There’s never a shortage of things to do in London, and if you know where to look, many of them are for free. The annual Greenwich & Docklands International Festival is one of those gems – a whole 8 day extravaganza of theatre, music and art, spanning Royal Greenwich, Mile End, The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Canary Wharf. A wonder for the eyes and the ears alike.
The festival aims to break new ground in the performing arts – with a huge diversity of acts and a focus on promoting equality. It’s a great thing to support – and you can turn up and watch anything you want completely free. Of course, donating a few pounds will go a long way to ensuring that wonderful events like this can continue every year, and support small and large acts alike.
Visualise a warm, but breezy evening in June. It’s 10pm and the sky is dark and cloud-less. Behind you stands the Queen’s House (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich). Crowds gather. You wait, and only a looming crane lends clues to what is to come. Duchamp Pilot begin to play, on the As the crane starts to lift, a huge white structure looms above you in the sky, and what comes ahead is a magical performance of dance and acrobatics, combined. The skill of these dancers amaze the crowd, as they prance in the air on bungees, as though they were gliding a mere foot from the ground. Only images can do Muaré justice.
A truly amazing spectacle – if you weren’t impressed by that, you’d find it hard to be impressed by anything! And Duchamp Pilot deserve a special mention here too – their music was upbeat, punky and a little bit rock. It gave the perfect accompaniment to the masters in the air and set the tone for the evening.
Keen to experience more fun and amazing sights and sounds, we grabbed a programme and planned our weekend ahead. With events in Greenwich and beyond all day on Saturday and Sunday, it was difficult to choose. But choose we did, and here is a small selection of the great acts we saw.
These wonderful ladies performed ‘Sit Back’, as Clippies from the 601 trolleybus in 1942. In full costume and whilst handing out tickets to the crowd, we were transported through the tales of war, the female workforce and the joys of public transport! Using modern dance and theatrical pieces, we were captured from start to end.
In the mood for a bit of a giggle, we spotted ‘The Beasts’ listed in our programme, and we were ready to follow a team of Beastologists on the hunt for the Grizzly Beast of Greenwich. We laughed our way through the famous five style group getting themselves prepared, dancing and singing and generally being a bit silly. The crowning moment of the performance had to be the ‘Magic Poo’ gifted by the beast (you really had to be there). And of course, the witty lines. A wonderful laugh was had by all!
And because you just never know what a couple of guys can make from the contents of a garden shed. Watch as they invent this wonderful ‘mouse-trap’ type contraption, which can only be described as fun, crazy and highly entertaining!
The last performance we saw on Sunday was by far the least. The combination of acrobatics and dance used by Acrojou in their performance of Frantic, was an absolutely great representation of the struggles of being busy. Based around a very simple structure, and ending with two rain-soaked performers, it was eye-opening and thought provoking.
It goes without saying that this is a truly wonderful festival. If you still want to catch some of the events, it doesn’t finish until the 28th. Whilst everything we saw was in Greenwich, the events during the week are still being held in Canary Wharf and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Just click here for the events listing.
And don’t forget, it’s not only the performers that make this event possible. Nothing could take place without the countless volunteers who give their time to contribute to this wonderful event, and make sure that everything runs smoothly and that everyone has a happy time.
If you want to support the event and keep it free for hopefully many years to come, you can give in any number of ways. Through the Just Giving page, or in any other ways listed here. By the way, I’ve been no way encouraged to give you this information by GDIF, I just think they deserve it!
Thank you to everyone involved – the organisers, the performers and volunteers alike!