London’s urban woodland: The People’s Forest
Epping Forest – London’s urban woodland – touches every corner of Waltham Forest, from Leyton in the South to Chingford in the North. Explore the complexity of our human relationship to the forest and the myriad of meanings that we place upon woodlands in this year-long programme of events.
An escape from city and modern life, it has played, and continues to play, an integral role in the life of London’s diverse communities.
In celebration, The People’s Forest
explores this relationship, interrogating the deep bond we have with forests and woodland, and how this relationship is culturally determined.
Curated by Kirsteen McNish and Luke Turner, it will run throughout the year with a programme of seasonal events celebrating the life of the forest. From poetry to protest, artists and residents are invited to respond to the forest through the seasons.
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).