New arts venue CentrE17 opens in Walthamstow

With support of the London Borough of Waltham Forest and the GLA, new performance venue CentrE17, run by the community for the community, has opened in the heart of Walthamstow in East London. Kieran Falconer reports.

Theatre is magic. It’s holy. It transcends the space that it’s in and brings us beyond our natural world. It’s doesn’t always bring us to a pretty place but it’s the journey that’s important. So on a wet Monday evening, when the air is heavy with fumes and swearing taxi drivers, I need magic, hard and fast with a chaser of holy. Luckily, there’s a new theatre in town.

CentrE17 is billed as the first purpose-built theatre in Walthamstow. This isn’t actually true, it’s really a school assembly hall, complete with those sweaty plastic orange chairs that you carved swear words into as a mutant teen. But that doesn’t matter. The warm Prosecco doesn’t matter either. It’s the magic I’m here for and I’m getting it.

Compere and comedian Fin Taylor. Picture: Penny Dampier

The night I visit it’s a gala event so it’s packed with Edinburgh preview comedians – some of which are probably getting a bigger audience than they do in Edinburgh.

There are the dreaded ‘character comedians’, but Kat Bond is bonkers fun and laugh-out-loud. Then there is a bit of a play, a bit of a sing-song…

It all goes swimmingly and kudos to Fin Taylor, compere and incomparable comedian, for a great set. Taylor is quality filth. If there was a fifth dimension in the space-time continuum it would be Taylor’s filth.

I am left thinking, this is a good place, in fact it’s going to be a great place. It’s lively, it’s fun, it has a solid programme of events, but most of all it’s a space created by local people for local people.

Sometimes when you hear laughter in an audience you think you could, possibly, be friends with everyone in that audience – that’s the type of insane goodwill fluffery this place made me feel.

Founder and artistic director, Max Peters, and producer and programmer Ursula Early, have created a sparkling venue and as a Community Interest Company (CIC), any profit goes back into the company.

The London Borough of Waltham Forest is bidding to be London’s first Borough of Culture and given that Hull is City of Culture, and CentrE17 is in Waltham Forest, I think Waltham Forest will probably win Borough of Culture, the Booker Prize and a few Oscars as well.

[Do note: CentrE17 does not have a bar so it’s BYO!]


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