Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF), London’s leading festival of outdoor theatre and performing arts, today announces its forthcoming programme, running from 28 August – 12 September 2020 in locations across Royal Greenwich and East London. Following months of often challenging behind the scenes creative and production work to adapt the programme and prioritise the safety of artists and audiences, the Festival offers events with capacities from 50 up to 250, including durational installations, site-responsive theatre and dance and a touring programme of street arts, delivered on people’s doorsteps.
GDIF is set to be the UK’s first full festival to take place since lockdown began in March and much of the programme has been curated in response to recent events. Highlights include Luke Jerram’s new installation In Memoriam created as a temporary memorial to those we have lost during the Covid-19 pandemic and also in tribute to NHS staff and key workers; 846 Live, a co-production with Theatre Royal Stratford East and the Royal Docks Team in response to the murder of George Floyd; The Weavers of Woolwich, an epic new prose/poem from Booker Prize-winning novelist Bernardine Evaristo; and the world première of Requardt and Rosenberg’s sci fi dance theatre epic Future Cargo, in which a truck with a mystery cargo from a distant planet arrives revealing everything needed to start over, in a production exploring globalisation and new beginnings.
GDIF’s Artistic Director, Bradley Hemmings said today, “This year’s Festival takes place in unprecedented times. The recent hard months have shown in sharp relief our need for equality and community, whilst reminding us of the resilience that comes from looking after each other.
“As a free outdoor festival, GDIF has always tried to play an active role in local civic life, and as we start to reimagine the future, this 25th anniversary Festival has been designed with artists, local partners and participants to offer an inclusive moment for reflection, whilst hopefully providing something we all desperately need – a time to celebrate and smile together again.
“The safety and wellbeing of our artists and audiences is our number one priority and we have worked hard to put in place extensive measures to ensure a safe festival for everyone.”
This year, GDIF forms part of the wider Royal Greenwich – It’s Time celebration, a summer series of leisure, learning, culture and events in Royal Greenwich which aims to bring communities together again and kick-start the local economy after a prolonged period in lockdown.
Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich Cllr Danny Thorpe said: “We couldn’t be more excited for the return of GDIF in Royal Greenwich. After months in lockdown, events and festivals like GDIF have a hugely important role in bringing our communities together again and helping to rebuild our local economy. GDIF has curated a superb line-up in response to recent events, promoting equality and inclusion, and uniting residents from across the borough in what is set to be a cultural extravaganza.
Opening up amazing experiences to all our residents and bringing communities together was what motivated the Council to help establish the festival 25 years ago, and, this year, it will be particularly welcomed by many of our residents.”
All events will have free, allocated access for local residents, with further free and paid ticketing arrangements to help manage more limited event capacities for this year and ensure that everyone who attends can have an enjoyable and safe experience. Tickets will be available for general booking from Thursday 6 August 2020 at 12 noon.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Following detailed advice from leading safety consultants Blue Yonder Events, and drawing on the Festival’s 25 year track record of producing outdoor theatre and performing arts in Greenwich and East London, there will be many special measures put in place this year – including controlled entry to sites to allow for socially distanced audiences of 50-250 depending on the event, seating for most performances and ticketing to manage capacities, plus localised pop up performances. Staff and volunteers will be wearing face coverings and adhering to 1m+ social distancing. All audience seating and distancing will be at 2m.
Sites will offer hand sanitation stations at ingress, egress, and at all touch points, which will be disinfected regularly, including between performances where applicable. There will also be increased signage and announcements to guide audiences. Additional access arrangements will be put in place for d/Deaf and disabled audiences and those with access requirements, and many Festival events will also be available to enjoy online through a new live streaming service. All artists appearing at the Festival will also have reviewed their rehearsal and performance arrangements in the light of current guidance on social distancing and travel. FESTIVAL.ORG has received the Good to Go Industry Standard introduced by Visit England in recognition that we have followed government and industry COVID-19 guidelines, ensuring processes are in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social/physical distancing for GDIF 2020.
THE 2020 GDIF PROGRAMME
Opening the Festival is Luke Jerram’s new installation In Memoriam. Created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, In Memoriam acts as a ceremonial space for reflection and remembrance. Constructed from bed sheets in a circular formation, it has been created as a temporary memorial, and as a tribute to the NHS staff and key workers who have worked so tirelessly to care for so many. Ceremonial performances will also take place at the installation, some exclusively presented to audiences of NHS staff.
The Weavers of Woolwich, an epic new prose/poem from Booker Prize winning novelist Bernardine Evaristo, will be launched as a temporary installation in Woolwich Town Centre on Friday 28 August. Inscribed into the paving of General Gordon Square in photo-luminescent powder by Dutch artist Gijs van Bon and accompanied by an inspiring soundscape by Roma Yagnik, The Weavers of Woolwich is a people’s history, celebrating the spirit and resilience of the diverse communities who have made Woolwich their home.
Recent months have put into sharp relief the urgency of actively addressing racism and inequality. Directed by Jeanefer Jean-Charles, Black Victorians is a dance performance inspired by nineteenth century studio photographs of Black men, women and children. Exploring a complex, but often forgotten black presence in pre-Windrush Britain, this performance calls attention to previously “hidden figures” and challenges historical and contemporary perceptions. This will be the first preview of this work at a major festival, to be developed further through the Without Walls Blueprint R&D. Addressing more recent history with the murder of George Floyd, 846 Live, co-produced with Theatre Royal Stratford East and the Royal Docks Team, features responses from Black and Asian writers, to Roy Williams’ provocation: ‘Eight minutes and forty-six seconds’, performed by actors and a live DJ.
In Thamesmead an outdoor, site-specific production of Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills by Flemish Theatre Company De Roovers, takes audiences on a journey to a hidden landscape, officially closed to the public for more than a century. Last seen at GDIF in 2017 with their production of A View from the Bridge, De Roovers return with an acclaimed production taking audiences to a restricted site, which holds memories of munitions factories from the Royal Arsenal and, with their demolition and the establishment of Thamesmead in the 1960s, childhood explorations.
Two large-scale installations from award-winning sound artist, theatre maker and composer Ray Lee will be presented in Greenwich and the Royal Docks. Chorus, a monumental installation of towering sound sculptures will offer a hypnotic siren call at the Old Royal Naval College whilst Ring Out, a series of giant industrial bell towers at Silvertown Quays, is a contemporary electronic exploration of bell ringing. As we emerge from lockdown into a cleaner, greener world, the environment will be celebrated with Luke Jerram’s Gaia, a 3D vision of our world floating in space, with detailed NASA imagery of the earth’s surface, offering a unique contemplation on the interconnection and fragility of life. More intimate performance/installations at Oxleas Meadows will provide opportunities for audiences to engage in some mindfulness with theatre maker Eric MacLennan’s The Open Air Drawing Room, alongside Gobbledegook Theatre’s Cloudscapes, an invitation to consider the mutability of clouds and humanity.
Ideas of inclusion, resilience and diversity have also provided the inspiration for GDIF’s Weaving Together programme of participatory arts activities and commissions which have engaged with local residents during lockdown. Artists have devised “at home” creative workshops which have been delivered in food packages to vulnerable people, through a partnership with Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency (GCDA), whilst others have used digital platforms to create and share poetry, weave African baskets, braid fabric to symbolise diversity or assemble beautiful woven creations using upcycled everyday objects. The results of many of these projects will be showcased at the Festival featuring artists including performance poet Rasheeda Page-Muir, designer and local entrepreneur Lucy Isaiah, celebratory artists Emergency Exit Arts and creative practitioner and weaver Natanya Mark.
GDIF is also presenting a series of pop up touring events called On Your Doorstep, which bring street arts performances to neighbourhoods across the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Featured artists will include Told By an Idiot with their reimagined children’s show Get Happy, and Christopher Green’s FeelPlay which takes a satirical approach to ‘adult playspaces’ as an antidote to the current lack of support for mental health and wellbeing using a smartphone app. The Tide at Greenwich Peninsula, London’s first elevated riverside walkway, will provide the stage to showcase an intimate same-sex dance duet and a colourful promenading Rainbow Ballet. For the final weekend of the Festival, a shoal of twinkling lights and soothing music delivered by a team of cyclists rigged up with LEDs and sound systems will bring a mini-spectacle to people’s doorsteps with Luke Jerram’s Lullaby.
Dancing City, GDIF’s annual outdoor dance programme has been reimagined to enable audiences to experience more intimate performances whilst observing social distancing. Offering more limited audience capacities than in past years whilst still making the most of Canary Wharf’s fantastic alfresco piazzas and landscapes, this year’s Dancing City sets out to prove that small can be beautiful. Featured companies include Gravity and Levity, Dulce Compania, Humanhood, Patrick Ziza Dance, Damae Dance, Lo-Guidice Dance, Upswing and Company Chameleon.
Requardt & Rosenberg’s new contemporary sci-fi dance show, Future Cargo, reveals a world where the normal rules don’t apply. Created and presented in the Royal Docks the première of this extraordinary new outdoor production takes audiences into a surreal visual and aural experience enhanced with 360 sound on personal headsets; whilst at Thames Barrier Park, Fire Garden from celebratory theatre makers Walk the Plank offers an immersive walk through flame-lit trail in which trees glow with fire and flowers blossom into twinkling life. This atmospheric experience provides the perfect antidote to a summer of isolation, evoking the warmth and generosity of togetherness and renewal.
Full information and performance times at:
Join the discussion