I’ve never really done anything to mark St Georges day, it usually just comes and goes without any fuss or fanfare. In fact I think I’ve grown a bit suspicious of it, presumed that it had been hijacked by the likes of the EDL, used by some as a reason to spread hate about others. This year though I thought it was time to find out what St Georges day is about, time to celebrate it instead of hiding from it. I found the perfect opportunity in the Wood Street Village Fete. The event on Wood Street Plaza was billed as a community celebration of St Georges day, the poster promised music, food and morris dancing. So on a slightly grey Saturday afternoon we headed off for adventures on Wood Street.
The first point of call was the ever popular chips with dips to get some sustenance to see us through the afternoon. The vans eye catching design created by local firm Build, makes finding chips with dips pretty easy. We made a bee line straight to the van and placed an order with the owner Robin. Munching through our chips we surveyed the plaza to see what else was around. A large bouncy castle took up one corner of the square, food stalls lined the sides and a stage filled the top of the square nearest Wood Street. We wandered up to the stage and listened to the singing room choir, their voices doing battle (and winning) with the traffic passing behind the stage. As the choir sang we sauntered over to cafe Bonito for a hot chocolate. Much to my delight, the plaza was packed with people, and those people came from all parts of the Walthamstow community.
Sitting outside the cafe I was almost lost in the rich loveliness of the hot chocolate, but I was bought back to reality when the Soul Project took to the stage. The Soul Project run a youth club a little further up Wood Street, and some of their young performers had taken to the stage. First up was a young girl with the most fantastic voice and she was followed by a boy, I think called Connor, who performed a brilliant solo dance piece. I have the utmost respect for kids like this that have the guts to stand up in front of complete strangers and entertain them. These local youngsters that took part today should be incredibly proud of themselves, as should the Soul Project who do such a great job working with kids from all over Walthamstow.
I confess that there was one performance I was really looking forward to, and that was the Morris Dancing. This uniquely British from of dance is delightfully bonkers. I can think of nothing else that would involve watching people attack each other with sticks and wave handkerchiefs around, all whilst dancing and wearing bells. One of the team was dressed as a ram, he wandered amongst the crowd sneaking up on unsuspecting children, and then at one point took a seat on the front row to watch the gents of the team dance with handkerchiefs held aloft. The Men, Women and ram of the Chingford Morris team provided a fantastic end to the days festivities, and receiving a hearty round of applause from the watching crowd.
This was my first try at celebrating St Georges day, and I was a little bit apprehensive. St George, and the flag that bears his name, are used by some as a symbol of hate, a symbol to wave at people and say you are not welcome here. My fears were unfounded and as usual, Walthamstow did its self proud, this was an event enjoyed by all parts of our community. This event said loud and proud, all are welcome here, which as far as I’m concerned is exactly as it should be.