When the Leytonstone Festival trustees meet to give out the boxes of printed programmes this usually signals that, for them, most of the hard work is done.
This year it was the day they learned that the hard work was about to get much harder. Funding from Waltham Forest Council, which had been the mainstay for many years, had been refused.
This had a knock-on effect of losing other outside funding, leaving organisers trying to deliver a £25,000 festival on just £6,500 and just one week to go before the festival launch.
Every artist and organiser taking part was contacted and told payment of any kind was extremely unlikely and, with a handful of exceptions, all agreed that “the show must go on”.
And what a festival it was. From the samba parade, which caused quite a stir, to the What’s Cookin’ picnic on the final Sunday, there were over 120 events across 19 days, most of them completely free.
There was music of every kind alongside a variety of other cultural activity – comedy, film, drama, children’s activities, poetry, dance, food events, arts and crafts, talks, walks and culture from across the world.
New events in 2015 included Jumble Trail, a fantastic event which encourages re-use and recycling and which, according to the organiser, “brings people together, helps people meet their neighbours and brings community to life”.
In all, 120 local residents signed up for stalls.
Hitchcock’s Home also proved a great success – three nights celebrating Alfred Hitchcock, the Leytonstone-born master of suspense, in the churchyard of St John’s. A different film was screened each night and every night was a sell-out.
One of the most exciting things about the festival is that we see some brand new work getting its first ever public performance.
For 2015 we had A Leytonstone Suite, a classical suite for piano and cello; a preview of a new musical work, The Secret, a Leytonstone based story written by local performers; and the premiere performance by Poetic Justice of Scampolo, an Italian play, in its first ever English translation.
All the Festival favourites were there too including the St John’s Tower Tours and concerts, the Woodhouse Players, the pop-up cinema, playreading group, and charity fundraisers.
Leytonstone Festival is run entirely by volunteers and has a legacy that benefits local people way beyond the few hectic days in July that it runs.
Local groups and charities use the festival to promote themselves and their activities, it showcases local talent and promotes our area, people can learn new skills by being one of the volunteer team, and local businesses get a boost.
The trustees would like to thank all the venues, all the artists and particularly the generous people of Waltham Forest who dug deep in their pockets to help make up for the shortfall in funding.
Explaining the loss of Leytonstone Fesitval’s grant, a Waltham Forest Council spokesman said: “Grant funding is never guaranteed, but the council is currently providing financial support to Leytonstone Festival through its community ward forum fund.
“Unfortunately Leytonstone Festival, which has benefitted from council funding for a number of years, was one of 22 unsuccessful applications for an Arts Development Grant. The next funding round opens later this year and we will be encouraging
community organisations like the Leytonstone Festival to submit applications which clearly outline the benefits that they can bring to the borough’s residents.”
By Jane Duran
Visit www.leytonstonefestival.org.uk to make a donation