On Thursday 8 July 2021, Waltham Forest Council held a special opening ceremony to local guests and partners to launch Fellowship Square in Waltham Forest’s Town Hall grounds, a vibrant new culture hub at the heart of Walthamstow now open to the public.

Lifelong Waltham Forest resident actor, Olivier-winning theatremaker, Soho Theatre board member and Walthamstow/Soho Theatre East sub-committee Chair Alessandro Babalola, who saw his first ever professional show at the Soho Theatre, gave a heartfelt opening speech praising the Council and Soho Theatre for its partnership working to expand the culture offer and accessibility to the borough by bringing the former Granada/EMD back to its glorious life as a hub of creativity for the local community.

The £30m investment into the venue’s revival is part of the council’s London Borough of Culture 2019 legacy commitment to place culture at the heart of its communities. The venue will help boost the local evening and night-time economy and support our existing businesses and residents.

Alessandro said: “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…”

As well as the already iconic new Fellowship Square fountain, which saw people of all ages revelling in it over the past weekend, the Waltham Forest Culture team has put together a packed season of events to celebrate the opening of this new community space, with open air cinema screenings, craft and fashion markets, music, and a special Soho Theatre Comedy takeover day on Sat 31 July hosted by Darren Harriot featuring Simon Amstell, Shaparak Khorsandi, Thanyia Moore, and Russell Kane. Tickets are on now sale here.

Soho Theatre’s takeover will also be an opportunity to watch the final performances by Waltham Forest residents and workers who’ve taken part in Soho Theatre’s latest Comedy Lab, a free 9-week comedy course delivered by comedians and members of Soho Theatre’s Creative team, helping participants discover and develop their comedic skills. And if you missed out on the first Lab, fear not. Soho Theatre will be running its Cabaret & Drag Lab weekly workshops on Saturdays between October & December, supporting people to develop a new cabaret/drag set. It is free to people who live, work or study in Waltham Forest. There’s also a programme of free activities and workshops facilitated by Soho Theatre friends on Fellowship Square taking place this summer, booking information here.

As well as a day of performances showcasing some of the great Soho Theatre programme, every weekend throughout July to mid-August, members from the Theatre team will be in the Square chatting to residents about the vision for the new Walthamstow/Soho Theatre East in the old Granada building, talking about its future plans, but also about the benefits for the local community, such as local jobs creation and community engagement opportunities. Opportunities that are not starting when the theatre opens in 2022 but from right now, as Soho Theatre presence is consolidated in the borough with job opportunities and a call out for young people interested in learning the ropes of comedy production and promotion, through the new Kickstart programme headed by the comedy promoter Frank Sweeney.

Alessandro said: “Soho Theatre and Waltham Forest’s 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 (sic) [skills] 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… 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.”

You can watch Alessandro’s speech in full above and read a transcription here.

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