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Water Lane Wonderland brings festive cheer to Stratford

Students outside Stratford building

Mince pies, music and a little bit of magic

There were mince pies, music and a little bit of magic as the Water Lane Wonderland brought some festive sparkle to the University of East London’s Stratford Campus on Wednesday (4 December).

Father Christmas shuffled over on his sleigh to make room for Santa selfies while enticing odours from street food stalls filled the air.

Staff, students and residents sidestepped crooner Cliff Richard's offer of ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ in favour of East London IPA and popcorn in the Bavarian style marquee where the stage was set for University performers and singers to add to the entertainment.

Psychology students Olena Korolova and Luli Muzzupappa metaphorically broke the ice at the skating rink. Luli said, “We’re the first? We didn’t know. We just thought it would be fun.” She said afterwards they’d go looking for refreshments – with mulled wine top of the list.

Elsewhere, the Enterprise Makers Market saw stall-holders sell hand-crafted stocking fillers. 

Stratford resident Mia Nowak was waiting for her daughter when she spotted the stalls at the University entrance. Picking through an assortment of baubles and brightly-coloured wooden Christmas trees, she said, “I am looking for some decorations and these look just right.”

PhD student Theeba Krishnamoorthy was using the market to take a giant leap into the world of entrepreneurship. She was selling her intricate Sri Lankan-inspired lithograph bookmarks and prints for the first time. She said it had been a hobby; the carving of the wooden blocks and the printing process proving therapeutic.

She said, “I’ve just been printing for fun. I heard about the market from UEL Enterprise and I thought, why not? Most of my time is spent in front of the computer typing and I’d like to have a creative outlet and so I’m hoping this might be the start of something.”

The Water Lane Wonderland also showcased the importance to the University of giving back to the community. Students and staff had an opportunity to build care packages for the homeless while the Civic Engagement Team had created a pop-up community cafe for the day to explore the theme in more depth.

Volunteering manager Natalie Freeman said, “We are looking to recruit students into volunteering, that’s one of our main drivers, but also to consult around concepts of give-back and community.

“We are also supporting three charities in a Christmas gift and toy appeal – the Magpie Project, Community Links and Crisis at Christmas. People can join us for a cup of coffee and a snack and we can talk about the charities we are supporting and encourage students to volunteer.”

Some students had already signed up, according to Lynne Roberts, who was hosting a stand on behalf of the Magpie Project. She said, “We want volunteers to help with a special playgroup that happens in Maryland. It’s for women who are refugees, migrants or fleeing domestic violence, who have babies and are temporarily housed in inappropriate accommodation in Newham.

 “These women were not going to children’s centres or SureStart because they couldn’t afford the bus fare and when they had to go to their lawyers or to Shelter or to the Home Office they had to keep their babies in buggies all the time.

“Magpie invited Shelter and the women’s lawyers to come to them. The children can play, the women can meet each other and they can access all the services they need under one roof. It’s a brilliant idea.”
On the table where Lynne was collecting names of volunteers was a trophy. In October, the project was name as winner of the London Homelessness Awards, earning prestige – and £30,000 in prize money.