Greenwich + Docklands International Festival is back and better than ever


Last year, the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival was the rarest of beasts: a British summer festival that actually took place. Uniquely set up to deal with a pandemic, GDIF offers spectacular, mostly free, open-air theater on the streets of London’s Thamesside neighborhoods, and it has released a 2020 edition in the face of overwhelming odds.

“It was a big challenge,” says Bradley Hemmings, who founded the festival in 1996. “But it’s a festival we’re all incredibly proud of. GDIF 2020 was the first major live event of its kind to have held since the lockdown.

If last year’s schedule was a heroic exercise in damage control, carried out with huge restrictions, then GDIF 2021 looks more like a return to “normal”. For starters, many regulars are returning, including the Greenwich Fair – a family-friendly festival as part of a festival at Cutty Sark Gardens and on the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College – and Dancing City, two days of surprising dancing. throughout Canary Wharf.

There are also large-scale international works featuring some of the first foreign artists to perform in the UK for 18 months. Due to post-Brexit visas and quarantine rules, Hemmings says it has been “a tough business,” but he is “confident to welcome artists from Flanders, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain and Israel “.

There is a dance performance about the British pre-Windrush black population (‘Black Victorians’), a Flemish production of Dennis Potter’s ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ which will be performed at a restricted landfill site and, arguably the Highlight of the festival, Swiss artist Dan Acher’s ‘Borealis’, a high-level laser show designed to recreate the Northern Lights over Greenwich and Woolwich.

“The pandemic has meant that we haven’t been able to organize destination events for a lot of people,” says Hemmings. “Last year we experimented with facilities that the public could safely experience over a longer period of time. As London reopens, ‘Borealis’ seems like a wonderful way to build on that – an evocation of an extraordinary phenomenon in two stunning settings. “

Please note: “Borealis” is full in Greenwich (drop-offs are likely as tickets were free), but there is always availability for Woolwich. With the nights getting longer, it should be spectacular. But if you can’t do this show, don’t worry – the festival has a whole world of culture to explore.

GDIF 2021 will run from August 27 to September 11.

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Darcy J. Skinner

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