Besides being the only time of year when stuffing an entire chocolate egg down for breakfast is acceptable, Easter holds some much less guilty activities for those who venture to the east side of town. Despite our legendary party rep, there's more to do around here than head to a club night where the dress code is fluffy. Whether it’s bunny-eared runs, west end gospel or gorging on organic cacao; folks, friends and families will find there are a bounty of great events to hop to.
Theatre and Music:
Godspell the Musical
Hackney Empire: 4th-5th April
Newly revived musical, Godspell, is on tour and on its way to the Hackney Empire just in time for Easter - with a modern rock and pop score, seven piece rock band and harmonies from a local Hackney choir in tow. The original 1970s west end production about the story of Jesus has been resurrected thanks to talent from the likes of Sugarbabe’s Jade Ewen, X Factor runner-up Andy Abraham and Wicked producer, Stephen Schwartz. Get your tickets here.
Saint Saviour in concert
Wilton’s, 1 Graces Alley: 1st April
A night of impossibly sweet harmonies that's guaranteed to take the audience on a folksy journey, Saint Saviour sets the gospel tone in Shoreditch this Easter. The ex Groove Armada artist combines wispy vocals and whimsical lyrics to create musical poetry on stage, reinforced by the warm twangs of guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones. With its original period features, stunning distressed walls and pretty fairy lights; thankfully this early music hall has survived the tests of time to provide an added sense of history to the night.
Eating and Drinking Chocolate:
Dark Sugars Chocolates
Forget those plastic tasting chocolates from the supermarket and say hello to a master-blend of deep hearty cocoa and rich creamy truffle flavours by Dark Sugars. With an array of temptations such as stem ginger, chocolate chilli, sea salt caramel - a divine box of Dark Sugar Chocolates on Easter will surely make the best disappearing trick of the day. A window display of sea shells unfurling with pearls of blackberry and passion fruit chocolate serves as a reminder that the world of Dark Sugars is our oyster. Once inside, teasing wafts of edible champagne, amber and mahogany - along with a rustic wood interior - make for the warmest welcome.
Jaz and Jul's Hot Chocolate
Broadway Market: every Saturday
Born out of a mission to create the world’s best hot chocolate, it’s quite possible that founders Jasmine and Juliet have achieved just that; serving up steaming mugs of purist classics as well as creative fusions like ‘Chilli con Choccy’ (chilli and chocolate), ‘Masala Mojo’ (chocolate blended with chai spices) and ‘Rasberry Dream’ (berries, chocolate and lavender). Knowing that the chocolate is single origin high quality cacao and the flavourings completely natural definitely helps with the post-gorge guilt, which is why patrons also tend to take home packets of the chocolatey liquid joy along with handmade vegan marshmallows for dipping.
Fairs and Fun Runs:
Easter Country Fair
River Lee Country Park: 5th-6th April
Set in the outback of East London (Lee River), the annual Easter country fair is back in town! Get your wellington boots ready because the weekend offers haystacks of laid back spring vibes and a country show packed full of action. Entertainment includes watching birds of prey swooping through the air, terrier racing, equestrian aerobics, motorcycle stunts, feeding baby lambs and goats, fighting with knights in the medieval village and acquiring new trinkets at the alluring crafts stands. If one day isn’t enough at this Easter feast of activities, there’s a tranquil Lee Valley caravan site nearby to pitch up for the weekend. Kids under 5 go free - come get your tickets here!
The Bunny Run
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: 4th April
Keeping the Olympic vibe alive bunny style, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park will hold a family fun run in celebration of the long weekend's festivities, with post-race refreshments and finisher medals to make sure everyone's smiling with their front teeth characteristically on show. Choose from a one, three or five km circuit to walk, run or hop through. There's also a mini run for the coneys, aged under 8. Bunny ears are essential, carrots are optional.
Spiritual and Ceremonious:
Easter Vigil with Fireworks
St-Johns-at-Hackney: 4th April
There is something inexplicably beautiful about mass at night, renouncing darkness with the dancing glow of candles and the empirical radiance of souls come together in prayer. Celebrating Easter Vigil at Grade II listed parish church, St John-at-Hackney, will undoubtedly add a medieval dynamic to the observances. Built in 1792, the classical brickwork edifice and mosaic of gardens have long hosted community projects for the congregation and the neighbourhood; a haunting choral rendition of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet was performed here back in December 2014 by Some Voices, testing the acoustics of the high domed ceilings in an echo of what’s to come on April 4th. Along with the ritual harmonics of the occasion, the night is set to end in a bang with a fireworks display for all to enjoy.
Hot Cross Bun Ceremony
Widow's Son, 75 Devons Road: 3rd April
If you’re not religiously inclined, there is always the annual East End tradition of the Hot Cross Bun Ceremony at the Widow’s Son pub in E3. The story goes something like this: on the land the pub now stands, long ago there was a cottage occupied by a widow and her only son, a sailor who was out to sea and had requested hot cross buns to mark his return on Good Friday 1824. Woefully, he never came home but the mother continued to bake them and hang them from her wood beam, a beautiful tradition in memory of loved ones lost, continued till this date by the pub owners. The annual bun has been specially prepared by Mr Bunn of Mr Bunn’s Bakery, Chadwell Heath for years now, and patrons have been paying their respects for just as long with 93-year-old Patrick Hines, born across from the pub, visiting on the day for 70 plus years now.
History and Heritage:
Egg Trail at Sutton House
2 & 4 Homerton High Street: intermittent dates between 28th March-12th April
Built in the 1530s, Sutton House was the residence of Sir Ralph Sadler, the Principal Secretary of State for Henry VIII and a judge at the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots. It’s rare to find brick and mortar of such connections in the East End, so we’re glad the National Trust now owns this Tudor holding and has opened it up to the general public for exploring and revelry. That's unsurprising really, since the stately home and its gardens are home to some pretty spectacular sites: an aristocratic two-storey caravan and mini palace installation in the Breaker's Yard are just the start. This Easter sees the grounds hold a Cadbury’s egg trail for the kids as well as some more hard core hunts over the weekend for all choc-mad wildlings to forage at.
Easter at the Geffrye Museum
136 Kingsland Road: 7th-10th April
The Geffrye Museum garden has a fanciful assortment of children’s craft activities (we have a feeling there will be some big kids) all throughout the Easter holiday period, helping to plant new buds of imagination. Educational exercises like weaving willow bird feeders, painting egg cups, creating seasonal wreaths and herby headwear are all on the calendar of activities this spring.
Farms and Feasts:
Stepney City Farm: 3rd-5th April
A lovely green space with a café at the heart of its community, Stepney City Farm is known in the neighbourhood for its organic food. While the farmers' market is a glorious display of vegetables, fruit, bread, cheeses, meat, cakes, eggs, preserves, oils and juices, this Easter is all about sheep! Along with the usual craft activities, there will be the opportunity to make ‘sheepybanks’ to save your pennies in and use wooden drop spindles to spin Stepney fleece in traditional style, with the help of some on hand knitters. There’ll also be an assault course, an Easter egg hunt and a remarkable medley of sheep meat up for tasting at the award winning café: melt-in-your-mouth mutton hogget and tender Stepney reared lamb. Tuck in!
Albion, 2-4 Boundary Street
It would be sinful to spend Easter without trying a bite of traditional Simnel cake; a pre-medieval fruit cake recipe originally made for the middle Sunday of Lent (aka Mothering Sunday or Simnel Sunday) when the forty day fast could be slightly relaxed. Once baked till fluffy, it would be slathered with sweet and sticky almond paste and decorated with eleven, and sometimes twelve, marzipan balls to represent the twelve apostles (minus Judas and sometimes with Jesus). Reviving the fragrant batter of spices, dried fruits, zests and candied peel every Easter, Albion provides the perfect surrounding to honour time and dig in. The café's continental interior keeps it light and airy when getting down and dirty with some quality food - a given, with their scrumptiously moist rendition of this seasonal classic.
Bonus: Victoria Park's Easter Eggstravaganza: 1st April. Get crafty with your pranks and show the whole clan what it's about this April Fool's Day, then head on down to the Shoreditch Riviera for a family day out. Happy Easter!