Last autumn, in the weeks before we launched our first issue, I was approached by Luke Turner and Kirsteen McNish, who were set to curate a series of works for the Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019 programme. They asked if The Willowherb would be interested in taking part; specifically, if we’d commission four writers to create work around the vast and rambling woodland known as Epping Forest.
I was thrilled but nervous to say yes. We were just finding our feet as a journal and as an editorial team. But as December rolled by and our first issue received such a warm welcome from readers, I felt surer about tackling a new collaboration, especially with a focus on such a rich stretch of London forest. This special issue is the outcome of many months of planning and many submissions read and edited.
The four pieces we’ve gathered take readers through the seasons of Epping Forest: from the magical realist bluebell woods of Kaliane Bradley’s short story, to the melancholic leaves littering Mohammed Zaahidur Rahman’s semi-autobiographical tale. Zahrah Vawda takes us through many seasons of birds, particularly resting on the heron that visits her nearby garden, and Pratyusha’s dynamically structured poetry leaves us in the retreat of winter.
Thanks are due to the editorial assistants on this issue—Dasom Yang and Isabel Galleymore, you are both stars—and to Luke, Kirsteen, and Abi Lemon. And also to Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, for her dreamy illustrations of both a heron and bluebells. The call for submissions for this issue brought out an enormous range of new and ambitious writers. I’d like to thank everyone who submitted—it was such a joy to spend time in the forest through your words. And to potential new writers, submissions for our 2019 issue are open between 1 July–31 August.
And with that, I wish you happy reading as you follow these writers through the People’s Forest.
Jessica J. Lee