Baby Panda is one of the businesses currently taking part in the first edition of Forge, the free business support programme delivered by Creative United to creative businesses in the Blackhorse Lane area in Walthamstow, London.

Baby Panda are Andrea Sadler and David Duffy. Their first show, Dogs Don’t Do Ballet, was created for Little Angel Theatre in 2012 and was a smash hit, gaining glowing reviews, touring nationally and playing to sold out venues. They decided to form their own company in 2015 to gain greater artistic freedom and autonomy. They make bold and engaging puppetry shows and are committed to engaging and fostering young people to be inspired by theatre. Their trademark mix of clowning, music and unforgettable puppets makes for an inspiring theatre experience for young people and their families.

We sat down with them to find out more about what they do and why they love working in their local community.

How would you describe your business?
Baby Panda is a theatre company formed in 2016 to make bold inventive theatre for young audiences. We have toured successfully with Five Little Monkeys since then, and have just done an initial round of R+D on a new show, Heidi Unlikely. Baby Panda is run by David Duffy and Andrea Sadler, who live on Blackhorse Lane.

What made you go into this creative industry?
A lifelong love of theatre.

What are the pitfalls and benefits of running your own creative business? 
Time is the trickiest thing to find when it’s not the prime source of income. It is wonderful to be able to make work that you believe in, to tell stories that you’re passionate about and to take creative control. After many years of making work for other companies it’s been refreshing and empowering to make all the decisions and to grow and learn.

How long have you been a Walthamstow resident?
We moved to Walthamstow in 2009.

There seems to be a real community feel amongst the area’s creatives, why do you think that is?
There is a down to earth feel to Walthamstow and Blackhorse Lane in particular which keeps everybody quite grounded. There are a lot of creative people, but not many creative institutions (theatres, galleries, art colleges), so people have made their own spaces to share work together. The Art Trail for many years has fostered a culture of sharing and openness.
Physically the area has modest housing stock. There aren’t the grand houses you would find in Crouch End, Highbury or Camden. People have settled and stayed in the area because it’s (relatively) affordable, not aspirational. We were lucky to settle here at a time when two people working in the arts with only one full time job could realistically get a mortgage. Those areas don’t exist much in London, and so a like-minded community has grown.

Blackhorse Lane itself is an area until very recently starved of cafes or bars, and even now there is very little on offer. If you lived or worked around Hoe Street, The Village or Wood Street you’d be spoilt for choice as to where to go out. In this area the places which have succeeded the most are the likes of Blackhorse Workshop or Yonder, which have given people a space to socialise and share, as well as to develop their work – this has inevitably led to a close-knit community feel. The old factories round here are a perfect spot for artists to congregate in and convert.

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Watch a trailer of their work here