Bristol

Forestry England names its first writers in residence

Zakiya Mckenzie Image copyright Zakiya Mckenzie
Image caption Zakiya Mckenzie, one of Forestry England's first writers in residence, is currently doing a PhD in literature on the tradition of Black British journalism from the 1940s onwards

A woman who has become one of the Forestry England's first writers in residence shows it is "committed to hearing marginalised voices", she says.

Zakiya Mckenzie, from Bristol, and Tiffany Francis, from Petersfield, Hampshire, won a competition to mark the commission's centenary.

Writers in the Forest sought applicants from underrepresented groups to "diversify nature writing".

Ms Mckenzie said it showed the organisation's commitment to diversity.

She said: "By choosing me for the role, Forestry England have explicitly shown that they are committed to hearing and sharing marginalised voices.

She said she hopes her point of view in the one-year residency role is seen as "valuable as a British person telling a British story".

"By extending the pen and platform to me they have actively validated my voice to the nature and nature writing public," she added.

Image copyright Forestry England
Image caption The new nature-writing project is part of the former Forestry Commission's centenary year celebrations

"It's easy for people to think I've got here just because I'm black, that's fine for now but, holla at me when you've actually read what I produce and say that with a straight face".

Ms Mckenzie is currently studying a PhD in literature on the tradition of Black British journalism from the 1940s onwards.

She said: "The 'sharing' is really important here; Forestry England have a huge operation and are an authority on British nature. "

Both women will be taken on a tour of the nation's woodlands to help inspire their stories.

Image copyright Tiffany Francis
Image caption Tiffany Francis is a committed vegan and follows a minimalist lifestyle

Author, artist and environmentalist Miss Francis, hopes to use the role to "delve right into the heart of Britain's forest."

She said: "Everything I do is inspired by environmentalism, creativity and a passion for the natural world, and I also follow a vegan, minimalist lifestyle to rebalance my relationship with the planet.

"I think the most important aspect of my work is to try and connect our species with the rest of the ecosystem - to remind us all that we are part of nature, and that nature writing is essentially writing about ourselves."

She is currently working on her third book, Dark Skies, but also writes and illustrates magazine features.

Both women's work will be published at the end of 2019, the same time as the tree-planting season.

Now known as Forestry England, the Forestry Commission was established in September 1919 to replenish the UK's timber reserves after World War One.

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