Welcome to the Forest

London Borough of Culture (2018) by GLAOriginal Source: GLA

What is the London Borough of Culture?

The London Borough of Culture award is a major initiative launched by the Mayor of London in June 2017 and inspired by the UK City and European Capital of Culture programmes.

The award is designed to put culture at the heart of local communities, inspire and unleash the potential of young people and bring Londoners together.

London Borough of Culture - announcement (2018)Mayor of London

It shines a light on the character and diversity of London’s boroughs and brings culture to everyone, so that all Londoners have the chance to be part of something extraordinary.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “Despite London’s position as an international culture capital, too many young Londoners do not have access to our city’s exceptional cultural institutions and feel unable to get involved. London Borough of Culture is a real game changer – it puts culture at the heart of local communities and ensures young Londoners can access the transformative power of art and music.”

London Borough of Culture launch (2017) by GLAOriginal Source: GLA

In total, 22 boroughs bid for more than £1million funding to stage a year-long programme of cultural events and initiatives, and to develop a plan to make culture an integral part of the borough’s future.

In February 2018, Waltham Forest was announced as the first London Borough of Culture in 2019 and Brent as London Borough of Culture in 2020.

Justine Simons OBE and Sadiq Khan (2019) by GLAMayor of London

Waltham Forest and Brent were chosen based on their artistic vision and ambition to deliver outstanding cultural initiatives in their local area, putting communities at the centre of the programme design and delivery.

They demonstrated how winning the title would enable them to deliver their long-term ambitions, put local people at the heart of the programme, and showcase a diverse, vibrant and inclusive programme of work.

Thrills, Gods Own Junkyard image from launch (2018) by Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019Original Source: Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture

Waltham Forest's opening show in January 2019, 'Welcome to the Forest', was created in response to the themes of the year, celebrating radicals, makers, and fellowship.

International in scale and ambition, but telling the local stories of the borough, Welcome to the Forest saw more than 70,000 people visit the launch of the first London Borough of Culture.

Welcome to the Forest - Into The Forest installation by Greenaway and Greenaway (2019) by Matt Alexander/ Waltham Forest London Borough of CultureOriginal Source: Matt Alexander

Artists Greenaway & Greenaway presented Into The Forest, transforming Waltham Forest Town Hall with a high energy, audio-visual, site-specific film that told the story of the borough through the eyes of Waltham Forest’s diverse communities.

Greenaway & Greenaway collaborated with Mercury Music Prize-winning musician and producer Talvin Singh on the soundtrack.

Watch the opening trailer below:

Greenaway & Greenaway Into the Forest trailer by Waltham ForestMayor of London

Nest by Marshmallow Laser Feast and Erland Cooper (2019) by Matt Alexander/ Waltham Forest London Borough of CultureOriginal Source: Matt Alexander

Lloyd Park became home to Nest, a brand new commission from artists Marshmallow Laser Feast.

Nest by Marshmallow Laser Feast and Erland CooperMayor of London

This epic lighting installation was choreographed to a transcendental soundscape, created by composer Erland Cooper in collaboration with more than 1,000 participants from local schools and choirs.

Welcome to the Forest - Forest Road (2019) by Greater London AuthorityOriginal Source: Greater London Authority

Locally-based international festival curators Continental Drifts transformed Forest Road into a neon-lit, celebratory winter carnival, featuring groups and individuals drawn from across the borough and beyond, in partnership with the legendary God's Own Junkyard.

Watch the trailer for the event below:

Welcome to the Forest - Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019's opening eventMayor of London

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For more information about Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019 please visit

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