The Home of the People Who Make and Create
Waltham Forest is a borough made up of inner-city, urban hotspots and outer London leafy suburbs; and it’s carving out a niche for itself as the home to artists and artisans, hipsters and start-ups… no wonder the young and the vibrant are flocking here.Like many of its residents – comprising 104,000 households – Waltham Forest is a young place. While the average age of UK citizens is 40 years old, in Waltham Forest the median is just 34 . And long before the hipsters, Waltham Forest was hip. It’s always been home to artisans, individualists and change-makers. It was the birthplace of designer and social reformer William Morris, regarded as the godfather of the borough, making it the heart of the Arts & Crafts Movement. “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,” the great man said – inspiring generations of designers. The borough was truly born in 1965, when the Beatles were riding high with Eight Days A Week; formed from the three former country boroughs of Walthamstow, Chingford and Leyton. It boasts Europe’s longest street market, full of independent traders and still a cornerstone of the local community. That might be why in 1985, when BBC soap, EastEnders, first came to our screens, it was set it the fictional east London community of Walford, partly based on Walthamstow. Writer and creator Tony Holland, had held long associations with the area.
The 20th Century’s makers were here…Other notable residents who make and create include sculptor Grayson Perry, who had a studio near Waltham Forest College; and screen giants Alfred Hitchcock and British cinema’s rebel, Ken Russell. Russell attended Walthamstow School of Art, where the legendary artist Peter Blake taught. Blake is the designer of the iconic album cover for the Beatles’ ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. For something more modern, try Damon Albarn of Blur, legendary punk rocker Ian Dury, E17 (naturally), Blazin’ Squad and today’s grime sensation, Lethal Bizzle. And there’s one designer who, along with William Morris, can truly be said to have transformed the world in which we live. Apple’s now legendary chief designer Jonathan Ive was ‘Made in Chingford’: yes, the borough has gifted the world the transformative iMac, iPhone and iPad.
…And the 21st Century’s makers are welcomeAcross the borough, from the Tramworks space in Walthamstow’s Hatherley Mews in to the industrial estate at Blackhorse Lane, workshops and units that were once the spine of British engineering are being transformed into start-ups and creative hubs under a council mantra: “keep, seed and grow”. As part of this commitment, the Council has enhanced its business offer, expanded the business support service and is chasing down growth in the creative, construction and urban services sectors. In fact, the former industrial hinterland around Blackhorse Lane has been branded a Creative Enterprise Zone with £1.1m in funding to support the development of local creative businesses in a regeneration plan set to run to 2020. Under the same plan, Blackhorse Lane is buttressed elsewhere in the borough by independent retailers in Chingford, small-scale manufacturers in Walthamstow’s Wood Street area, and plenty of artisanal activity in the south of the borough, which is still basking in the economic benefits kick started by the 2012 Olympics. With the highest percentage growth of business of all London boroughs at 16.5% for 2015, it’s a policy that is paying firm dividends. Employers that the mix of cultural and outdoor life in the borough attracts a young and diverse pool of workers. From bars and restaurants in trendy Walthamstow Village and hipster haven Francis Road in Leyton to Europe’s largest urban park in the newly opened Wetlands and Epping Forest on the doorstep, Waltham Forest is aiming to attract the next generation’s William Morris or Jonathan Ive.