Leytonstone Festival

Submitted by: Jane Duran

What do cheese tasting, Alfred Hitchcock, Jazz and sword fighting all have in common? They all were featured in the Leytonstone Festival, along with poetry, dance, films and all kinds of music. 65 events across ten days in July, at over twenty different venues, made the 2014 Leytonstone Festival the biggest ever.

East London Performers dancing at the Festival

East London Performers dancing at the Festival

St John’s Church was at the center of activity with their excellent Sunset Tower Tour and an Open Day, which included displays by the Blackhorse & Standard Women Morris Dancers.

They also hosted several concerts including a very moving event ‘Commemorating the Great War in Word and Song’ performed by Jeanne Holland Young, David Hayes and Roderick Sime to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Young people played a huge part in the Festival this year. As well as a very popular dance event there was a Children’s Carnival, a performance of Macbeth by students from Davies Lane and Selwyn primary schools and a fantastic evening at Wanstead Tap with some of E11’s Stars of the Future.

Other highlights included an interactive hands-on workshop ‘Exploring Hitchcock’, the fencing demonstration and ‘have a go’ sessions with the Newham Swords Fencing Club, the return of festival favourites Jane Grell with an evening of Jazz, Poetry and Storytelling and The Woodhouse Players who displayed all their usual energy and talent in ‘Compleat Female Stage Beauty’ at the Welsh Church.

Two local charities were the beneficiaries of events run during the Festival. A music gig at O’Neills Pub raised money for local charity CHAOS and Jazz at the Star of India in aid of the Cygnus Trust, was a great success despite clashing with the World Cup Final!

The cheese tasting events proved so popular they had to be moved to a larger venue and the Pop-Up Restaurant at Carlton House was a run-away success sealing Leytonstone’s reputation as foodie heaven.

Every musical taste was catered for, with nearly 30 music events – and the whole thing culminated in the amazing What’s Cookin’ Picnic at Henry Reynolds Gardens. The Picnic, now in its seventh year becomes more popular every year and a heavy shower of rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the large audience who had assembled to dance, eat and enjoy an amazing line up of music.

Shortly after the end of the Festival the Trustees were saddened to learn of the death of the festival’s Hon President Vi Gostling. A Leytonstone resident for all of her 97 years, Vi was one of the founder members of the Leytonstone Festival over thirty years ago and was out enjoying events this year.

She was particularly pleased that despite the Festival’s growth and professionalism it still retained its community roots and was particularly gratified to see so many young people involved. Vi’s dedication to local projects saw her awarded the MBE for services to the community in 2009 and the trustees are proud to have had her support.

The trustees will shortly be seeking artists to take part in the 2015 Festival. To register your interest email jane@starofindiauk.com.