Organised by the Barbican and Create London, the Walthamstow Garden Party is a two day festival of music, good food and theatre. Taking place in the ever beautiful Lloyd Park, this seemed like an event not to be missed. Oddly then, I found myself feeling unsure if wanted to go. In the run up to the event, I heard that costs for stalls inside the event were high, preventing some local traders from taking part. And initially the event had a no dogs policy, which seemed a little harsh on our four legged companion. The no dogs policy was changed, but there were lots of rumors circulating about expected long queues and overpriced food and drink. All things considered, my opinion remained unchanged, this wasn’t an event I wanted to go to. I can’t really explain why I was feeling so negative towards the event, I let myself get swept up in the rumor mill and just went along with it. This wasn’t an event for local people, this was something that had been parachuted in to Walthamstow for other people, though I wasn’t sure who the other people were.
My other half and our friend dragged me out of my somewhat substantial grumpiness and we made plans to go on Saturday. As I had spent all week repeating the rumors about long queues we decided to head down to the park for 2pm, when we arrived there was not a queue in sight. We breezed through the gates and wandered through the park to see what was what. I was still pretty sure that I wouldn’t enjoy it, that some disastrous thing would happen that would make us turn around and retreat home. Imagine my surprise then when I realised that actually, I was having a good time. The sun was out, people in the park were happy, and the setup of the event looked good.
Walking in to the park from the front gates one of the first things to find is Artillery Island. Surrounded by the moat and housed in a large white tent we found, among others, the East London Cheese Board and Cakes Aura Rosa, so some local traders at least had made it to the event. At the bottom end of the park is the impressively large main stage and a number of food stalls, including Yum Yum, who will be opening a branch in the new cinema complex on Hoe Street. Slightly overwhelmed with the choice of food, we got a beer instead, it seemed like the sensible thing to do. OK, so the beer was five quid a pint, and the queue for the beer tent was long, but by that point I was relaxed enough to not care.
Food came in the shape of the mixed plate from Yum Yum, they also charge a fiver for this but it’s great value. As we were eating the food we noticed lots of people with plastic bottles full of cider. After some hunting we found out the cider was coming from a tent on the left hand side of the park at the back of the food stalls. They charge £4.50 for a litre of cider and there was hardly any queue, we got three bottles from them and felt rather smug as we walked past the packed beer tent. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat in a park drinking cider from a bottle, back then I was teenager with a bottle of white lightning behind the swings. Yesterday was a much more civilized affair.
We spent the rest of the evening sitting near the main stage, sipping cider straight from our bottles and listening to the acts on stage, including the Brand New Heavies. I’m glad to say that despite my negativity in the run up to the event, we had a great time. Yes the beer was expensive, and I know some people couldn’t get in when the park got full, but, all things considered this was a really enjoyable event. I’m not sure that I really had a valid reason to feel grumpy and negative, I’m even less sure why I was determined that I wouldn’t enjoy the event. One thing’s for sure, despite my best efforts, I had a fantastic time. The Garden Party is on again today from 12 in Lloyd park.
I’m tempted to go have a look this afternoon. What’s the East London Cheese Board? Is there a shop/market stall?
East London cheese usually sell from BygaBo near the bell on Saturdays. Really good quality cheeses.
I don’t think it was a ‘parachuted’ event at all. Walthamstow is home to a lot of people who work in the creative industries, inside & outside of the borough, as well as other industries. The Lloyd Park was refurbished in 2012, under Lottery Funding and it’s a great facility for the neighbourhood, I visit every morning as a resident – but this is the first major event, hosted in the park since its regeneration, which capitalised on the park’s scale – it could have been similarly held at Finsbury Park, or the more central Royal parks. The purpose of parks, as public spaces, is that they get used for events that are appropriate to their size. This was a great weekend for Walthamstow and shows the council’s commitment to partner outside of the borough – with the Barbican, to deliver events that are engaging for the local community, as well as those outside – who are prepared to travel for a social event. The obvious strategy for any park, would be to pursue scheduling events that are befitting of each season – Autumn, is soon impending, Lloyds Park is a great venue for Halloween, Guy Fawkes etc. then Christmas, New Year and so on and so forth. I’m personally glad the last weekend happened – I’d been wondering for awhile, why the park was being underused. The best news is that it was a very popular event, judging from the attendence and it was trouble free. Congratulations to Walthamstow Council, The Barbican and Real Food for the event.
By 3pm the queue to get in was enormous (all the way from the William Morris gallery round the corner to the playground entrance) and it was one in, one out. You were lucky to get in, hundreds more didn’t.
Then given the price of a pint inside, id say that your initial doubts were well justified.
Nice article, I had a great day yesterday. Going again today. I did notice a lot of picnics and people with cans, can we bring in a certain amount ourselves?
I thought people couldn’t bring food and drink in, having said that, I also saw a fair few that had got in with stuff. Hope you have a good day today
Locally brewed beer was £4 a pint (including Brodies, Wildcard & East London) which I thought was reasonably priced.
I think I went for a hackney IPA.
Nice. I had cloudyish Wildcard Diamond Catcher 5%. They could have done with another beer tent!