Last week I met with Will from the Lake of Stars Festival, a fantastic event which comes to Walthamstow next month. We had agreed to meet in the Today Bread cafe at Central Parade, but as I walked through the door, I realised I had forgotten to ask Will a fundamental question, I had no idea what he looked like. I grabbed a lemonade, sat down, and proceeded to make eyes at every man in the cafe in the hope I’d spot him. Having introduced myself to someone who absolutely wasn’t Will, I emailed him and told him where I was. Before long the real Will emerged from the co-working space at the back of the cafe, took a seat opposite me, and we started talking about how an Arts Festival from Malawi has found its way to E17.
Lake of Stars was founded by Will, and has been running in Malawi for 15 years. It celebrates African culture, music and arts, giving performers a chance to play to large crowds at the festival site on the banks of lake Malawi. Seems a bit of a jump doesn’t it, Lake Malawi to Walthamstow? I know the ‘Village Borders’ seem to to be consuming more and more of E17, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t yet reached continental Africa. So why Walthamstow? Well, one reason, Will lives here. But he also explained that he wanted to bring Lake of Stars here because it would be something different. We have a good set of events and festivals in E17, but we don’t have anything like Lake of Stars, at least we didn’t until Will came along.
The event, which takes place on the 10th March, has free events running during the daytime, and a ticketed event at the Walthamstow Assembly hall in the evening. Venues holding free daytime events include The Duke and Woodside School on Wood Street. Mirth, Ekcovision, and the Rose & Crown on Hoe Street, St Mary’s Church and the Empire Cinema. The evening event at the Assembly Hall promises to be epic. It features Ghanaian rapper M.anifest, Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit, Malawian singer songwriter Faith Mussa, Bongeziwe Mabandla from South Africa and Zambia’s queen of Afro Soul, Wezi Heartsound. These may not be names that you have heard of, but look them up online and have a listen. I’ve already lost a few hours listening Faith Mussa, who also played at Glastonbury in 2017. If that’s not a reason to buy a ticket, I don’t know what is.
I whole hardheartedly admit that Lake of Stars is my kind of thing. Having worked in and around music, festivals and site specific theatre for more than 20 years, this event really floats my boat. It’s safe to say that Will is pretty keen too, his enthusiasm for Lake of Stars was obvious. His smile beamed at me from the other side of the table as he told me about the event and his plans to make it a annual feature of the E17 scene. He explained how the event takes place in Glasgow the day after London, and told me all about the challenges of putting on the event in the open air in Malawi. When I left our meeting I felt a real buzz. This Malawian festival is well known, critically acclaimed, and award winning. To think that we now have it, or a version of it on our door step, is pretty incredible, right?
If like me you are more than just a little bit excited to have Lake of Stars here in Walthamstow, you can find out more about the event, the free activities, and buy tickets for the Assembly Hall show on the Lake of Stars website.