Features

Fringe starts here

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It all began in 2013, and now, as the Wanstead Fringe gears up for its 10th instalment of 100-plus cultural events, director Giles Wilson reveals what he’s looking forward to the most

Ten years ago, the Wanstead Fringe started as a joke among a few friends. Why shouldn’t little old Wanstead have its own cultural fringe to complement the Wanstead Festival? we thought. Well, it was a joke then, but nobody’s laughing now (comedy nights notwithstanding).

The Fringe has become something to take seriously. Alongside our favourites – the open-air Kinema, the jumble trail, The Duke street party and others – more than 100 events will be taking place before the end of September.

We will have four plays running, and thanks to the support of The Bull and some careful investment on our part, we hope to be able to expand that number during the rest of the year. We have 11 talks from authors – some local, some national – including one of the greatest living English novelists. We have always had music as part of our programme, but this year, we are hugely expanding the amount on offer. International opera star Lucy Crowe and husband Joe Walters will again be transforming St Mary’s into a magical venue for music – and that will also be the place to hear a new musical, Dark Isle. There will be a recital called Low Strings Drama, led by local composer Simone Spagnolo, which promises to be a unique blend of chamber music and drama soundtracks. Redbridge Brass Band, local singer-songwriters, singer Lydia Gerrard and local guitar virtuoso Peter Black also feature in the programme.

The event I’m looking forward to most is hearing from novelist Jonathan Coe, whose series of novels have told an authentic story about the changes in British life since the war. The event will have a vivid counterpart as Helen Day, historian of Ladybird Books, talks about the perceptions our society used to have of itself. Author Paterson Joseph will talk about the life of Charles Ignatius Sancho, a revealing insight into a lesser-known side of our history.

One national newspaper website profile of Wanstead this year said that, in the evenings, it became a ghost town. Wanstead-bred author and theatre director Patrick Marlowe will be doing his best to disprove that by telling an evening of ghost stories in the St Mary’s churchyard. 

It’s our sponsors – listed on page 32 – who have underwritten this. Do support them if you can. Vision RCL is supportive and generous with its buildings, but we have built the Fringe without any public money. Our host venues and volunteers keep the show on the road. But the people really responsible for the Fringe are those, like you, who buy tickets and attend events. Thank you. 

And here’s to the next 10 years.


For more information on Wanstead Fringe events, visit wnstd.com/fringe