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Greenwich+Docklands International Festival 2018 Programme

Fly By Night by Duke Riley. Photo by Tod Seelie courtesy Creative Time.
Fly By Night by Duke Riley. Photo by Tod Seelie courtesy Creative Time.

Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF), London’s leading festival of outdoor theatre and performing arts, today announces its full programme for the 2018 festival, running from 21 June – 7 July 2018 in locations across Royal Greenwich, Royal Docks and Tower Hamlets. Audiences are invited to ‘dream a little dream’ over 17 midsummer days of outdoor theatre and performance, in which public spaces are transformed with more than 130 performances celebrating dreams of love, struggle, ambition and flight.

Artistic Director Bradley Hemmings MBE said, “Outdoor arts have a special role to play in marking moments of public significance and resonance. For GDIF, free outdoor storytelling is always connected with a democratic ideal, providing opportunities to share experiences and understand the things that connect us. GDIF is therefore proud to be celebrating a number of major anniversaries this year, which have all contributed to shaping local communities and national identity.

The 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some women in the UK the right to vote, will be celebrated with performances and participatory events across the Festival, whilst the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush in London will be marked with specially commissioned events in honour of the 492 pioneering migrants who arrived at Tilbury from Jamaica and Trinidad in 1948. Resonant productions marking the 1918 Armistice will take place at locations, once forming part of the Royal Arsenal Woolwich, which employed more than 80,000 people at the time of the First World War.

And, marking the 25th anniversary of the first production of Jonathan Harvey’s uplifting play, Beautiful Thing, GDIF is excited to be producing a site-specific, dance-theatre retelling of this landmark LGBTQ tale of young love blossoming on a South East London housing estate. GDIF invites audiences to ‘Dream a Little Dream’ against the backdrop of a changing 21st-century urban landscape, as Thamesmead celebrates new a chapter in its history on the 50th anniversary of the first family moving into this utopian riverside community.

Opening with an extraordinary union of public art and nature on the edge of the capital at Thamesmead, Duke Riley’s Fly by Night will see a flock of 1,500 specially trained pigeons take to the sky over the Thames at dusk. Lit by LED lights in tiny leg bands, traditionally used in wartime for carrying messages, this miraculous event transforms an aspect of everyday London life into an epic and beautiful performance in the sky. From 21-23 June, the co-commission opens GDIF and features as part of LIFT 2018 and 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.

The dreams of 492 pioneer migrants who sailed from Jamaica and Trinidad to Tilbury Dock on board the Empire Windrush exactly 70 years ago provide the inspiration behind Gateway, a specially commissioned and curated series of events straddling Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. High above the Thames, a sound installation, created and produced by sound artist Xana in tribute to the Windrush generation, will accompany passengers in the cabins of the Emirates Air Line. Other elements of the programme take inspiration from global stories of mass movement and migration, including Never Set Eyes on the Land, a new installation from Nutkhut recalling the experience and legacy of Partition in 1947, and the French hip hop company Dyptik, who explore the struggles associated with contemporary border crossings in D-Construction, an emotional production that takes place on and around a symbolic fence structure. Windrush: 492, a durational performance, will see the names of the individuals who arrived on that ship transcribed in photoluminescent powder onto the ground around Cutty Sark Gardens accompanied by a soundscape written by Greenwich playwright Roy Williams.

Continuing its reputation for spectacular large-scale free productions, GDIF presents the world première of Rise! in Woolwich, which will see giant puppets from the French company L’Homme debout tell an uplifting local and global story of the continuing struggle by women for equality and rights, which then tours to Luton and Hull. Also in Woolwich will be the world première of Graeae Theatre Company’s epic outdoor production, This Is Not For You, honouring Britain’s wounded and disabled war veterans, whose contribution has often gone unrecognised. This powerful production will be staged against the impressive and resonant setting of the Royal Arsenal, and presented as part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War Centenary, and kindly hosted by Berkeley Homes.

North of the River in Bow, the French company Remue Ménage will present the UK première of their magical La Parade Amoureuse, bringing the wildness of northern forests to Roman Road with illuminated animal puppets, dance and entrancing music for a midsummer night. In Eltham, Catalonian company Tombs Creatius bring their interactive street games and Company Furinkaï presents Origami, a gravity-defying dance performance on a moving shipping container for Eltham Unpacked.

Two firmly established GDIF favourites return in 2018. The Greenwich Fair weekend on Friday 22 – Sunday 24 June is packed with 18 UK and international theatre companies. This festival within a festival opens on Friday 22 June with Undaunted, a stunning high wire walk from Phoebe Bullzini, the UK’s only female wire-walker and one half of the UK’s leading high-wire duo The Bullzini Family, specially commissioned to mark the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act that gave some women in the UK the vote for the first time. Other Greenwich Fair highlights include the world première of Icarus from Southpaw Dance Company, co-commissioned with The Place as part of a new outdoor dance initiative called Stomping Ground, a playful integration of circus and live painting in PLOCK! by Flemish theatre company Grensgeval, and the London première of Belly of the Whale, a spectacular new production from circus dance company Ockham’s Razor. At Canary Wharf, this year’s Dancing City programme brings together performances from nine dance companies, including award-winning Catalan Cia Moveo, Candoco Dance Company with a new commission entitled Dedicated to…, as well as entrancing performances of Dopamine from Ballet Black.

This year’s Festival concludes with a large-scale, outdoor dance-theatre retelling of Beautiful Thing, capturing the urban realism and fairytale fantasy of Jonathan Harvey’s iconic 1993 play co-directed by GDIF Artistic Director Bradley Hemmings and Artistic Director of Southpaw Dance Company Robby Graham (Angels in America). The site-specific production, combining spectacular staging and video projection, is staged close to the area of Thamesmead described in the play and marks the 25th anniversary of the play’s first production.

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