Five minutes with Applecart Arts

Creativity, culture, community and coffee are at the heart of this new and innovative arts venue in Upton Park

Last Saturday my toddler and I pitched up at Applecart Cafe for a morning of puppet making — part of Applecart’s run of Core Crafts sessions for families with young children. I had a very nice cappuccino and a slice of lemon drizzle whilst said toddler got to work on what can only be described as a Bowie-inspired-space-age-elf-puppet, and it was really rather wonderful. We’ll be returning this Saturday for Core Crafts ‘costume competition’ but until then, here’s a little Q&A the team kindly participated in just for Infant ArtEast, for those of you who’d like to know more about this brilliant local venue.

For anyone who may not be aware, please can you explain what Applecart Arts is and what brought you to Upton Park?

Applecart Arts is a company whose artistic endeavours span all kinds of disciplines to tell stories that are potent and have the power to change, challenge and strengthen communities. We aim to reach across cultural divides and tell stories that engage, inspire and entertain our audiences.

Applecart was born in East London — specifically Whitechapel and then made a home in Tower Hamlets — so when the opportunity came up to move to Upton Park and save the beautiful, and much loved Harold Road Centre from demolition, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to transform it into something truly special! We want to maintain the building’s role as a space for the community, whilst also developing its creative uses — establishing it as an artistic hub that celebrates the community it serves.

What has been the response from the local community so far?

We’ve had an amazing, positive response from the local community — people often stop by the cafe to check in and see how we’re doing, or just to have a chat. We’ve already got some wonderful regulars, as well as an incredible group of volunteers who are always willing to lend us a hand! We’re always listening to, and growing from, the feedback from our customers so that we can build something that everyone can enjoy.

Are you working on any exciting productions at the moment? What can we expect to see?

The cafe has already started a great relationship with a local spoken-word poet, Omar Bynon, who helped us curate a night of poetry, CRATE, in April, and we’re definitely going to be making that a more regular event. We’ve also started planning a night of Folk music for mid-August.

As well as that, Applecart will be part-hosting Voila! festival. 2017 marks the 5th year of Voila!, and to mark the occasion the festival has broken from its traditional francophone theme to become Voila! Europe, a celebration of European culture and arts in all its wonderfully varying forms! Voila! runs from 8th-18th November, so keep your eyes on our website for more information closer to the time. For updates on cafe events it’s best to follow us on Facebook: @ApplecartArtsCafe.

Any upcoming events or productions that the good people of Newham can get involved in or volunteer for?

We’re always happy to add people to our list of volunteers, whether that be to help in the cafe, around the building, or doing odd jobs, just let us know! Anyone can drop us an email sometime to get in touch. Or if you’d rather, pop in for a chat.

The next big project for people to get involved in is the AppleChorus — a brand new community choir that will be having its first meeting in the cafe on Friday 7th June at 19:00. We want singers of any ability to come along with ready voices to join in and have some fun! We are also planning to put together a community performance or a Panto later in the year, so watch this space for more info on that soon!

And finally, what’s going on for families and young children? Anything they can get involved in?

Currently we’re running Core Crafts — a series of Saturday morning craft sessions for families. They’re aimed more at children who are maybe a bit older (around 5+), but we’d happily welcome kids of all ages, as the activities are fairly parent-led anyway! This first series has acted as a trial for future events, and they’ve proved really popular, so we will definitely be developing a programme of events that are suitable to much younger kids as well. We’re trialling the use of Hoop — an app for parents to find events for kids in their local area — so keep an eye out for us on there. If anyone has any ideas for events of this kind and have been looking for a space to use, they should definitely get in touch. We’re always open to suggestions from local people who want to hold classes, events, or performances.

You can find Applecart Arts at 170 Harold Road, London E13 0SE

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