Roman Road Christmas Fair [PICTURES]

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Credit: Photographs by Roman Koblov

We wish you a Merry Christmas..!

Roman Road Christmas Fair went off with a big festive boom and attracted loads of local people who came to enjoy themselves and sample all the delights on offer. Of course Father Christmas was here with his merry band of elves, ready to treat the children to an early Christmas pressie while Mrs Christmas and her elfy sidekick stirred up fun, frivolity and a right festive mess. All day the crowds came and enjoyed. They shopped at our Christmas market, chatted, ate delicious street food and imbibed festive treats like mulled wine and homemade marshmallows from local food stars like Vinarius, Roasticini, G. Kelly and The Coffee Room. As ever we were delighted to promote local independent traders, this time also working alongside the East End Trades Guild on Independents Day.

A true community event like this can’t happen and certainly doesn’t shine without the help of a huge number of individuals, businesses and organisations working behind the scenes and providing funding or expertise, time, goods and materials at low or no cost. Put all these ingredients into a big bowl, stir it up and you end up with a big fat fruity community Christmas pudding of a day on Roman Road!

So here is a huge list (longer than your Christmas present list we hope) of people without whom this festive fun would not have happened. This list is in no particular order and if your name isn’t here and it should be please do tell us because it’s a simple oversight.


Roman Road Christmas Fair was kindly funded by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Santa’s gifts were generously provided by Butler & Stag, Tesco at Bromley-by-Bow and Poundland. Some of Santa’s star prizes were donated by Roman Road businesses including Café Creme, Snap, The Inci Food Centre, Sweet Treats and Solinka Deli. Big thanks to Fiorina Martucci and Nicole Lyons for tracking these special gifts down.

Father Christmas needed help wrapping all these pressies at short notice and it came from some senior elves at local elderly homes including Appian Court, Ruth Court, Regency Court, Lawrence Close, Vic Johnson House, Donnybrook Court and Hawthorn Court. What these elves don’t know about wrapping isn’t worth knowing. A big thanks to Kate Angus for being their elfy organiser. The few Santa gifts we had left over (even Santa doesn’t know exact numbers) were donated to Bow Foodbank.

Our market wouldn’t have glittered and there wouldn’t have been amazing food on offer without the stellar efforts of Sarah Richards who pulled so much together and then told everyone about it, sprinkling lovely festive posts all over our social media channels. Tabitha Stapely can polish her community halo again, doing so much behind the scenes while the Fair was produced overall by Clare Burgess. The event was brought to the road by Roman Road Trust, a community development organisation run by volunteer local residents. The Trust is run solely on grants, generous sponsorship and the tireless efforts of many individuals, including the directors themselves. We thank them for all their efforts and for their festive smiles and help on the day. An important shoutout goes to Attic Self Storage who provide the Trust with invaluable storage space on an ongoing basis to keep our baubles and elf hats (and a whole lot more) safe and secure.

The delightful live Christmas music was brought to you by a host of local choirs, singers and players and was a true celebration of local talent and effort. Was anyone not smiling when the Roman Road Adventure Playground kids sang their winning song?

A tuneful chorus of appreciation to:

Chisenhale Primary School Choir

Local chanteuse Clare Burnage

The Women Sing East choir

Members of Anna Fiorentini Drama School‘s talented Performance Troupe

Olga Primary School Choir

The Woodcraft Folk‘s brand new Ceilidh Band, The Milk Krates

Those amazing kids from Roman Road Adventure Playground

The Big Sing choir – and sing big they did…

Christmas isn’t Christmas without homemade decorations and ours were made by talented children at Malmesbury and Chisenhale Primary Schools. Big thanks to all the children who got busy with the glue and glitter and to the staff who helped them. Talking of schools we’d like to say thank you to Phoenix School and Mulberry School for Girls for loaning us a variety of festive outfits to up the Christmas anté. We also have a big thank you to say to Central Foundation Girls School for providing three fabulous elves from their ranks. Momotaj, Farzana and Anisha, all members of the Tower Hamlets Youth Council were the elfiest elves you could wish for, elfishly assisted by Elsa, Alice and Mia – thanks to all of you!

Elf-in-chief and local resident Alex Grey did an amazing job controlling the marauding crowds at the entrance to the grotto. Okay they weren’t marauding but they were very excited and they did have to wait a while for their all important audience with Father Christmas. Thank you Alex for entertaining and calming the troops, to Tillie and Matt’s Parties for her elfie garb and to Bobby Bubbles who provided bubblelicious fun for the crowds. Before entering Santa’s grotto the children passed through a replica of Clara Grant’s arch, lovingly created for us by a talented teacher at the Clara Grant Primary School. We are very grateful to Adam and for the opportunity to bring amazing local history to life. If you don’t know about Clara Grant you really should look her up, she was a true angel of Bow who had a big impact on the lives of local children.

Santa’s grotto itself was created in the fabulous Interact Hub by an amazing team of creative backstage elves on whom the light shall now shine. Overseen by local party stylist Froufroudays, big sparkly thank yous go to Liz Edwards, Danny Loker, Jill Fullbrook, Gerry, Sam Hopkins, Amanda Williams, Marta Arechaga, Lee Sargent, Clare Burnage, Laura Kavanagh, Carlotta Novella and Amanda Richardson without whom Father Christmas would’ve been sitting in the road. The grotto would not have been its beautiful complete self without a fabulous Christmas tree and ours was donated by Pines and Needles, Victoria Park’s own Christmas tree sellers. Thanks also go to our local Brewers on Burdett Road, Baddeley Brothers and Keeley & Lowe who all provided materials for our fantastic grotto. And thanks to Tom Martin, Alex Holmes, Nadia Wilkinson, Mike Mitchell and Gavin Cambridge from the Neighbourhood Forum for pitching in.

While Santa gave out lovely gifts to ooohs of delight, children also wrote to him at our Letter to Santa workshop, kindly run by Claire Medcalfe of the Letter Lounge. Being Winter (brrrrr) this was hosted in our very own beautiful igloo, created by Di Jones of Creative Nature with adults and children from Mowlem School Children’s Centre, supported by Rich Mix and built on the day with the help of Tracy Barbe, Justin Willson and Joachim. Talented local illustrator Peter Dobbin created a beautiful reindeer picture for ‘pin the red nose on’, had their faces painted by tireless and talented Nosila and as if this wasn’t enough the children got arty in our fabulous craft tent. This was jointly run and resourced by the amazing East End Church who helped the children make sparkly jam jar lanterns and Mulberry School for Girls who, in advance of opening their science school on the old Bow Fire Station site, gave our visitors the chance to make festive Christmas cards complete with scientific flashing LED lights. Bam!

So with a happy festive heart we thank all of you for your invaluable contributions and for making Roman Road Christmas Fair a true community celebration where more than 90% of the ingredients were local! Please accept a collective peck on the cheek all of you, under our virtual sprig of mistletoe.

And please remember that, despite the long list above there’s always more to do and we always need more help, so do volunteer yourself next time if you can; we appreciate and need all help we are given. In this tumultuous age, community spirit is undoubtedly where it’s at.