2023 will take place from 9 to 30 September at a range of venues across Wanstead. For more information, visit wansteadfringe.org