Campaigners who brought Wanstead to international attention by living in a tree on George Green in a protest against the M11 Link Road will be back at the site on Friday to mark the event’s 25th anniversary.
The campaign was specifically against the building of the road between Green Man and Redbridge roundabouts because of the demolition of houses and removal of very old trees which the construction involved. But it became a widely reported event, and it was claimed people protesting in the tree meant it had become a legal dwelling – partly in the hope of giving it some protection. Wikipedia’s potted history of the tree has the following:
The chestnut tree on George Green, Wanstead became a focal point and a symbol for anti-M11 Link Road protesters. Until late 1993, local opposition to the M11 extension had been relatively limited. While opposition had been going for nearly ten years, institutional avenues of protest had been exhausted, and local residents were largely resigned to the road being built. When outside protesters arrived in September 1993, few residents saw their mission as “their campaign”. One section of the M11 extension was due to tunnel under George Green in Wanstead. Residents had believed that this would save their green, and a 250-year-old sweet chestnut tree that grew upon it, but because this was a cut and cover tunnel, this required the tree to be cut down. Support for the protests started to extend to the local community when Jean Gosling, a lollipop lady in Wanstead, upon learning of the tree’s impending destruction, rallied the support of local children (and was later fired from her job for doing so while wearing her uniform), who in turn recruited their parents into the protests. It was then that the non-resident radicals realised that they had significant local support. When local residents gathered for a tree dressing ceremony on 6 November, they found their way barred by security fencing. With support from the protesters, they pulled it down. Protesters continued to delay the destruction of the tree. Solicitors for the campaign had even argued in court that receipt of a letter addressed to the tree itself gave it the status of a legal dwelling, causing a further delay. In the early morning of 7 December 1993, several hundred police arrived to evict the protesters, which took ten hours to carry out. Protesters made numerous complaints against the police; police, in turn, denied these allegations, attributing any misbehaviour to the protesters. Media attention started to increase regarding the protest, with several daily newspapers putting pictures of the tree on their front pages.
The original comedy headliner for this year’s Wanstead Fringe, top comic Jeff Innocent, is finally doing the decent thing and coming to Wanstead after having to pull out of the Fringe. He will be paying his dues at Wanstead Cricket Club on Thursday evening with a full line-up.
Additional excellent news: You can now buy tickets directly through Wansteadium. This is a ‘beta’ feature, and uses the same system we have used for the Fringe for several years so it should be smooth. Just click the link below.
The gift that keeps on giving is ready for another year. The Wanstead Christmas Tree, scene of outrage, argument, campaigns and scandal of years past is ready to have its lights turned on.
And though it’s a traditional event, the lighting-up this year has some very modern touches – including being a plastic-free eco-friendly event.
Local legendary milkman Steve Hayden will be turning on the lights on Friday afternoon from 4pm, accompanied by the choir from Wanstead Church school and pantomime figures from the Redbridge Drama Centre.
Congratulations to Wanstead author Drew Davies whose first book The Shape of Us is being published today.
The Shape of Us is a romantic comedy which has been described as being something like Love Actually and Sliding Doors (though not by Drew). There is an excerpt of the book printed below, but we asked Drew to introduce himself. He writes the following:
It’s a cliché, but I’ve been writing all my life, ha! Short stories and plays as a kid (I directed my first play when I was ten for my primary school assembly). In 2000, I won a New Zealand Playmarket Young Playwright of the Year award, and people started to consider me a “proper” writer. That wouldn’t last. In my twenties, after returning to London, I flailed around, pounding away at a first novel, which never came to fruition, and putting on scrappy off-beat comedies that had glimmers of success (a good review here and there at the Edinburgh Fringe), but were also met with looks of bewilderment. I would like to say I was ahead of my time, but in reality I was deep into my apprenticeship – the hard graft of learning to write. During these years, I also fell into a career as a copywriter and search engine optimiser, telling big brands exactly what to do with their content to make it successful (the irony was not lost on me).
The Shape of Us is my first romantic comedy. I started writing it back in 2012, when I’d just moved into a new flat. I didn’t have internet yet, and there were a few quirky stories floating around my head, so I decided to get them down finally. I finished the first three chapters pretty smartly, and then spent the next few years completing the rest. The book is about love, and life, and living in this great city (my working title was “An Invisible Guide to London”) – warts and all – through the eyes of a disparate group of Londoners: a teenager in Croydon struggling with M.E and a burgeoning romance, a sixty-three year old wife in Battersea trying to win back her adulterous husband, a chap illegally squatting in an investment bank while also trying to woo the receptionist, and two lovers attempting to do the impossible – successfully date in London. Their stories soon start to interweave… Someone recently said it was “a little Love Actually in all the best ways” (full disclosure, I have never actually seen Love Actually).
I moved to Wanstead two and a half years ago, and I love it. I am deeply in love with the place. I love the sense of community, and the high street, and the green spaces. There’s a sense of calm I always feel getting off at Snaresbrook station. I sometimes write at The Currant, and The Starbucks (RIP), and I’m having my book launch at Bare Brew. I regularly use the Wanstead library (mostly for coffee table books with nice undemanding pictures I can get lost in when I’m procrastinating), and I volunteer for Barnardo’s locally. Over the years, I’ve lived in Bethnal Green, Clapham, East Dulwich and Angel, but I feel most settled in Wanstead. I have lots of family in the area too which helps the sense of belonging.
I’m very excited about the book coming out. It’s such a privilege to have anyone read your writing, for someone to spend time contemplating your contemplations. I’m deep into the second book now (which will be out in May 2019) – that’s what is currently keeping me up at night. So if you see me wandering the high street, with bed hair and a far-away look in my eyes, muttering about coffee, hopefully you’ll understand why.