- Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF) 2023 will take place between Friday 25 August and Sunday 10 September in various locations in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, East London and the City of London.
- The new programme of FREE outdoor theatre, performance and installation staged across iconic London sites is inspired by the theme Acts of Hope.
- The first events announced today include the world premiere of The Architect which marks 30 years since the murder of Stephen Lawrence with a theatrical journey on a London bus co-produced with Actors Touring Company and presented in support of the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation.
- Also announced is Loomaland’s Cygnus, an entrancing sound and light installation which sees animatronic swans perform on water.
- Upswing and Unlimited Theatre’s’ Afrofuturism inspired circus extravaganza Ancient Futures.
- Rodney Bell and Chloe Loftus’ aerial performance The Air Between Us.
- Roza Moshtaghi’s immersive dance duet Bouncing Narratives will be performed on a raised trampoline which audiences experience from underneath at Canary Wharf.
- GDIF today becomes the first UK festival to be awarded Platinum accessibility status by Attitude is Everything, the highest accolade for improving access and inclusion at live events for Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent audiences.
GDIF, London’s leading annual festival of free outdoor arts and theatre will take place 25 August – 10 September 2023, bringing together UK and international artists in a programme of ground-breaking outdoor theatre, performance, art, dance and circus in iconic public spaces across the Royal Borough of Greenwich, East London and the City of London.
The festival’s theatrical centerpiece is the world premiere of The Architect, commissioned by GDIF, an uplifting and hopeful new production that invites audiences to board a London bus and take a life-affirming theatrical journey infused with the experiences of Black Londoners across the three decades since the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993.
Conceived by leading theatre-makers Matthew Xia (Hey Duggee), Roy Williams (Death of England) and Alfred Fagon award-winner Mojisola Adebayo (Family Tree) and created with leading Black artists including Bola Agbaje, Dexter Flanders, Vanessa Macauley and XANA, this landmark Actors Touring Company (ATC) and GDIF co-production is presented in support of the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation.
Jessica Neil, Chief Executive of the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation said today: “Stories have the power to inspire ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things. The deeply personal individual experiences of people from marginalised communities, paint a picture of our remarkable collective contributions to British society, and also of how far we still have to travel. ‘The Architect’ is a powerful example of how storytelling can create empathy, understanding and hope in communities, and we are so proud that Stephen’s legacy is being supported by GDIF, Matthew Xia and the Actors Touring Company as they bring this important production to life.”
Matthew Xia, Artistic Director of Actors Touring Company also said today: “Thirty years ago, the UK was rocked to its core by the unprovoked racist murder of South London teenager Stephen Lawrence. The ensuing decades became a fight for justice and revealed the extent of institutional racism across the nation. I have gathered a collective of the most brilliant Black theatre artists to respond to this commemorative moment, and as is often the way with such painful events and memories, we want to try to move through the trauma, and the profound loss towards something uplifting and hopeful. We come together in our collective power to imagine an alternative city, designed and inhabited by ‘The Architect’.”
Other highlights announced today include the London premiere of Ancient Futures, an intergalactic Afrofuturist party that blends circus, music and dance. Inspired by West African folklore, this exhilarating new production will be presented in Thamesmead.
Cygnus, a poetic light installation in London for the first time will see illuminated, animatronic swans perform a mesmerising water ballet accompanied by an ethereal soundscape on the Royal Victoria Dock.
Performed on a trampoline installed on top of a shipping container, with audiences surrounding outside as well as inside the container itself, Bouncing Narratives offers a playful wash of images, sounds, and movements. It leads this year’s programme for Dancing City, GDIF’s annual weekend of outdoor dance productions by leading international and UK companies across the Canary Wharf estate on 9 and 10 September.
The Air Between Us by disabled artist Rodney Bell and dancer/choreographer Chloe Loftus will captivate audiences with a thrilling aerial performance presented at Greenwich Park on 26 August as part of Greenwich Fair, a packed day of street arts, performance, games, and circus for all ages in Greenwich Town Centre.
Taking place against the background of the cost-of-living crisis, global conflict and uncertainty, this year GDIF has adopted the theme of “Acts of Hope”, with the intention of offering a free festival of uplifting moments for reflection, creativity, and celebration.
Bradley Hemmings MBE, GDIF Artistic Director said: “This year’s festival theme of “Acts of Hope” invites us to come together through free outdoor arts and reflect on hope as a unifying language. Artists and participants have created stunning new productions which explore the possibilities of active, change-making hope.
“As well as offering illuminating perspectives on the world as it could be, artists across the festival will be transforming familiar public spaces into creative arenas; places in which audiences can come together and share in a spirt of optimism and celebration.”
Disabled-led charity Attitude is Everything has awarded GDIF the highest accolade for its efforts to improve access and inclusion at its events, making GDIF the first UK Festival to be awarded Platinum accessibility status for striving to provide the best possible experience for audiences with access requirements.
Suzanne Bull MBE, Founder of Attitude is Everything said: “I’m delighted that Greenwich+Docklands International Festival is the first festival to reach the Platinum Level of our Live Events Access Charter. Having signed to our Charter over seven years ago, they’ve striven year-on-year to be fully committed to reaching best practice which has included providing access information for people with a range of impairments to every event, regularly programming disabled artists and developing the access knowledge of the entire team. Pioneering inclusive practice is at the heart of the Platinum award and GDIF embraces this.”
To mark this platinum award GDIF are also proud to be re-commissioning Caroline Cardus’ powerful artwork The Way Ahead. This subversive, disability arts protest installation, features a set of publicly sited road signs, which take aim at discrimination and inequality while addressing current realities for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people.
Councillor Adel Khaireh, Cabinet Member for Equality, Culture and Communities, said: “Year on year, GDIF cements the world class status of the Royal Greenwich arts and culture scene. As the first UK festival to be awarded Platinum accessibility status by Attitude is Everything, Royal Greenwich Festivals are proud to support GDIF in improving access for deaf, disabled and neurodivergent audiences. The festival will bring internationally renowned artists to our borough, as well as local talent such as Woolwich’s very own Afrikan Boy and the new theatrical experience, The Architect which will bring Stephen Lawrence’s legacy to new generations.”
Adriana Marques, Peabody’s Head of Cultural Strategy for Thamesmead, said: “We’re really excited to be supporting the London Premiere of Ancient Futures in The Moorings. It’s a pleasure to be working with GDIF once again as part of our long-term plan to establish Thamesmead as a culturally rich community and destination.”
More than 30 other events including a spectacular opening night and a showstopper at one of London’s most iconic buildings will be revealed in June.
In detail, the first five highlights revealed for GDIF 2023 are:
The Architect is an immersive theatrical journey through time and a city conceived by Mojisola Adebayo, Roy Williams and Matthew Xia, and created with a collective of leading Black artists including Bola Agbaje, Dexter Flanders, Vanessa Macauley and XANA. Audiences will travel aboard an iconic red bus and be transported across South-East London. This new production asks how we create a blueprint for the future, three decades after the senseless murder of Stephen Lawrence.
Infused with the experiences of Black Londoners, The Architect imagines the potential of uninterrupted Black lives, and the hopes ambitions and dreams that accompany them through performance, sound design, music and projection. Produced by Actors Touring Company and Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, following their award-winning collaboration on Family Tree (2021), and in support of the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation.
Conceived and directed by Vicki Dela Amedume MBE and J Spooner in collaboration with quantum poet Oneness Sankara with new music by grime artist Afrikan Boy, Ancient Futures (27 and 28 August) at The Moorings, Thamesmead, blends circus and storytelling with Sound System culture and West African folklore. Flamboyant Afrinauts arrive as curious visitors, welcoming willing participants to witness their unique community. Audiences join a spectacular dance party, a ritual to launch us into a new reality that promises to build a more vibrant, positive and inspiring future. Supported by Without Walls.
Artists and specialists in motion control and animation Denis Bivour and Florian Giefer’s (Loomaland) present Cygnus (31 August, 1, 2 and 3rd September) a poetic live installation at Royal Victoria Dock. This ensemble of twelve life-sized swans come together for a mysterious nightly roundelay. The artificial birds, illuminated from the inside, moving autonomously by GPS, glide over the surface like ghosts, changing colours to the rhythm of ethereal music. In the dawning age of automation, this hypnotic installation challenges traditional viewing habits and raises interesting questions: will we preserve nature, or will future generations create their own digital creatures?
Multi-award-winning disabled artist Rodney Bell and dancer/choreographer Chloe Loftus, present The Air Between Us (26 August). Spiraling into the air, this counterweighted duet is a celebration of equality and connection. Representing diverse cultures and experiences, Chloe and Rodney explore our capacity to exist in symbiotic harmony. Like planets encircling around each other, magnetically pulled by each other’s energy, this UK premiere, will take place against the stunning background of Greenwich Park.
Bouncing Narratives (9 and 10 September) at Canary Wharf as part of GDIF’s Dancing City programme, is a thrilling collaboration between choreographer Roza Moshtaghi and artist Shahrzad Malekian. This performance installation has been created in and around a shipping container with a trampoline as a roof, to provide unconventional perspectives on dance. A seemingly playful jumble of images, sounds, and movements evoke experiences of joy, trauma and vulnerability. The public are invited to experience the show from underneath the trampoline reclining on cushions inside the container – or from the outside.
GDIF 2023’s full line-up, including large scale spectaculars, will be revealed later in June. For more information see festival.org/GDIF-2023
For further information, please contact:
Fourth Wall PR
T: +44 (0) 7939149887
Notes to Editors
Title: Greenwich + Docklands International Festival
Date: 25 August – 10 September 2023
Further information about the upcoming GDIF 2023 programme, please use this link festival.org/GDIF-2023
(Highlights listings in chronological order)
Event title: The Air Between Us
Presented by: Chloe Loftus Dance (New Zealand)
Date: 26 August
Location: Greenwich Park
Free, no ticket required
Dance, Performance art / UK PREMIERE
Event title: Ancient Futures
Presented by: Upswing/Unlimited Theatre (UK)
Date: 27 & 28 August
Location: The Moorings Estate, Thamesmead
Free, no ticket required
Circus, Dance, Music, Performance art / LONDON PREMIERE
Event title: The Architect
Presented by: GDIF and Actors Touring Company (UK)
Dates: September dates to be announced in June
Tickets go on sale in June, free tickets available for local residents.
Theatre / WORLD PREMIERE
Event title: Cygnus
Presented by: Loomaland (The Netherlands)
Dates: 31 August – 3 September
Location: Royal Victoria Dock, Royal Docks
Free, no ticket required
Installation / LONDON PREMIERE
Featured as part of At the Docks
Event title: Bouncing Narratives
Presented by: Roza Moshtaghi and Shahrzad Malekian (Norway)
Date: 9 – 10 September as part of Dancing City
Location: Canary Wharf
Free, no ticket required
Dance, Performance art / UK PREMIERE
About Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF):
Produced by FESTIVAL.ORG, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF) is London’s free, annual outdoor theatre and performing arts festival. Taking place from 25 August – 10 September 2023 across Greenwich, Thamesmead, East London and the City of London, GDIF is committed to co-creating, commissioning and presenting outdoor productions, which tell compelling stories in spectacular style, whilst bringing Londoners together.
GDIF is produced and presented by FESTIVAL.ORG, one of the UK’s most ambitious and prolific outdoor arts producing organisations. It sets out to radically raise the ambition, quality and diversity of outdoor performance produced in this country and internationally. Beyond the annual GDIF, the organisation also manages the Global Streets network, which tours international outdoor arts productions to 12 places across England. FESTIVAL.ORG is also a founding partner of the Without Walls and Stomping Ground consortia and delivers a range of other strategic, producing, access, touring and consultancy initiatives.
About Attitude Is Everything:
Attitude is Everything is a disability-led charity and Arts Council England IPSO that connects disabled people with music and live event industries to improve access together. Their vision is to see music and live event industries valuing disabled people as audience members, performers, professionals, and volunteers. They work to achieve this via a mystery shopping programme, their industry standard Live Events Access Charter, training and consultancy, the Next Stage and Beyond The Music initiatives breaking down the barriers artists and professionals face, and an array of influencing campaigns around topics that impact disabled people wishing to engage with the music and live events industries.
About The Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation:
Stephen Lawrence Day is an opportunity for people, communities, and organisations to come together and honour Stephen’s life and legacy, stand up against discrimination in our daily lives, and work towards a more hopeful tomorrow. Through reflection, learning, and action, we can inspire change and create a better future for the next generation. The Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation exists to inspire a more equitable, inclusive society and to foster opportunities for marginalised young people in the UK.
About Actors Touring Company:
Actors Touring Company (ATC) is a “portable portal to the world” We are a touring theatre company with an unrivalled track record in the commissioning, producing and touring of contemporary international plays. Our work explores ideas of intersectionality, identity and belonging – opening up conversations across borders both geographic and cultural. Since 1980, we’ve pioneered the touring of new global plays, often in world premiere translations of plays from Australia, Norway, Iran, Israel, and the US – bringing global stories to audiences from Glasgow to Plymouth and Keswick to Ipswich.
GDIF 2023 is supported by:
- Arts Council England
Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. We have set out our strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. We invest public money from Government and The National Lottery to help support the sector and to deliver this vision.
- Royal Greenwich Festivals
Royal Greenwich Festivals is an annual series of events celebrating the cultural vibrancy of Royal Greenwich and providing some of the best and most varied entertainment in the capital every summer. Including free theatre, music, dance, family performances and live displays, the festivals programme is funded by the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
- Royal Docks
The Royal Docks Team is a joint initiative between the Mayor of London and the Mayor of Newham. Led by a multi-disciplinary team, in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders, culture and community underpins one of the most significant regeneration projects in the UK. Inspired by its diverse communities, rich heritage, and iconic landscape, the Royal Docks aims to become ‘London’s Cultural Engine’ – an innovative ideas factory and creative production centre that will build and nourish an inclusive and vibrant local scene for community arts, heritage, culture, and creativity that is open to all.
- Canary Wharf Group
Canary Wharf Group (CWG) is the developer of the largest urban regeneration project in Europe. CWG develops, manages and currently owns interests in approximately 9 million square feet of mixed-use space and over 1,100 Build to Rent apartments. CWG is the largest sustainable developer in the UK and also excels operationally as it has purchased 100% electricity from renewable sources since 2012 and sent zero waste to landfill since 2009. CWG has created a 24/7 city where people can live, work and thrive on the Canary Wharf estate and enjoy all the benefits: great transport links, access to green spaces and waterside living; and a wide range of amenities including an award-winning arts and events programme. Canary Wharf’s retail offering comprises over 70 bars, cafes and restaurants and over 200 shops, including grocery stores, pharmacies and health clubs all within 15 minutes’ walk. The Company’s current £2bn construction activity and pipeline includes more than 500k square feet NIA of commercial properties and over 2,300 new homes for sale and rent.
160 years after it was established, Peabody is one of the oldest not-for-profit housing associations in the UK. The Peabody Group is responsible for more than 104,000 homes, with around 220,000 residents across London and the Home Counties. We also have around 20,000 care and support customers. Our purpose is to help people flourish, and we are getting closer to residents by taking a local approach. We are committed to delivering a responsive and easily accessible repairs service and investing in our existing homes, so they are safe and well maintained. Our retrofit projects will make thousands of our homes more energy efficient. We work with councils and communities to promote economic inclusion, tackle inequality and poverty, and prioritise wellbeing. Our rents were £679m lower than the market in 2021/22. With an average rent of £122 per week in London and the south-east, we offer significant value for residents and communities. We are also committed to building much-needed affordable homes.
- Without Walls
Without Walls is a consortium of over 35 festivals and arts organisations that brings fantastic outdoor arts to people in towns and cities across England. Since its formation in 2007, Without Walls has developed and toured over 200 new shows. Without Walls commissions have toured widely both in the UK and internationally across 22 countries. Without Walls is supported by Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation.
- The Royal Parks
The Royal Parks is the charity which manages, protects, and improves the parks in an exemplary and sustainable manner so that everyone, now and in the future, has the opportunity to enjoy their natural and historic environments. It costs around £55m a year to manage the parks. The charity raises around 80 percent of this money itself, with the remaining 20 percent coming from the Government.
- Uber Boat by Thames Clippers
Uber Boat by Thames Clippers is the leading River Bus service on the River Thames, serving 24 piers across the capital. Services run at 10–20-minute intervals between key London piers across the capital. Services run at 10–20-minute intervals between key London piers including North Greenwich for The O2, Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Tower, London Bridge City, Westminster and London Eye (Waterloo), as well as several residential piers, including Battersea Power Station Pier and now Barking Riverside Pier. Uber Boat by Thames Clippers operates a modern and fuel-efficient leet of high-speed catamarans. For over 20 years the business has been at the forefront of innovation for the river marine sector and is committed to supporting the sustainable growth of infrastructure and economic development on and around the river to ensure its long-term importance to Greater London.
About Canary Wharf Group:
Canary Wharf Group (CWG) is the developer of the largest urban regeneration project in Europe. CWG develops, manages and currently owns interests in approximately 9 million square feet of mixed-use space and over 1,100 Build to Rent apartments.
CWG is a sustainable developer in the UK and also excels operationally as it has purchased 100% electricity from renewable sources since 2012 and sent zero waste to landfill since 2009.
CWG has created a 24/7 city where people can live, work and thrive on the Canary Wharf estate and enjoy all the benefits: great transport links, access to green spaces and waterside living; and a wide range of amenities including an award-winning arts and events programme. Canary Wharf’s retail offering comprises over 300 shops, including grocery stores, pharmacies, health clubs, bars and restaurants, all within 15 minutes’ walk.
The Company’s current £2bn construction activity and pipeline includes more than 500k square feet NIA of commercial properties and over 2,300 new homes for sale and rent.
Instagram: @canarywharflondon /@canarywharfworks
Twitter: @CanaryWharfGrp / @Level39CW / @Wood_Wharf