New Forum: A revival of a Calgarian grassroots feminist periodical

Story by Jenessa Blanchet
Photos provided by New Forum

In the year 1988, when George Michael’s “Faith” was topping the Billboard charts, Stephen Hawking published his book “A Brief History of Time,” and Calgary was host to the Winter Olympics, the first issue of a local feminist magazine called Forum was released. That magazine was a feisty, grassroots periodical that tackled topics affecting women – and that continue to affect women. 

Flash forward 21 years to the discovery of a box of back issues of the magazine, which ceased publication in 2002, and the decision to launch a reinvented version of this iconic female-centric journal.

Co-founder and editor-in-chief Silvia Pikal tells the story of how, “While cleaning out her house last year, Calgary writer Vivian Hansen, one of the founding editors of Forum, came across a complete set of the magazines. Hansen packed all the issues into her car and brought them to Lisa Murphy Lamb, the director of Loft 112, Calgary’s creative hive. Murphy Lamb flipped through the back issues and said, ‘We should do something with these!’ She reached out to several members of Calgary’s literary and arts community that had walked through Loft 112’s doors over the last five years. When she told me about Forum, I eagerly suggested we bring back the magazine, and six months later, here we are. We kicked off the opening festival on June 7th with an art show and knitting and film night, and we were honoured and excited by the response from Calgarians.”

When asked how New Forum will differ from the original, Pikal shared that, “Like the original, we will publish art, short stories, poems, creative non-fiction and Q&As with writers, researchers and activists. The original focused on Calgary writers, while New Forum provides a platform for emerging and established writers in Alberta. The art and writing in Alberta is outstanding and we want to recognize and celebrate that. We also hope to partner with different organizations in Calgary to provide mentorship to new writers and provide an opportunity for publication. Loft 112 has nurtured and supported so many emerging writers in Calgary through their small press and chapbooks, and New Forum has the same goal.”

The subjects that the original magazine focused on are still highly pertinent. As Pikal states, “If you read back issues of the original Forum and look at topics that focus on the treatment of women in the workforce, or how menopause and ageing is viewed negatively in our society, or how Indigenous people are ‘fighting to maintain their language and sense of identity’ in the words of our contributor Sable Sweetgrass, you’ll see these topics continue to be relevant in our society today.”

New Forum, published annually, will aim to champion for underrepresented voices. Pikal explains, “We are champions for art, poetry, fiction and non-fiction. We love flash fiction as much as we love long-form journalism. We are a high-quality and thoughtful publication and festival, and also fun thanks to our ‘80s aesthetic.”

And how better to kick off the re-birth of this magazine than with an official launch party on June 22  at Loft 112 where attendees will be treated to readings and reflections from original contributors to Forum, along with writers and artists in the Calgary community, all set to the backdrop of some fun 80s music in honour of the original publication’s year of birth. There will also be writing workshop and a feminist film night on June 23, after which copies of New Forum will be available online and in select retailers.

New Forum sounds to be a welcome and refreshing addition to the Alberta literary scene and readers should anticipate being treated to an exciting and highly engaging range of content.

Tickets for the launch party on June 22 at Loft 112 are $25 and each attendee will receive a copy of one of the original Forum issues, plus New Forum.  Tickets can be purchased through their website.