Well what a lot of of festive fun that was, from start to finish! The sun shone on our little carpark and we jam-packed it with festive treats and seasonal frivolity for local people to enjoy at this our third Roman Road Christmas Fair, produced for the local community by Roman Road Trust and funded in large part by Tower Hamlets Council.
There are so many highlights it is hard to know where to start, but Roman Road made of gingerbread has to be one of them. Super-talented local baker Gayle Clutterbuck wowed us by lovingly and beautifully reproducing seven of our local shops in gingerbread. It was an astonishing scene, made complete with a sleigh and reindeer and most importantly a number 8 bus!
Our festive market was buzzing, filled with an array of handmade goodies to help fill stockings and tick off gift lists. Most of the craftiness was produced in East London, a good deal of it in E3 and as always we endeavoured to ensure there was something for every size wallet.
The lovely handmade goods were complimented with delicious seasonal food and drink to warm our cockles on this very chilly day.The Coffee Room provided delicious sweet treats including their now legendary marshmallows which of course could be dipped in their hot chocolate and even toasted on an open fire. Meanwhile Getwurst and Meltsmiths provided delicious savoury treats that we couldn’t get enough of. Slightly unexpectedly the food was served at the side of a small lake. Not quite Victoria Park but it had its own unique charm, honest.
Of course Santa flew in especially to see us. He was in residence in his gingerbread grotto funded by generous-spirited local estate agent Butler and Stag and created by local event stylists Frou Frou Days, with the help of an army of super-talented decor elves including Liz Edwards, Myra Harding, Sam Hopkins, Birgit Huseklepp, Binky Hydes and Joe, John-Paul Hayes and Claire Grisaffi.
Inside, sat amid giant sweetie surroundings that even SMELT OF BUBBLEGUM thanks to local experiential food geniuses The Robin Collective, Santa gave out free gifts to more children then ever before! He was ably assisted by an army of local teen elves – so it’s a big thank you to Farzana, Momotaj, Mia, Elsa and Alice for all their elfish help through out the day. By the way, our elves tell us that felt suits are really warm and we should all be wearing them. Thanks to Mulberry School for Girls and Phoenix School for the loan of ever so important costumes and to Clara Grant School for the replica arch that graced our Santa’s grotto once again and reminds us how lucky we are to have these free gifts. Children from Malmesbury Primary School made lovely decorations, including hand-stitched and decorated felt gingerbread men that took pride of place around Santa’s grotto.
Every last one of those gifts given to lucky local kids was carefully wrapped by senior elves from Donnybrook Court Old People’s Home or the (in)famous Bow Geezers, who manned a very efficient production line, even if some of them, it transpired, had never, ever wrapped a present before in their whole lives! What?! Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. We bid a cheery festive thank you to them all and especially to local unsung hero Kate Angus from AgeUK who coordinated the present-wrapping for us while still on maternity leave. She even brought in her 4 month old daughter to help. Definitely our youngest elf recruit.
We provided lots of free fun to keep the children amused and entertained. Close up magician James Tae was truly a wonder. There were open mouths and wide eyes, closely followed by horror as he turned chocolate coins into brussel sprouts. Meanwhile Equador twisted and turned balloons into all manner of exciting shapes and Nosila, our fabulous Bow facepainter created wonderful faces for our children. She even decorated her stall with her own fabulous balloon sculptures. The playworkers from Roman Road Adventure Playground manned ‘Pin the Nose on Rudolph’ all day and drummed up interest in their wonderful award-winning local resource.
The ‘silliest and messiest’ prize goes to the quite ridiculous and utterly entertaining Mary Christmas and her sidekick Pith the naughty elf. They caused mayhem and mirth and had children of all ages shrieking with delight by throwing snowballs, hurling fun and making completely inedible cakes and generally a big mess. Amazingly they were also joined by our very own pantomime reindeer. Expertly steered by our very own Rosie and her partner Jasper, Roman the Reindeer danced a merry jig and did his level best not to be ridden by Pith. Honestly we think all carparks should have the chance to be this silly.
In the craft tent the children could make and decorate themselves a pair of elfy ears or be inspired by our gingerbread Roman Road and get creative with icing and sprinkles. Fine stationers Baddeley Brothers generously donated card, cut and ready to use while Tesco paid for all our gingerbread ingredients. Big thanks to both of them. Allegedly there were some lovely biscuity creations but most of them disappeared before they could be admired. Thanks also to Di Jones and Dan from St Pauls’s Church Old Ford for keeping the children happy with sticky tape and glue and to Ivy, Ella and Honey for helping children with their gingerbread decorating.
Of course you can’t have a festive fair without a suitably jingly soundtrack and ours was provided by a plethora of talented local singers and performers. Each act brought something really special to the day and we are delighted they could join us. Big thanks go to Women Sing East, the children from Chisenhale Primary School, local star-in-the-making Harry from Anna Fiorentini drama school, Playback and Era; super-talented students from East London Arts & Music whose range and talents were amazing, the Woodcraft Folk‘s Ceilidh Band The Milk Krates and, to bring proceedings to a close, the soothing dulcit tones of our very own Johnny Boy Moore.
The whole fair was brought to life in a few short hours by an army of helpers without whom it simply wouldn’t have happened, many of them volunteers from our own neighbourhood. So a big shout out thank you to all the helpers both on the day and off, including Rowan Lowe, Jennifer Thompson, Laura Kavanagh, Amanda Richardson, Charles Pertwee, Lee Sargent, Dario Ferreras, Danny Loker and Jonathan Burgess. Roman Road Trust director Holly Stout was there to help with husband David and of course Tabitha Stapely led from the front brilliantly assisted by Rosie Vincent and Neba Sere. The fair was produced by Clare Burgess of Frou Frou days alongside local superstar Sarah Richards who organised the market and all our social media. The Roman Road Neighbourhood Forum was represented by Mike Mitchell who was there to update everyone on the latest exciting developments for our area.
Big thanks go to JB Riney for their much appreciated financial contribution and we also send our heartfelt thanks to their neighbours Attic Storage who generously donate storage space to us on an ongoing basis, without which we would be well and truly stuck. On the day La Table des Saveurs kindly gave our traders and workers a discount on food and drink to keep their engines stoked and it was a joy to see other shops on the road joining in the festive fun. Snap, Thompsons, Mae & Harvey, The Chesterfield, Symposium, Costa Coffee and Baruch to name but a few. This is community cheer!
The commitment, contributions, hard work and generosity of local people, groups, companies, organisations and council departments are what make our events happen. We value and need every bit of help we can get so if you or your company/organisation have a hankering to give a little bit to your local community please do get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. You can do as much or as little as you like and every little really does help. In the meantime we wish everyone a very fine festive time and look forward to plenty more shenanigans dahn the Roman in 2018.