Tickets are now on sale for The People's Forest - a major arts programme exploring Waltham Forest's relationship to Epping forest.
The People’s Forest season, a year-long programme of public gigs, workshops, artworks and performances taking place as part of the Mayor’s first London Borough of Culture in Waltham Forest. Curated by arts consultant and event producer Kirsteen McNish and writer Luke Turner, the season celebrates the borough’s unique relationship to Epping Forest.
Highlights include a women-only walk, a 24 hour forest radio broadcasts of sounds never heard before submitted by the people of London, a special commission of new work by Matana Roberts, and live music from artists include Gazelle Twin.
Beginning later this month, the programme will explore the deep and complex bond we have with forests through eclectic, once-in-a-lifetime 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.
Highlights in the season include an open call for the public to send in sounds and recordings for a 24-hour radio broadcast across the Forest landscape, a literary programme, a women-only night walk, and a club night to celebrate the forest’s connections with blurred identities and sexuality.
The spring line-up starts proceedings with highlights including Flying Solo: FRACTALS on 28 April, a dance piece staged in the forest created by dancer, lyricists and saxophonist Tyrone Isaac-Stuart. On 4 May, Direct! Action!: Protest and the Forest will explore the forest’s history of activism through a day of discussion and exploration of video archive material relating to the 1990s protests against the M11 link road. Artist Ed Webb Ingall will work with local young people to create a new work relating to contemporary activism.
On 17 May, women will be invited to reclaim the forest and join Lone Women in the Woods; a women only night walk led by artist Clare Archibald, exploring what happens when twilight changes into darkness and identifying how gender impacts our relationship with wooded landscapes.
Marking the summer solstice on 20 June, a myriad of voices from across London will take over Chingford Plain for The Dark Outside, a 24-hour radio station broadcast from Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge. The general public is invited to submit recordings of any type – from conversations to laughter, grime to poetry – to create 24 hours of broadcast sound, the only rule being it must never have been heard before. There’s no need to be a pro – anything caught on an iPhone, laptop or tape recorder can be submitted.
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, a late night party, will bring the woodland to a Walthamstow industrial estate with a soon to be announced line-up of performers, DJs and artists creating 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.”