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Artists celebrate after securing Council funding for new projects

Steps are being taken to establish a new 450-seat music and performance venue in Waltham Forest after the Council announced funding for five new arts and culture projects.

The funding has been awarded through the Council’s Arts Development Grants programme, as part of its bid to establish Waltham Forest as the leading borough for arts and culture in outer London.

In total, £25,000 has been shared between creative residents and arts groups who approached the local authority with exciting and innovative cultural projects that aim to bring together communities from across the borough.

An organisation called Sound Thread secured funding to stage a Romanian and Polish music festival at a new 450-seat music venue in Walthamstow. The project will see the creation of the performance arts space, which local producers and artists can use for events and musical performances, enabling different communities to share their musical heritage with each other.

Sam Jones, from Sound Thread, said: “We're over the moon to be selected for Council funding to help us launch the borough’s newest and largest live music venue. Our music program seeks to reflect the many cultures living in Waltham Forest with an engaging program of music from all over the world.

“We're passionate about helping develop the local cultural infrastructure and reaching audiences with genres of music that they may not have previously experienced. We aim to make this affordable to the many.”

Sound Thread’s project – entitled At The Corner and On the Edge – will also enable young people aged between five and 15 to explore Eastern European musical themes and perform at special events, while students aged 16 to 21 who are on arts courses will be offered work placements.

Local artists Poppy Flint and Gemma Seddon will use their grant to create a ‘living’, semi-permanent public sculpture on the bank of Dagenham Brook in Leyton Jubilee Park. Three residents’ workshops will focus on the history, geography and biodiversity of this little-known waterway. Local people taking part will have their stories and designs incorporated in the sculpture and accompanying exhibition.

Poppy said: “Gemma and I are committed environmentalists as well as artists. We’re delighted to have been awarded this grant and are looking forward to working on this project with the local community.”

The project – A Tail for Dagenham Brook – is supported by charity Thames21, which recently launched a programme to enhance Dagenham Brook.

Council Leader, Chris Robbins, said: “Our Arts Development Grants programme is supporting a wonderfully diverse range of cultural projects this year.

“It will be exciting to see these projects brought to life – each one contributing to the engaging mix of artistic opportunities residents already have on their doorsteps here in Waltham Forest.”

Former borough resident Madge Gill (1882-1961), who is considered one of the foremost ‘outsider artists’ in the UK and also worked at Whipps Cross Hospital, will be the focus of another project supported through the Arts Development Grants.

Funding will be used by resident Sophie Dutton to extend the existing Madge Gill Legacy Project. Sophie said: “I am excited to start working on the project which will involve mapping Gill’s life and work – developing an art walk around key sites associated with the artist, primarily in Walthamstow and crossing into Leyton and Newham.

“The routes will be marked with banners featuring Gill’s artwork, and an interactive digital map will be developed with archival photos, original texts and audio commentary, telling her life story and bringing her work back into the communities in which she lived.”

Outsider art is produced by untrained artists – this can include children or people with mental health problems – and so workshops will be held to train art walk tour guides via local mental health organisations and charities.

Khyal Arts, a not for profit dance organisation, secured funding to run Kathak dance classes throughout Waltham Forest. The project – Indian Classical Dance for All: Kathak Having Fun! – will enable residents to create a performance piece to be showcased across the borough.

Vanessa Downie, Projects Lead at Khyal Arts, said: “We want to do great things in our community whilst offering exciting activities, events and classes incorporating the rich, vibrant and colourful culture of Northern India.”

The final project to receive funding is a book festival organised by Object Book. Object Book aims to improve accessibility to books, with a particular focus on engaging people with dyslexia, dyspraxia and those who are on the autistic spectrum.

The festival will be a free month-long programme of high quality, accessible, original and inspiring participatory book events, workshops and public performances – all taking place throughout June.

Founder of Object Book, Chloe Spicer, said: “We're totally excited to be bringing The Object Book Festival to Waltham Forest! Expect library raves, edible books, live nights of cinema and poetry and a host of bookish arts activities for adults and children.”

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