Five things to do at the Leytonstone Festival

Published Wed 28 September by Liz

Dating back to the 1990s, the annual Leytonstone Festival is a week of fantastic performances, gigs, and children’s events from local residents. This year’s edition opens this weekend, from Sunday 1 to Sunday 8 September. 

With over 40 events across 20 venues in just eight days it can be hard to know how to cover it all. To help you out, we’ve picked out five things to do at this year’s festival. Everything listed below is free unless stated.

Follow in the footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock

Did we mention Sir Alfred Hitchcock grew up in Leytonstone? Learn more about the director’s connection to the neighbourhood in evening talk, Alfred Hitchcock in Leytonstone, with local historian Gary Lewis on Wednesday 4 September at St John’s Church Hall. At Leytonstone Library, a month-long exhibition Hitchcock’s Faces of Leytonstone reimagines iconic scenes from Hitchcock films with local characters from Leytonstone.

Enjoy the local music scene

From jazz to classical, conga and heavy metal, there’ll be plenty of live music to enjoy throughout the week – most of it free. Kicking off the festival on Sunday 1 September, Conga de la Cocoteros promise to bring the spirit of carnival to Leytonstone with two hours of drums and dancing at O’Neills. Local folk duo Lakeside Bell are set to play two evenings at the Wanstead Tap, and as part of a five band line-up Horsemeat Sandwich on Friday 6 September at Sinbin at The Plough and Harrow. 

For jazz, head to the ex-Servicemen’s Club — home of the Eastside Jazz Club — for performances from trumpeter Henry Lowther and his band Still Waters on Tuesday 3 September (£8), and local 17-piece the John Ongom Big Band on Friday 6 September. The Leytonstone Tavern and The Birds are also hosting free evenings of live jazz, and there will be free classical concerts at both the Welsh Church and St Andrews

See a show

Leytonstone’s theatre group The Woodhouse Players open their latest play Visitors by Barney Norris at the Leytonstone Festival, with two evening performances and a matinee on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 September at the Welsh Church Hall. 

For children and families, the London Gala Orchestra perform a family concert to accompany animated films on Saturday 7 September at St Johns' Church (£5-35), and on Sunday 8 September Chingford-based Reach Out Theatre will stage a free production of Jack and the Beanstalk at St Andrew’s Church. Adults can enjoy a traditional East End drag cabaret with local gal Victoria Sponge at the Northcote Arms on Sunday 8 September.

Take a heritage tour

Join a guided walkabout from St. John’s Churchyard to Quaker House on Sunday 8 September, connecting the local trail from Empire and Emancipation to Windrush legacy. Or discover a significant Arts and Crafts collection of stained glass windows by 20th century artist Margaret Chilton in hourly afternoon tours of St Andrews church on Saturday 7 September. 

Try an escape room

Enter The Blitz from new theatrical company Twisted Experience from Thursday 5 to Saturday 7 September at the Northcote Arms, and see if you can solve the puzzles to defend Britain from invasion in 60 minutes (£10). 

There’s plenty more to see and do at the festival from Sunday 1 September to Sunday 8 September. For more events, and more details on all of the above, download the Leytonstone Festival Guide or visit leytonstonefestival.org.uk.