The leader of a local theatre group frustrated with finding suitable places to rehearse and perform has taken matters into his own hands and opened CentrE17, a community theatre and performance space in Church Hill.
The man behind the plan, Max Peters, has been organising community theatre productions ever since moving to Waltham Forest a few years ago. So far they have put on successful productions of Oliver! and Little Shop of Horrors by drawing on the enthusiasm and talent of local people. “No one is turned away from taking part in the productions, no matter what their ability,” says Max. “It’s been a wonderful experience. We always knew that Waltham Forest had a wealth of really inventive and passionate performers, but didn’t realise there were not a huge amount of spaces to realise the potential.”
This lack of venues led Max to making a list and eventually drawing up a plan to establishing a dedicated theatre/ performance space that, while community
focused, could also run commercial productions to help fund itself. Between Max’s day job as project manager for online advertising projects and his experience running community theatre, he was the ideal person to do it.
Having a plan is one thing but, as Max knew, getting it up and running was a whole different ball game. Fortunately, Max bumped into someone from Waltham Forest Council at an event last year and asked them to take a look at his plan. One thing led to another and soon the council was contacting Max to say it had a space that was currently empty. It was trying to find the right tenant for it and perhaps Max and his plan was the right fit.
That was over a year ago and, after the council did essential maintenance, Max and his numerous volunteers got stuck in and put the finishing touches to the Ross Wyld Hall on Church Hill (near the junction with Hoe Street) to get it fit for purpose. “We are being charged a peppercorn rent and have been given a short-term lease for 18 months,” says Max. “The idea being that we use the space to not just put on our own community theatre productions but also rent it out for cabaret evenings, theatre performances, dance groups, cinema nights – a whole range of activities that will help us fund the running of the space.”
CentrE17 is now open and already has a diverse programme of performances, events and workshops, providing that much-needed community space for local groups to use for rehearsing. The Stow Film Lounge is also doing some screenings at the centre.
You can find a full schedule of events on the CentrE17 website: thecentre17.com, and contact details if your group is interested in hiring the space.
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.