Today the London Borough of Waltham Forest and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced the programme for the first ever London Borough of Culture at a media launch at Walthamstow’s Wetlands.

As previously announced, the opening celebration Welcome to the Forest will run from 11 to 13 January. Mercury Award-winning musician Talvin Singh will collaborate with digital artists Greenaway and Greenaway and students of Leyton Sixth Form College for a striking audio-visual display telling the story of the borough through the eyes of young people. Each evening a spectacular light projection will illuminate Waltham Forest Town Hall. They will be joined by a new commission from world-renowned Addictive TV presenting the soundtrack of the borough through the video remixing of Waltham Forest’s rich and diverse musical talent.

At Lloyd Park, Nest, a 25m-wide kinetic light sculpture designed by Marshmallow Laser Feast in collaboration with composer Erland Cooper, will present an immersive audio-visual experience that brings the community together for a collective interactive experience. The opening event will culminate in a high-octane street party curated by locally-based festival producers Continental Drifts, combining music, food and performance drawn from the diverse communities of Waltham Forest.

New Adventures, an internationally renowned dance-theatre company led by choreographer and director Matthew Bourne, who grew up in Walthamstow, will lead the first in a series of artist residencies set to inspire young people to become the next generation of creatives; working with the whole school over three months to lead up to a performance at Walthamstow Assembly Hall.

From 25 to 29 March, Africa Express presents Africa Express: TOGETHER, a show of togetherness in Leytonstone – where founding member Damon Albarn grew up – bringing together musicians from different cultures, genres and generations to break boundaries and promote cross-cultural collaboration through music. Rehearsals will create new music for a five-hour headline show to showcase the rich cultural history of the borough.

In Leyton in April, Blackhorse Workshop will create a hands-on immersive performance Atomic 50 inspired by Waltham Forest’s manufacturing heritage of tin toy making.

On 6 May, thousands of bicycles will lead a mass procession through the borough to Chingford Plain for a 21st century re-imagining of Chingford’s traditional May Day Fayre.

Free contemporary art festival Art Night will come to Waltham Forest for one weekend, alongside the E17 Art Trail – the city’s largest community-led arts festival, with free exhibitions, workshops and artist events spanning the length of Walthamstow High Street Market and Europe’s longest market.

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In the summer, the inventive London cabaret group Duckie will take to the great outdoors to cook up an alfresco feast to celebrate Leytonstone’s feisty native Fanny Cradock in Duckie Loves Fanny, a gender politics party of drag Queens and Kings.

In September, audiences will be invited to journey into the forest for a new unique family concert experience GIANT as the forest canopy becomes the stage for a performance inspired by Oscar Wilde’s classic fairy-tale The Selfish Giant and Epping-born Romantic poet John Clare.

Also in September, an exciting new event is coming to Leytonston, Leytonstone Loves Film – a weekend of screenings from local and international filmmakers, film-inspired workshops and activities, music, talks and installations in cafés, pubs and pop-up venues. The festival will be produced by the Barbican in partnership with local residents and organisations.

In October, the wilds of the borough’s natural spaces will be transformed by visual artist Zarah Hussain for Molecules on the Marshes - a vast light installation which will see the marshes illuminated by 50,000 solar powered lights in the shape of water molecules – one for every young person in the borough.

At the William Morris Gallery in October, a major exhibition Pioneers of Modernism: William Morris and Bauhaus will explore the Victorian designer’s influence on Bauhaus, marking the centenary of the movement. Throughout 2019, a new artist residency project Form, Function and the Outdoors will see an artist commissioned to create four large-scale outdoor installations, exploring how the ideas of William Morris and the Bauhaus movement have influenced the local culture of Waltham Forest.

The Government Art Collection will display the work of internationally-famous British artists in shop-windows across the borough, making art accessible to local residents as part of their everyday lives.

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Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “I am determined to ensure that all Londoners get the opportunity to experience our cultural riches regardless of their background or where they live, and to increase the level of participation in culture across London. That’s why I’m delighted to announce Waltham Forest’s inspirational vision for their year as the first-ever London Borough of Culture. Waltham Forest’s exciting plans – from lighting up the marshes to uniting Londoners through music – will bring different communities together to enjoy the positive impact of the arts. Culture has the power to inspire and provide positive opportunities for the next generation, so I’m particularly pleased that Waltham Forest will be involving young people across the borough in their year-long programme of celebration.”

Cllr Clare Coghill, Leader, Waltham Forest Council, said: “As the first London Borough of Culture, Waltham Forest stands shoulder to shoulder with the Mayor of London’s vision and commitment to the transformative power of culture. It is not an optional add-on, an afterthought, or something nice to have; investment in culture is essential to ensure that everybody in Waltham Forest enjoys a great quality of life. The imaginative programme we announce today will shine a light on the stories and cultural heritage of our borough. It will create a platform that is not only for the people, but by the people, blurring the line between residents and artists for the benefit of everyone in this community. Welcome to the Forest!”

Sam Hunt, Creative Director, London Borough of Culture 2019, said: “Today sees the beginning of an exciting journey to be the first ever London Borough of Culture. Our ideas for the programme start with the community itself, not just drawing on the legacy of the arts and crafts movement inspired by William Morris and the many famous Waltham Forest artists who have made it to the top, but also the thriving creative powerhouse of small-scale artistic production driving us forward right here and now in the borough. We hope there will be something for every member of the community to enjoy and participate in, and to draw in visitors from all over London.”

This news story was originally published on Tuesday 30 October 2019.

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