The sun shone and the people came. The third Roman Road Summer Festival went off with a colourful bang on Sunday 24th July, attracting nearly 12,000 people from near and far to enjoy a plethora of delights on stage and street.
Throughout the day the gorgeous airstream stage played host to some fantastic local performances beginning with a festival service from Sunday Assembly East End who regaled us with poetry from People’s Poet Dave Neita, tales of East End heroes and pop songs to sing along to. Up-and-coming artists from the ELAM stable played alongside well-established artists, all introduced by our host with the most, local resident Nick Dutnall.
Renowned Cameroonian singer and guitarist Muntu Valdo wowed us with his beautifully layered songs while Freddie and the Freeloaders played a cracking set of soul and funk classics to get us dancing round the deckchairs and The Action Men closed the stage in their totally inimitable style. Showmi Daz dance troupe performed Bangladeshi Folk and Bollywood dance, the people sang at the Roman Road Pop-up Choir led by local choir leader Becky Chalmers and Rebirth Network produced a sharp hip hop display.
Off-stage was just as vibrant with family friendly performances at the marquee stage at Gladstone Place and roving performances popping up all over the place. Magician Professor Palmermoff, local juggler Arthur Hyam, local acrobats Sarah and Sarah and our spectacular stilt walkers amazed and amused the crowds, while the hijinks and capers of the Cockney Sparras and the Lady of the Mannah wiv ‘er best mate Doreen kept us all on our toes and wondering where and how they were going to pop up next. Sword-swallowing on the Roman – would you Adam and Eve it!
Talking of the local lingo, language experts uTalk brought along their brand new cockney app and completely bonafide local lad Patrick to teach us some blindin’ cockney phrases under the watchful gaze of the Bow Geezers, while some of our older residents supported by Kate from AgeUK hosted Roman Road bingo. A good few winners called ‘House!’ and landed prizes including a framed portrait of the Bow Geezers and a Roman Road fish and chip supper.
Kids had a lot to smile about with free all day face-painting from Nosilla – she didn’t stop from the moment she started and nor did Tillie and Matt‘s balloon modellers whose fingers ached by the time they left. Volunteers from Sunday Assembly East End provided musical instruments for kids to play and paints to paint with and wonderful hats were made and decorated at our mobbed craft stalls.
Children (and sometimes their parents AND grandparents) made their hats to commemorate the struggles of the Matchwomen of Bow who, when not earning a pittance working with lethal phosphorus, or protesting about their appalling conditions wore specially decorated hats and paraded around Bow. They even set up a feather club to share precious and very expensive feathers. So on festival day this year the children of Bow produced their fabulous hats decorated with handmade paper feathers, as well as caps decorated with pearl buttons and shiny badges covered with beads and buttons.
The crafters young and old were entertained by a super-talented line up of buskers who entertained all day long with music ranging from Spanish guitar to washing up bowl and saucepan percussion. Take note: you heard Jay Johnson here first and he’s definitely one to watch for the future.
There was delicious street food on sale and the Urban Makers East makers market completed our buzzing festival space while Ian Porter took a delighted crowd on a walk around the Radical East End and Ioana Dragomir led a tour of some of the Roman’s best Independent shops. We’re delighted by the turn out and the feedback and there is a wealth of people and local groups to thank without whom the festival simply wouldn’t have happened. They range from our top financial sponsors to all the people who stepped up to help on the day – both invaluable in their own ways.
First, a very special mention to all the local children, OAPs and women who produced the 100s of beautiful paper plate flowers that adorned the trees and changed Roman Road for a day! So that’s a huge thank you to the children and staff at local schools: Bonner Bethnal Green, Bonner Mile End, Chisenhale Primary, Malmesbury Primary, Olga Primary as well as Roman Road Adventure Playground, Idea Store Bow and also the residents, staff and visitors at Arch76, Appian Court, Coopers Court, Donnybrook Court, Gawthorn Court, Lawrence Close, Ruth Court and Vic Johnson House with a special thank you to Kate Angus. Thanks to Tesco at Bromley-by-Bow who donated many of the paper plates and to local resident Thandi Loewenson for creating a lovely tree to display some of the plates so beautifully.
JB Riney were stalwarts, providing invaluable manpower and equipment to get all those paper plate mobiles and garlands into the trees as well as the essential bunting strung up on high. They are here for us every year and we couldn’t do it without them. The festival decor was completed on the day by a small army of amazing volunteer decorators who managed to turn our grey urban surroundings into a colourful festival space. So we doff our collective party hats to Sam Hopkins, Marta Arachega, Rosie Kachere, Ben Bolt and Sarah Allen-Sinclair for their decorative talents and we thank BOC for free balloon gas and Roman Road’s very own Lofty’s for lending us their fabulous plants to rock our marquee stage. Thanks chaps!
The fantastic crafts were created in conjunction with our talented craftsters Di Jones from Emergency Exit Arts, Mel Green from East End Church with her army of helpers and Lena Iltcheva from Public Works. Super sparkly craft materials were very generously provided by Josyrose trimmings (the only sequin manufacturers in the western world and they’re just a couple of miles away), the fantastic Baddeley Brothers who gave us all the card for hat-making and Keeley & Lowe who kindly cut out those big shiny badges. Our thanks too to Tesco in Gladstone Place who produced bowls of fruit for the crafting children to enjoy while they worked as well as providing helping hands for feedback forms.
They are part of a large and less obvious army of volunteers working throughout the day to build everything in the morning, gather critical feedback, man stalls, look after performers, help keep the litter under control and help us pack everything away at the end of this long and wonderful day of entertainment.
So big thanks for all their sterling efforts go to: Sarah Allen-Sinclair, Jemima Broadbridge, Clare Burnage, Gavin Cambridge, Naz Chowdhury, Fiona Crehan, Irene de Lorenzis, Ioana Dragomir, Stephanie Fox, David Garrard, Chris Gordon, Triston Gordon-Mcleod, Rosie Lightfoot, Danny Loker, Gavin Macdonald, Jinny Ngui, Evie Pettersen, Nick Pettersen, Russell Ranley, Lee Sargent, Holly Stout, Sam Weatherald, Nadia Wilkinson and Adam Woods.
The whole day wouldn’t happen at all without the very generous financial support of local businesses along with funding from London Borough of Tower Hamlets. This financial support is absolutely critical so a big thank you to all our key sponsors.
Roman Road Festival is produced by Roman Road Trust. We are a group of local residents seeking to help improve Roman Road with our various projects and bring local people together at our events. We welcome local people to join us; either the core team or just to give an hour or two at events. Every little really does help so please don’t hold back from stepping up! It’s a lot of fun and a source of great pride to be involved in something so transformative and positive.
Until next year!