Greenwich+Docklands International Festival 2024 programme

'THAW' by Legs On The Wall. Photo by Prudence Upton.
'THAW' by Legs On The Wall. Photo by Prudence Upton.

Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF), London’s award-winning annual festival of free theatre and performing arts will take place from 23 August – 8 September, bringing together a free programme of performances by UK and international artists, including several productions which will be co-created with local participants and presented across public spaces in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Newham and the City of London.

Some events were recently announced, including the European premiere of a jaw-dropping creation by Australian physical theatre company Legs On The Wall in response to the devastating bushfires of 2019/20. THAW brings Londoners face to face with the urgent need for global climate action with a powerful performance which takes place over eight hours. This aerial production on a 2.5 tonne block of ice gathers intensifying power and urgency as the ice, suspended on a crane high above the iconic landscape of Newham’s historic Royal Docks by the University of East London’s campus, gradually melts away.

A new site-specific show Bodies of Water marks the fourth collaboration between Actors Touring Company (ATC) and GDIF following 2023’s sell-out, critically acclaimed production The Architect. Co-created with local sanctuary seeking communities and experienced on the shore of the Thames at the Ahoy! Centre in Deptford, Greenwich, this moving theatrical experience responds to Warsan Shire’s (Lemonade and Black is King with Beyoncé) poem HOME. Matthew Xia directs with dramaturgy by Francesca Beard featuring live music by Britain’s most celebrated Oud player Rihab Azar.

TOUCH combines the theatrical use of a flight of stairs and gravity-defying trampoline choreography, by renowned French dancer and choreographer Yoann Bourgeois whose performances have gone viral around the world and recently collaborations with Harry Styles, P!nk and Missy Elliott. This UK premiere will be performed to an extraordinary electro-synth Daft Punk soundtrack at Stratford Cross – a thriving destination in East London and the gateway to East Bank, the UK’s exciting new cultural quarter on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. TOUCH will be presented as part of Dancing City, GDIF’s iconic, annual programme of outdoor dance, which this year will move from Canary Wharf to Stratford, Newham, in an exciting new partnership with Sadler’s Wells East.

GDIF’s flagship 2024 commission PATOIS will tour to several locations during the festival with performances taking place in Greenwich, Woolwich, Abbey Wood and Stratford. Created by renowned choreographer Jeanefer Jean-Charles MBE, this fusion of traditional Caribbean movement and contemporary choreography tells a universal story of belonging and identity, reawakening past stories and lost languages.

Also announced are performances of PRAM PEOPLE as part of a two-day programme of family-friendly events which will transform Stratford Park, Newham into a theatrical playground for children and their families. Australian children’s theatre company Polyglot, rolls out the red carpet for prams of all shapes and sizes, with an invitation for families to participate in an immersive celebration of community. In partnership with Discover Children’s Story Centre, participants will be invited to decorate their buggies in colourful ribbonsand then use headphones to follow playful audio prompts and clues which lead to a synchronized pram-party in a surprisingly moving celebration of community and parent-child connection.

GDIF’s annual “festival within a festival” Greenwich Fair, is transforming into a biennial event in response to an increasingly challenging nationwide arts funding landscape but is planned to return in 2025 for GDIF’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

Bradley Hemmings MBE, GDIF’s Artistic Director, said, “This year, GDIF has adopted the theme of ALL CHANGE. These are difficult times everywhere, and the world of outdoor arts is no exception. However, by embracing change, welcoming new partners and reinventing the shape of this year’s festival, I’m very proud that GDIF will continue to bring stunning free and inclusive outdoor arts experiences to audiences across 17 fantastic days.”

Hemmings continued, “For 2024, we’re foregrounding the great tradition of outdoor arts and activism with a series of commissions and events that invite us to reflect on making positive change, whilst disrupting the everyday rhythm of life and creating moments of joy and togetherness. GDIF has always been associated with large-scale spectacular events and this year will be no exception. We’ll be announcing unmissable UK premieres of breathtaking new productions in Woolwich and Thamesmead later this Summer.”

A spokesperson for the Royal Borough of Greenwich said, “We’re proud to be supporting the globally renowned Greenwich+Docklands International Festival as part of Royal Greenwich Festivals 2024 which brings our communities together to enjoy free, exciting and accessible events across our borough. From immersive theatre co-created with some of our refugee communities to world-renowned dance performances, this year’s Greenwich and Docklands International Festival will showcase the unique heritage of the people of our borough and entertain local residents.”

Rokhsana Fiaz OBE, Mayor of Newham, said, “I’m thrilled to be welcoming the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival to Newham once again with four stand-out art experiences this summer for people to be wowed by and enjoy. Our collaboration with GDIF is all part of our ‘Building Newham’s Creative Future’ plans where everyone has access to the transformative power of culture and the arts. From aerial performances on a 2.5 tonne block of ice, gravity-defying dance and a theatrical playground full of prams in Stratford Park, it’s all change in our collaboration with GDIF as we show how Newham is a beating heart of London’s culture. That’s why I can’t wait to attend all the thought-provoking outdoor art productions GDIF is bringing to our borough this year. I’d urge everyone to hurry and sign up for the free activities when they are announced in June, because in Newham we want art accessible to everyone!”

The full GDIF 2024 programme will be revealed later this Summer. Further information about the first highlights revealed for GDIF 2024 can be found at festival.org/GDIF-2024.

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