This year, there's a market in Leytonstone. Fantastic! It was promoted on the council's website as part of the "turning on the lights" Christmas events, and it runs for two weeks, from 8am to 8pm each day.
The write-up in this week's WFM magazine says that it "will be offering a wide variety of gift ideas for all the family" and "will allow residents to avoid the hustle and bustle of central London while picking up some genuinely unique presents for their loved ones".
That sounds like something not to be missed, doesn't it?
Sadly, you can probably guess (from the fact that I'm writing about it) that all is not as promised. I was hoping to sing the praises of a much-needed enhancement to Leytonstone's shops. But let's face it, in a week when the New Forest version of Lapland was revealed to be a muddy sports pitch, why on earth would humble Leytonstone become a star attraction?
Today I wandered round the stalls. They are located in St John's graveyard, although thankfully there's a path for visitors - it's only the stands themselves that are sitting on dead people.
The stalls comprise small tables, protected top and back by white plastic hoarding. Some of the hoardings have badly painted wording on them; "Raffle" "Drinks" etc.
Raffle and drinks? Sounds fun, doesn't it!
Sadly, three of the ten stalls were empty (and seem to always have been so). The raffle was unmanned so I couldn't buy a ticket, but as the prizes were things like a box of Roses, it would probably be cheaper to keep my money and then buy myself something at Tesco.
To be fair, there was one stall offering homemade jewellery. This was the only stall with a full table, and a friendly and keen lady trying to sell you her wares - they need more like her!
Then there was the table offering "Sweets" - they were penny chews sold from tubs, the same as you could get from Woolworths pick n mix across the road (and with Woolies having a fire sale, they'd probably be cheaper!) Finally there were "drinks" and "chocolates" which comprised an almost empty table, but for a few bottles of cordial and a couple of boxes of "celebrations" chocolates. The stallholders were friendly and cheerful, but fighting a losing battle.
Hardly "unique gifts" "for all the family". I'll have to chance the "hustle and bustle of central London" after all.
What a shame that when something like this is done, it's executed so badly that it's a laughing stock. Incredibly, WFM reports that this is a joint venture between St John's Church, the E11 BID group, and Waltham Forest council. Kudos to St John's for providing the venue, but surely E11 BID could have found some local craftsmen who would be glad of the space to sell their wares? And who knows what the council contributed - I'm sure they are duly embarrassed to be associated with it. Still, I hope they won't give up on Leytonstone, and instead will do a better job next year.
A Christmas market IS what Leytonstone needs. But it needs to be done well.
The residents of the churchyard are surely turning in their graves.