Forest Uprising marks culmination of Waltham Forest's year as the first-ever London Borough of Culture
Designed and curated by London artists Block9, Forest Uprising - an illuminated sculptural light forest – rose from Leyton Sports Ground to form the epic finale experience of Waltham Forest’s London Borough of Culture 2019 year.
Showcasing music and poetry from artists of the borough; Forest Uprising also included a video installation exploring the changing world of the last decade entitled Out of Time, a look into the future through The Glasshouse, and surprise performances on the Import/Export stage by local legends Damon Albarn and Tony Mortimer.
Joining former East17 singer-songwriter was the Waltham Forest Youth Choir performing their brand new version of the classic Christmas hit Stay Another Day, followed by Riz Ahmed (from Brent: London Borough of Culture in 2020).
Over three nights, thousands of residents came from across the borough and beyond to experience Block9’s ethereal vision and celebrate the culmination of twelve months of cultural wonder that touched every corner of Waltham Forest. The starting point for this weekend’s installation was to ask children from across the borough: “What kind of world do you want to live in?”. Forest Uprising is the creative response to the hopes, fears and ambitions of a generation, played out to the backdrop of hundreds of local young people’s voices reverberating throughout Leyton Sports Ground this weekend.
Over the past 12 months, every primary school in the borough has been involved in the programme. More than 1,000 projects, events and cultural activities have formed the programme for Waltham Forest’s London Borough of Culture year, created with over 800 artists and creative organisations.
The voices of local people have been at the heart of the initiative this year, and no more so than the Legends of the Forest programme. Volunteering has been another success story, with over 1,000 people signed up to community events throughout the year.
Amongst 2019 highlights were the spectacular opening event: Welcome to the Forest; Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures’ Nutcracker with a cast featuring every single student from Roger Asham Primary School taking to the Walthamstow Assembly Hall stage; an international music extravaganza with Damon Albarn’s Africa Express: The Circus; the BBC’s deeply moving Imagine series’ special feature on the EastSide Story project and numerous other events and festivals such as Chingfest, which was headlined by local Mercury Prize and Grammy nominated rising star NAO.
Waltham Forest’s Fellowship Funding grants programme supported over 200 community projects making dreams a reality and ideas come to life. From Human Library to Carnivalista, the Black Hair and Heritage Project to Wild About Highams Park; the financial support and professional development programme given to these local projects throughout 2019 will ensure the future, tangible legacy of London Borough of Culture lives on through the true ability culture has to have an impact on communities.
At the heart of all our arts engagement this year has been vital conversation that has brought communities together to reflect on the shared understanding and experience of a place we call home.
Speaking about the impact the year has had, and how culture has a vital part to play in the future of Waltham Forest, Cllr Clare Coghill Leader of Waltham Forest Council said: ‘Our London Borough of Culture year has exceeded all of my expectations; the creative community of Waltham Forest has showcased its incredible talent to London and the rest of the world.Throughout the year I have seen first-hand the transformative power of the arts and the role it can play in bringing together communities against a backdrop of division and uncertainty. In 2019 we placed culture at the heart of Waltham Forest Council’s work to change residents’ lives for the better and I couldn’t be prouder of the results From our wonderful volunteers to the thousands of young creatives in our local schools, I know the future success of Waltham Forest has been shaped by the experiences of this year.’
Early data indicates the year has achieved its goal of reaching 85% of households in Waltham Forest through the London Borough of Culture programme. Having exceeded the ambitions set out in the early bidding stage, the Mayor of London’s initiative now moves into its next phase with Brent beginning its year of culture from January 2020.
Creative Director Sam Hunt said: “For anyone who knows Waltham Forest, it is as clear as day that culture has always been at the heart of this place. Our job this year has been to magnify and shine a spotlight on the creativity, quality and diverse cultures that exist on every corner of Waltham Forest. From the return of local heroes, to celebrating the talent of the creative organisations and artists making work here, London Borough of Culture has been a true celebration of a creative corner of London we can all call home.”
With 2020 on the horizon the future of culture across Waltham Forest is set to go from strength-to-strength. In January, a further round of Fellowship Funding grants will be released and a new programme of bursaries for young creatives will be made available in partnership with the Greater London Authority. Behind-the-scenes, the Council’s restoration of the historic EMD Cinema in Waltham Forest will be central to continued plans to invest in the cultural infrastructure of the borough for the benefits of residents and wider London.