Photo courtesy Silvia Pikal

Festival promotes relaunch of Calgary’s iconic feminist magazine

By Kristy Koehler, May 27 2019—

Forum, Calgary’s grassroots feminist magazine, is being resurrected. Published from 1988–2002, the magazine touched on a wide range of issues of importance to women as well as publishing art, short stories and creative works.

Recently, local writer Vivian Hansen, who worked on the magazine when it was active, was cleaning her house and discovered the entire back catalogue of the iconic magazine. She brought them to the attention of Lisa Murphy Lamb, director of Loft 112 — a hub for Calgary’s creative community — who knew something wonderful had to be done with Hansen’s find.

Murphy Lamb reached out to members of Calgary’s literary and arts community and the idea of a festival to honour the original Forum took shape. Part of this festival involves the relaunch of the magazine as New Forum.

According to co-founder and editor-in-chief Silvia Pikal, New Forum will pay tribute to the original Forum and provide a platform for local writers and artists. Even the logo pays homage to the original magazine and the retro design was created by local artist Stacey Walyuchow.

“Our whole esthetic is a throwback to the 80s because Forum was born in 1988,” said Pikal.

The original magazine covered a wide range of topics, from menopause to cultural appropriation and tax tips for women.

“It was really feisty and brave I think, everything that the magazine tackled,” said Pikal. “There was discussion of topics that were really relevant to women at the time but are also still really relevant. There was a really great ‘women and aging’ issue that looked at how women are treated in society as they are aging and there was also an issue dedicated to the voices of Indigenous women.”

For the inaugural issue of New Forum, writers were asked to be inspired by past issues, ideas and themes from the original Forum.

“One of them is an article on menopause — we had a writer reflect on the original article,” said Pikal. “One of the past issues did a whole ‘women in journalism’ feature where they interviewed three woman working in journalism at the time. I did an interview with [local journalist] Catherine Ford asking her to respond to some of her original quotes from 1991. There’s also a really good article arguing that women’s private literature — letters and diaries — should be part of academic writing.”

When asked if the current political climate was a motivator behind the decision to relaunch the magazine, Pikal said it inspired her to “get behind the spirit of the original Forum and reawaken it.”

“Is there a better time to reawaken it than right now?” she asked.

The month-long festival celebrating the original Forum takes place at Loft 112, a place Pikal says is accessible, welcoming, inclusive and the perfect fit for New Forum.

“If someone has an idea they say ‘yes’ and they support that idea and will do whatever it takes to see that idea come to fruition,” said Pikal of Loft 112. “They’re so supportive of local writers and artists. They have a small press — Loft on Eighth — which is what New Forum falls under and it promotes local writers and their stories.”

The festival will feature an art show, a writing workshop, a showing of feminist short films and an event focused on knitting.

“Knitting is something that is used both as a pleasurable pastime but also in political activism,” said Pikal.

For now, New Forum will be published annually, but Pikal doesn’t rule out expanding publication if the demand is there. As future issues are published there will be opportunities for Alberta writers to submit their work. Students are welcomed — Pikal herself is a graduate of Mount Royal University’s journalism program. She says writers with ideas for stories, or for themed issues, are encouraged to get in touch through New Forum‘s social media channels.

The official launch party of New Forum will be on June 22. The magazine will be available for purchase at Loft 112 and on their website after the launch, in addition to select retailers. Tickets, dates and details of the festival’s events are available online.


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