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“Ladies & Gentlemen of Waltham Forest, my name is Alessandro Babalola… I’m an actor, theatremaker, Soho Theatre board member, and Culture board for the new Walthamstow venue and lifelong resident of Waltham Forest.
I was born and raised here in this very special part of Northeast London, Leyton to be precise, the South side. It is a pleasure to be stood here at the opening of the Fellowship Square, and the reopening of the Town Hall. The Town Hall is a place of enormous significance to me, a bedrock of my life as a performer. Some of my first performances to a packed house were given here, at the Town Hall, as part of a street dance club called KCK, as a member of the Walthamstow Primary School’s choir, and during the Summer’s Play Scheme Talent Show, all of which my mum still has in an old camcorder somewhere.
When I was 14yo my dad took me to see my first serious play performed by adults, i.e. the first play that wasn’t a pantomime and it was Joe Guy, a play called Joe Guy by the genius Roy Williams as at trailblazing Soho Theatre and the experience was positively formative. 12 years after that, I went on to win an Olivier Award with the Soho Theatre for a play called Flesh & Bone performed on the very stage that I first watched the play on, all those years before. So imagine my excitement at discovering that my home borough and my favourite theatre – and I’m not just saying that because Soho is here, it’s legitimately my favourite theatre; imagine my excitement at discovering that my home borough and my favourite theatre would liaise to reopen the former Granada/EMD to bring the borough a local theatre with a national profile.
You know, this Soho Theatre Waltham Forest partnership is going to be a new lease of creative life for this borough, consisting of world-class theatrical entertainment on our doorsteps as well as community engagement in the form of apprenticeships, a culture academy and much more, all with the purpose of invigorating Waltham Forest’s creative spirit, fulfilling its creative potential, and all building upon the borough’s already incredible creative legacy.
Soho and the Walthamstow Town Hall play fundamental roles in my life, bringing me joy, opportunity, community and the chance to make sense of my (…) massive ambition as a child and seeing it fulfilled here with… you know… with anybody, I’m telling you, is intoxicating for me as a person who’s just been in the arts all my life, and someone who’s so proud of this borough.
With the opening of the Fellowship Square and of the former Granada/EMD we have two new exciting hubs for Walthamstow – the borough; but crucially for its home residents. This is ours to belong in, to discover in, to make new memories and to enjoy, to embrace but ultimately to be so proud of, so thank you for the Council for bringing this back, thank you to Soho and the Council liaising to bring what I know for a fact will be greatness and its already great part of London and let’s have one hell of a time.”