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Greenwich+Docklands International Festival Reimagines Programme

Rhys Dennis in Black Victorians by Jeanefer Jean Charles, photography by Stephen Wright.Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF), London’s leading festival of outdoor theatre and performing arts, announces a reimagining of its 25th-anniversary festival running from 28 August to 12 September. Whilst maintaining the distinctively surprising and engaging artistic work for which GDIF is well known, the festival is adapting its programme to observe social distancing and prioritise the safety and well-being of artists and audiences. GDIF 2020 will incorporate a programme of uplifting installations and outdoor arts presented locally on people’s doorsteps, celebrating local places and togetherness following a summer of isolation.

The Artistic Director of GDIF, Bradley Hemmings said today “As we emerge from these difficult and socially isolated times, I believe that outdoor arts can potentially offer audiences a bridge to a new and safe-distanced world of live performance. In reimagining our plans, our primary concern has of course been the welfare of artists and audiences. Thanks to the resourcefulness of artists, staff and partners we are proceeding optimistically towards the 25th anniversary edition of the Festival, which whilst it will be very different to previous years, will retain at its heart the spirit of togetherness and transformation, for which GDIF has always been renowned.”

Councillor Adel Khaireh, Cabinet Member for Culture & Communities, Royal Borough of Greenwich, added, “Last year I was just blown away by the amazing scenes at the opening of the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival. The community spirit was out of this world and it was a complete honour to be part of that amazing atmosphere. I’m therefore really heartened to see that GDIF has announced its plans for a postponed festival, with social distancing and audience safety as the top priority. We will all need it more than ever by 28 August.”

London Area Director at Arts Council England, Joyce Wilson said, “Greenwich+Docklands International Festival is a go-to event for accessible, world-class culture, appealing to a wide and diverse audience. This year’s festival will offer that same punchy programme, but delivered in a very different way to keep audiences and artists safe. People will be invited to view the work at their own pace, and in ways which suit the extraordinary circumstances, we find ourselves living in. Regardless, we are sure that it will be as entertaining and engaging as ever.”

The opening weekend is being created through a community engagement project which has been taking place during lockdown, entitled Weaving Together. Through a partnership with Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency, local residents have been demonstrating their connections and community spirit through the theme of weaving. As part of this, the French company Gratte Ciel have created a weaving workshop which has been sent out in emergency food parcels to vulnerable local residents. This now forms part of a longer-term engagement project, which will include a range of installations and performances as part of this year’s festival, as well as the creation of a new show in 2021.

Durational installations celebrating the NHS, togetherness, and the environment, will ensure that audiences can visit at staggered times with plenty of space for social distancing. A new initiative, entitled On Your Doorstep, will bring a carefully curated programme of family-friendly circus and street theatre to the heart of communities in Greenwich, Woolwich, Thamesmead, North Woolwich, and Eltham, whilst Dancing City, the Festival’s annual outdoor dance programme at Canary Wharf, is being reinvented with safe-distancing integrated into the performances and audience experience.

Larger-scale outdoor theatre pieces will take place in more isolated locations, with reduced ticketed capacities and controlled entry, and GDIF will be encouraging audiences to experience the festival as it happens on their doorstep, and where possible, to walk or cycle to events.

There will be a strong focus on appreciation of the environment, as everyone emerges from lockdown into a potentially cleaner, greener world, but ultimately the programme will reflect on the connections and sense of togetherness to be found through creativity, which communities across Greenwich and East London have demonstrated are as strong as ever.

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