- 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
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