● Works to the Town Hall include restoration of original features and improvements to make the building more modern, accessible, and environmentally sustainable
● Year-round programme of cultural events launched with opening season between Saturday 17 July and Saturday 14 Aug 2021
● Time capsule buried in the 1930s to be unearthed and replaced with new capsule, containing winning entries to competition for local school children
The iconic Waltham Forest Town Hall will reopen on Thursday 15 July 2021 after the completion of the first stage of a landmark project which will reshape the council’s relationship with residents and create a new neighbourhood in the heart of the borough.
Building on the legacy of Waltham Forest’s year as the Mayor of London’s first-ever Borough of Culture in 2019, a year-long series of exciting cultural events will take place at Fellowship Square, a new public space named in tribute to borough-born designer William Morris, to welcome the community to their new venue.
The new square – larger than Trafalgar Square – is centered around a new landmark fountain, which is more sustainable and cost-effective than the original water feature, and open for people to enjoy.
The refurbishment of the historic Grade II-listed Town Hall building will see the landmark building become more open and accessible to residents, staff, and visitor alike as it adapts to the changing needs of Waltham Forest in the 21st century.
Cllr Clare Coghill, Leader of the Council, said: “I could not be more delighted and overjoyed to be able to welcome the most important guests of all to our opening events – our residents. We want Fellowship Square to be a place where residents feel welcome. It is so important that council buildings feel as if they are part of the fabric of the communities that it serves.
“As we come out of the pandemic with a renewed confidence we want this space to be a shared one, with all the communities that makeup Waltham Forest.”
After the challenges of the pandemic and lockdowns, the opening of Fellowship Square will offer a chance to bring the diverse communities of Waltham Forest back together in a shared space where they can reconnect with friends. As a key part of the borough’s economic recovery, it will also welcome visitors from across London and further afield giving a further boost to Waltham Forest’s well-established reputation as a cultural destination.
The opening will be celebrated by a season of events between Saturday 17 July and Saturday 14 August 2021, incorporating an array of music, comedy, poetry, art, crafts, food and fashion that will welcome visitors of all ages to enjoy the new space while showcasing the talents of local people as well as the broader artistic community. Full details of the cultural programme can be found on the Waltham Forest Culture website here: https://wfculture.co.uk/fellowship-square
Central to welcoming people to the Town Hall and to Fellowship Square is a new water feature, designed by Churchman Thornhill Finch, that has 144 individual jets, which can be programmed to move in time with music. Multi-coloured lights illuminating the water jets enhance the experience and help bring Fellowship Square to life.
Cllr Clare Coghill added: “The Fellowship Square project is inspired by the words of the legendary William Morris, who provided the quote that graces the front of the Assembly Hall to this day: ‘Fellowship is life, and the lack of fellowship is death.’
“When we welcomed 70,000 people to our opening show to our year as the first London Borough of Culture we knew then that creating a space for everyone to enjoy was essential – that ambition and energy has created Fellowship Square. The power of culture and space to bring people together and build a sense of pride and shared experience is key to any sense of community.
“85 per cent of the people of Waltham Forest participated during our year as London Borough of Culture, which shows that culture isn’t just preserved in central London but exists in every street and borough. Fellowship Square captures that spirit creating an exciting space for all to enjoy.
“We have worked hard to create a fantastic, accessible community space, open to everyone in Waltham Forest and beyond to come and enjoy, while at the same time safeguarding the iconic Town Hall and Assembly Hall to inspire future generations.”
The public opening of Fellowship Square will take place on Thursday 15 July when local children will unveil the contents of a time capsule placed under the stairs of the town hall in 1938. They will replace it with a capsule of their own not set be unearthed until the year 2121 for future generations to discover, linking the borough’s past, present, and future.
Two local primary school children will open Fellowship Square ensuring the grand opening is a symbol of the Council’s new approach to how the community can and should work and its commitment to ongoing investment in the borough’s future.
Later in the day, in recognition of the crucial role they have played in Waltham Forest and further afield during the pandemic, local key workers and their families will be invited to a special performance in which Fellowship Square’s fountain will be spectacularly brought to life for the first time with a William Morris-inspired show The Sky is Full of Gold featuring sound, light and live performance.
From Saturday 17 July, Fellowship Square will open to the public for a season of weekend events, held in accordance with the latest NHS guidance on social distancing and safety regulations.
Following the grand opening of Fellowship Square, phase 2 of the wider redevelopment surrounding the Town Hall building will commence. This includes approximately 500 new homes in the area, 50 per cent of which will be affordable and marketed to local residents as the priority, alongside new open spaces and opportunities for leisure, entertainment, and commercial spaces. Leading UK developer Countryside has been selected as the delivery partner for this phase of the redevelopment, which will end in 2024. As plans for phase 2 progress, Waltham Forest Council will continue engaging with the community to gain essential feedback on the proposals for the transformation.
The work will help protect the Waltham Forest Town Hall to inspire future generations and safeguard its unique history. Original architect Philp Dalton Hepworth won a competition to design the building with his “stripped classical” vision which included art deco influences. While the foundation stone for the building was laid in 1938, the onset of World War Two meant that the building was not completed until 1942. It was officially opened by Walthamstow West MP and former Prime Minister Clement Atlee as part of the celebrations for the Festival of Britain in 1951.
The recent works led by architect Adam Cossey (Hawkins/Brown) have enabled the Council to restore many original features while also making improvements that allow for it to become a modern, sustainable, and inclusive workplace for council staff.
About Waltham Forest
Waltham Forest Council is a local authority in north east London. In 2019, it was the first-ever London Borough of Culture – awarded by the Mayor of London – and the recipient of the Municipal Journal’s Local Authority of the Year. It is building a legacy on the back of these significant achievements by investing in heritage buildings, opening new cultural venues and ensuring the borough is an inclusive place for all.
Bursting with energy and opportunity, Waltham Forest is a place changing rapidly with business growth up and employment at its highest rate ever. It is a place people want to live, raise a family and start a business.
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