Curated by arts consultant and event producer Kirsteen McNish and writer Luke Turner, the season celebrates the borough’s unique relationship to Epping Forest.
The programme will explore the deep and complex bond we have with forests through an eclectic series of events that will take place in and around Epping Forest; opening up the urban woodland to new audiences and bringing the forest into unexpected spaces.
This month (20 – 28 July) sees Living Symphonies come to the forest, a musical composition and installation created by the artists Jones/Bulley and local musicians, who worked to represent each species of Epping Forest through a unique set of melodic and rhythmic motifs that portray their changing behaviour over the course of the day and night.
As the summer continues, the season will turn its focus to the identities and sexualities of the forest, with everything from the history of cruising to A Midsummer Night’s Dream as inspiration. On 3 August, Out In The Forest, an all-night party presented by Staying Out, featuring Radical Faerie Drum Circle, Sgàire Wood, Government DJ (Black Obsidian Sound System/B.O.S.S), Lewis G. Burton (Inferno), Gin (Resis Dance, Nite Dykez), Charity Kase and Sophie Coletta, will create a magical fairy-tale in this temporary forest amidst the city.
In autumn, The People’s Forest will explore the history and place forests hold in literature with a one-off literature panel and music event, The Imagined Forest, on 13 November, bringing together writers Sara Maitland, Will Ashon, Amy Cutler and musician Alison Cotton.
The year will also see a number of concerts and performances from critically acclaimed artists across Waltham Forest. On 13 September, Gazelle Twin joins local musician Helm in a rare London gig of her Pastoral set, an intense exploration of a divided England that looks behind the picture postcard image of our countryside.
Renowned musician Matana Roberts, best known for her exploration of African American history through her COIN COIN series of records, will present a unique performance at St Mary’s Church on 4 October. This is a special commission to mark the 90th anniversary of the birth of the late literary great Ursula Le Guin, with Roberts responding to her seminal work The Word for World Is Forest in the context of the Epping Forest landscape and history.
From 31 October to 2 November, artist Una Hamilton-Helle will create an eerie immersive sound-based installation at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge that will take audiences on an audio journey populated by the voices of previous forest dwellers and visitors. Epping Forest’s Artist-in-Residence, composer/violinist Ellie Wilson will also create a new installation of musical works inspired by human impact on the forest through the centuries, which will be available to experience as a public installation at The View from 11 November.
Closing the year will be an evening of readings and celebration to conclude the previously announced literary strand that will run throughout The People’s Forest programme. The evening will feature poet Will Burns, who will conclude his year-long poetry residency, alongside brand new writing from writers of colour (supported by the Willowherb Review).
Speaking about the season, curators Kirsteen McNish and Luke Turner, said: “Epping Forest is a unique landscape, with an ecology entirely shaped by the presence of London. Its history and cultural influence is inextricably linked with the people who’ve worked and lived around it in the capital for hundreds of years, and we want to take that into the future through The People’s Forest. We’re living in fraught political and environmental times, and hopefully through this programme of events we can address some of these issues, as well as celebrate Epping Forest as one of the most stunning and little-known London landmarks”
Sam Hunt, Creative Director of Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019, commented: “One of the unique aspects of this borough is the forest that runs through it from Leytonstone in the south to Chingford in the north, and how it plays a central role in the daily lives of our many communities. This is London’s urban woodland, a place that is inextricably linked to the ever changing city and for centuries has been an escape from the throng of urban existence. When Queen Victoria gave the forest to Londoners it was declared as ‘The People’s’ Forest’; this exciting and diverse programme of work will explore what that means in the 21st century.”
20-28 July, 11am-8pm, The View and Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge
A musical composition and installation in Epping Forest, Living Symphonies was created by the artists Jones/Bulley and local musicians, who worked to represent each species of Epping Forest through a unique set of melodic and rhythmic motifs that portray their changing behaviour over the course of the day and night.
Free / https://wfculture19.co.uk/events/living-symphonies
Out In The Forest
3 August, doors 9pm-6am, Magic Spells Brewery
The forests have always been places where convention and order have been subverted, where the self might be reinvented and people can explore sexual identity under the cover of the leaves. The collective Staying Out are having a party at Magic Spells with nasty and gorgeous performances, DJs and space to dance hard and soft. Weeds crack concrete, the moon pulls you. Come out!
Line up includes: Radical Faerie Drum Circle, Sgàire Wood, Government DJ (Black Obsidian Sound System/B.O.S.S), Lewis G. Burton (Inferno), Gin (Resis Dance, Nite Dykez), Charity Kase and Sophie Coletta
Early bird £5, 2nd release £10, final release £15 / wfculture19.co.uk/events/outintheforest
Gazelle Twin Presents: Pastoral
13 September, 8pm Mirth, Marvel and Maud
A performance of Gazelle Twin’s Pastoral album, which explores preconceptions of the bucolic English countryside. Support comes from Waltham Forest native, experimental electronic musician Helm.
Tickets £12 (£8 concessions) / wfculture19.co.uk/events/gazelletwin
Matana Roberts: Forest And Fantasy
4 October, 7.30pm, St Mary’s Music Hall
Matana Roberts, known for her exploration of African American history through her COIN COIN series of albums, delves into the landscape of Epping Forest via the prism of the work of Ursula K Le Guin, who was born 90 years ago, in a special commission for The People’s Forest.
Tickets £12 (£8 concessions) / wfculture19.co.uk/events/matanaroberts
Becoming The Forest
31 October-2 November (Halloween evening event, finishing 7pm 2nd November), Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge
Artist Una Hamilton-Helles creates a soundscape of the forest, reflecting on sentient plants, trees, ecology from root to the canopy, and voices from the woodland. Echoing the sonics of black metal, this is a deep dive into the forest on Halloween weekend.
Free / wfculture19.co.uk/events/becomingtheforest
Echoes: Unearthing Stories Of The Forest
11 November-3 January, The View
Epping Forest’s Artist-in-Residence, composer/violinist Ellie Wilson will also create a new installation of musical works inspired by human impact on the forest through the centuries, which will be available to experience as a public installation at The View from 11 November.
Free / wfculture19.co.uk/events/echoes
Will Burns + Willowherb Review
3 December, Leytonstone Library
Faber New Poet and Caught by the River poet-in-residence Will Burns will read from his series of new works inspired by Epping Forest alongside the selected Willowherb residencies in a poetry event to wrap up the seasons and relationships with Epping Forest.
Tickets £5 (£2 concessions) / wfculture19.co.uk/events/willburnswillowherbreview
Twitter: @WFculture19 #WFCulture19