So what can we expect as first ever London Borough of Culture?

It’s the start of Waltham Forest’s very big year. What will Leytonstone and Leyton get out of it?

You’ll remember that 12 months ago Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced the happy news: Waltham Forest would be the first ever London Borough of Culture in 2019.

And the year really will start with a bang. For the free opening celebration Welcome to the Forest (11th-13th January), Mercury Award-winning musician Talvin Singh will collaborate with digital artists Greenaway and Greenaway and over 1,000 residents from across the borough (including students of Leyton Sixth Form College) for an “audio-visual display telling the story of the borough through the eyes of young people”. As such, every evening for three nights (from 630pm on Friday 11th), a spectacular light projection will illuminate Waltham Forest Town Hall. Wowsers.

Meanwhile over at Lloyd Park on the same night is Nest, a 25m-wide kinetic light sculpture designed by Marshmallow Laser Feast, in collaboration with composer Erland Cooper. It’s an immersive audio-visual experience that aims to brings the community together – not to mention the voices of 1100 school children and choirs – for a collective interactive experience.

The opening weekend then parties on into the night with a neon-lit, celebratory winter carnival on Forest Road, curated by locally-based festival producers Continental Drifts, combining music, food and performance drawn from the diverse communities of Waltham Forest.


Elsewhere, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, the Government Art Collection will display the work of internationally-famous British artists in shop-windows, libraries and venues across the borough, making art accessible to local residents as part of their everyday lives.

What else can we expect later in ’19? From 25th–29th March, Africa Express presents Africa Express: Together 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 featuring artists from Africa, Europe and Britain – including, of course, Waltham Forest – for a spectacular celebration 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.

Like a big summer party? Yup, us too. And two of London’s largest arts festies will take place in Waltham Forest in June: 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 bash, with free exhibitions, workshops and artist events spanning the length of Walthamstow High Street Market and Europe’s longest market.

Hitchcock mosaic of the film Rebecca featuring St John’s Church. Photo: Stephen Emms
In the summer as well, awesome LGBTQ+ London cabaret group Duckie will take to the great outdoors to cook up an alfresco feast to celebrate Leytonstone’s feisty native Fanny Craddock in Duckie Loves Fanny, a gender politics party of drag Queens and Kings. That 100% has our name on it.

For movie buffs, in September, a new 48-hour film festival will take over venues across Leytonstone to showcase new commissions and classic films inspired by one of the borough’s most famous residents, Alfred Hitchcock.

And 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.

Phew. Tired yet? Hope not, as this is just a round-up of the events most relevant to those living in E10 and E11. There’s a shedload more in E17 and beyond; we’ll keep you posted on the rolling programme as it’s announced.

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The opening weekend runs from 11th-13th January, free admission. For more on the London Borough of Culture head here @WFCulture19

Article updated 7th Jan 2019

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