Hornman saxophone and trumpet
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Roman Road Winter Festival gig [photoessay]

Local bands, musicians and performers put on a night of festive music and dance the Roman Road Winter Festival on Friday 5 December 2014. The event, held at St Paul’s Church just off Roman Road,  Bow, started a weekend of festive fun on Roman Road. It featured Mile End songstress Sula Mae, Bow raised Blind Buffalo, psychedelic dance troupe The Action Men from, among other places, Bethnal Green , and headlined Hornman, from Vivian Road, Bow.

Boy in red jumper writing price tag for Roman Road LDN tote bags in bright colours.
Roman Road LDN tote bags, just £2 © Coline Kahn Touaux
Bowl of Roman Road LDN pin badges.
Roman Road LDN pins © Coline Kahn Touaux
Audience at music gig in Church with man dressed as Father Christmas.
Who’s that in the crowd? @ Coline Khan Touaux


Musicians playing saxophone and trumpet, performing in Church with strobe lights.
Hornman © Coline Kahn Touaux
Musicians playing saxophone and trumpet, performing in Church.
Hornman saxophone and trumpet © Coline Kahn Touaux
Man dressed in black playing church organ.
Organist accompanying Hornman © Coline Kahn Touaux
Suitcase containing sheep skull, Hornman pins, Horman CDs.
Hornman merchandise © Coline Kahn Touaux

Carl Davies, lead singer of Hornman, has lived in the same communal house-share on Vivian Road in Bow for 12 years. He has built a studio there, putting down roots from which Hornman has developed.

“It was a real pleasure for all my neighbours and community to actually see what I do. Having gigged around the UK, it was been a bit strange being unknown on my own street! I liked the eclectic mix of performers at the gig, and the way there was something for everyone. I also enjoyed being able to mix our hybrid electro dance sound up with a fantastic church organ. Once the lazers kicked in it was great watching the kids lead the way onto the dance floor.”

“I love roman Road and although I’m not originally a Londoner I feel very settled here. I’d love us to do more gigs and shows here through Roman Road Festival. It would be great to tie the festival in with the street parties we have in Bow, to share resources and grow the skills needed to grow the festival even more. It would be great to showcase local talent and also invite sympathetic bands from other parts of the country in exchanges with their local festivals perhaps. This would support local bands to build experience and connections elsewhere in the UK.”

Sula Mae

Girl in red dress singing on stage in Church, in front of large cross and tall windows.
Sula Mae © Coline Kahn Touaux

Sula Mae grew up in Mile End. “There’s a great music scene, you just have to look in the right places. The Art Cafe on Roman Road is one to keep an eye on, as just one example.”

“Roman road has changed a lot,” says Mae. “I think it’s lost some of its rugged Cockney charm. Coffee shops now outnumber pie and mash shops. But I do enjoy a good coffee and I’m not a massive fan of eels so I can’t complain!”

“It was such a treat to sing in St Paul’s church. The acoustics were so delicious! And, as a local, it’s always great to play gigs around there.”

Painted blue and gold church ceiling.
Ceiling of St Paul’s Church, St Stephen’s Road © Coline Kahn Touaux

The Action Men

Dance troupe dressed as Father Christmas holding cane, performing in a church.
The Action Men © Coline Kahn Touaux
Cabaret dance featuring men dressed as father christmas and elves, performing in a church.
The Action Men © Coline Kahn Touaux

Steve Todd, founding member of The Action Men, has lived in East London for 16 years. His flat in Bethnal Green is also the regular rehearsal venue for the Action Men, who used to regularly perform at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.

“It was great to play a local gig. We used to love doing the BGMWC and so this was another opportunity to step out on our own doorstep, so to speak (though I am the only one that actually lives East – the rest are scattered all over!)” says Steve Todd.

“St Paul’s Church is a fantastic venue. Bigger than we were expecting. Though I am not Christian, it feels right that Churches should be involved in community activities. It keeps them somehow relevant, rather than fading away completely after 1300 years of cultural heritage.”

“I live in the West End of Roman Road, and I see Bow as the East End of Roman Road” explains Todd. “It would be nice to draw the Bethnal Green crowd a little further east to build on a sense of local community that definitely exists in Bethnal Green and I am sure you have on Roman Road – it”s the dead bit between Bethnal Green tube and Globe Town that prevents the two communities feeling more connected I think.”

Blind Buffalo

Blind Buffalo music band with cello performing in a Church.
Blind Buffalo © Coline Kahn Touaux


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Tabitha Stapely

Tabitha Stapely is the founder of Social Streets C.I.C, a not-for-profit media company using journalism to strengthen communities, particularly those in disadvantaged or neglected areas. Prior, Stapely was a writer and editor for national titles including The Telegraph Saturday Magazine, Elle and Red magazines.

2 thoughts on “Roman Road Winter Festival gig [photoessay]

  • fantastic evening great people lets have more.

  • This was a fantastic evening! our area is starved of a good sized venue that caters for occasional gigs. It would be great to see St Paul’s help make more such wonderful events happen, along with St Barnabas at the other end of this stretch of the Roman Road. It was great to see folk there you might pass on the street and now realise you had some shared interest in live music. The bands were fantastic too, and they were all local also! Well done to the organisers and to those who took the decision to put this on at St Paul’s. I think everyone had great fun and really respected the gorgeous spiritual venue. All I’ve heard from folk who went is the hope that this sort of thing might happen again. All three bands were great and the Action Men santa dance just made everyone dead happy! Brilliant night out in our local community.


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