Community celebrates, as over 70,000 Londoners gather for Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture Opening Event

14 January 2019
Neon drummers welcome crowds to the forest

Kicking off the first ever London Borough of Culture year in Waltham Forest, Mayor Sadiq Khan applauds the strong and warm sense of community togetherness, exemplified over this opening weekend, that lies at the heart of the borough.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:It was fantastic to be in Waltham Forest on Friday to see the start of the very first London Borough of Culture. The impressive weekend show kicked off an ambitious and exciting year which will see light installations on the marshes, internationally renowned artists collaborating with local schools, and music projects bringing communities together. Culture has the power to transform lives, and through the London Borough of Culture programme we will be helping more Londoners, regardless of their background, to enjoy the full benefits of the arts.

Over 70,000 thousand people came together to enjoy the spectacular opening weekend of Waltham Forest: London Borough of Culture, Welcome to the Forest. Residents from across the borough and audiences from all over London and beyond encapsulated the theme of Fellowship that the programme will be promoting throughout the year.

World premieres of three new commissions by artists Greenaway & Greenaway, Talvin Singh, Addictive TV, Marshmallow Laser Feast and Erland Cooper created the unforgettable show Welcome to the Forest. Made with the help of thousands of local children and community groups, the weekend’s events provided a platform for local residents to shine and the stories of Waltham Forest to be told.

The year-long programme will shine a light on the character and diversity of this London boroughs and demonstrate that culture is for everyone. Welcome to the Forest was just the start.

Cllr Clare Coghill, Leader of Waltham Forest Council said: I could not be more proud of the residents of Waltham Forest. Over 70,000 people have visited to experience the mesmerizing outdoor installations on display at Welcome to the Forest. I have seen first-hand the transformative power of the arts; and in particular the opportunity they provide to inspire our young people to showcase and express their creativity. Culture is not an optional add-on, an afterthought, or something that is just nice to have. On the contrary, investment in culture is essential to ensure that everyone enjoys a great quality of life.

The event also saw the first outing for over one hundred Legends of the Forest, local residents who have joined a new borough-wide volunteer programme to support the success of the year. Following in the footsteps of London’s Games Makers, the warm welcome given by volunteers as visitors descended on Walthamstow each evening was a tribute to the pride and community spirit seen across the whole of the opening event.

As well as the thousands who visited Welcome to the Forest in person this weekend, the internet has been flooded with photos from across the Capital as Londoners were captivated by the mysterious lights in the sky. Some speculated UFO landings and aliens, but it was in fact the out of this world and ethereal Nest installation.

Future highlights will see more local heroes return to the borough including Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures who will run a Dancers in Residence project with his old primary school, Roger Ascham; Africa Express: The Circus (Friday 29 March), a world renowned collective of African and Western artists, coming together again for a celebration of unity in the borough where founding member Damon Albarn grew up; and Duckie Loves Fanny, an alfresco feast celebrating Leytonstone’s feisty Fanny Cradock.

For detailed programme information visit