This December, Tower Hamlets’ Victoria Park will become “London’s one-stop destination for the festive season” as it hosts the Christmas festival, ‘Winterville’.
Victoria Park will become home of the festival from December 2 to the end of the year, with Winterville offering a wide range of activities and events from ice skating to the Wall of Death, a “gratifying-defying motordrome” where visitors can watch motorcycle riders perform daredevil stunts.
Daz Guerin, from FACE events and the organiser of Winterville, wanted to design something that “encapsulates the heart of our beloved East End”. He said: “The festive town has been carefully designed and programmed to provide something for one and all. Our ambitions are to provide a unique festive experience and we cannot wait to open the gates for the month-long festivities to begin.”
He added: “We are proud to be involving so many local partners from within the borough of Tower Hamlets, including traders, businesses, charities and creative organisations.”
Still, the announcement of Winterville has split the opinion of the local residents. Joan Fitt, 88, who lives in Guinness Close, expressed concern about her and her neighbours’ safety. She said: “Where I am, I’m right on the park, my garden is practically in the park, and you know you’re worried in case anyone jumps over. It’s easily done. It’s not very safe.”
She also added that the noise might be a problem due to experience with the annual Lovebox festival. She said: “The noise from Lovebox absolutely vibrates the furniture. A whole month? I’ll have to run away.”
However local resident and child carer, Leah Barker, didn’t seem put off by the possible disturbance. She said: “I’m not that bothered by it. They’re providing a service that’ll be fun and entertaining for the local community to get involved in”
She added: “We don’t have a lot of Christmas stuff around here, so it’s good to see people doing something festive.”
Su Yen, 32, a yoga teacher who uses the park regularly was also unperturbed by the disruption the festival could cause. She said: “I’ve lived around here for a few years and no one single event has ever taken over the whole park. When Lovebox is on, the main thing is the noise, and the people who can be quite loud when they are coming back later. Other events have histories of violence and drug problems, but I don’t think this area has that kind of issue.”
Winterville Organisers have also taken measures to protect the locals from any interruption. Guerin said: “The event site is using only a small section of the east-side of Victoria Park, clear of any paths and roads etc. with the deliberate intention of ensuring that regular park users will not be affected to the extent they normally are when large-scale commercial events are operating.”
With competitors like Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, Guerin hopes Winterville can offer something different. He said: “Winterville is an alternative festive event, bringing a fresh twist to a fairly tired format. Although some attractions and events are ticketed, there are many free attractions for visitors to enjoy and that is what will set this event apart from others.”
Along with the usual Christmas shows and attractions, like pantomimes, Santa’s Grotto, and fairground rides, Winterville will also be offering an “LGBT takeover” every Sunday during the course of the event, with Summer Rites presenting the Fairy Grotto. They will include The Gay Bingo Christmas Show, a festive edition of the cult bingo series, and the Horse Meat Disco, which will pump out music from the genres of house, punk, and funk.
Food and drink will also be on offer to round off the Winterville experience. This will include a world food market, Dalston’s own Voodoo Ray’s pizza, and Winterville’s own pub with a selection of craft beer.
Entry into the park is free and tickets for the shows and attractions are on sale now and can be purchased from the Winterville website; residents of Tower Hamlets and Hackney can enjoy a discounted price on selected tickets.