This year, the team and partnering artists have focused on producing wide-reaching, spectacular events more in keeping with the original intentions for the festival after the two pandemic summers necessitated a more demure, hyper-local programme.
Unlike many major spectacles that focus entirely on creating a surface-level wow-factor experience, GDIF’s events are ethical, sustainable and firmly rooted in the arts. Each visiting company has been chosen partly based on its commitment to these principles as well as an ability to create attractions likely appeal to an audience of all ages.
A London festival with an international outlook, GDIF hosts events created by companies from around the world. 'London being the most international city in the world is an important value for us and we’ll always fly that flag,' Hemmings stresses.
Originally, the festival was running with a theme of 'new beginnings', but with the war in Ukraine raging on, this seemed inappropriate. Instead, ‘common ground’ is the underlying unifier of the 2022 programme. 'Given the times we’re living through, which have been divided and uncertain, we want the festival to [be] a sanctuary where you can find something uplifting and positive, and share common ground with others,' says Hemmings.
Protein Dance. En Route to Common Ground
In a bid to keep the plight of Ukraine front of mind, Hemmings has offered a group of Ukrainian artists a platform to tell their story. Discover Ukraine: Bits Destroyed (Friday 26 - Monday 29 August) will be 'an audio-visual spectacular presentation in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College'.
In both 2020 and 2021, GDIF’s On Your Doorstep series brought live performance into often overlooked pockets of the borough, including Avery Hill and Abbey Wood, to prevent people travelling into town centres when contagion was rife. So popular was it with local audiences who otherwise might not have been able to access the festival that it’s returning this year, bringing more circus, theatre, dance and arts deeper into neighbourhoods.
Keeping the festival as free as possible remains integral to the ethos of GDIF. This year, only seven of the events are ticketed and only two of those have a fee attached: site-specific theatre spectacle Peaceophobia (Wednesday 7 - Saturday 10 September, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Multi-Storey Car Park) and Protein dance company’s promenade dance odyssey En Route to Common Ground (Friday 2 - Sunday 4 September, Royal Arsenal Riverside), both of which are £10, but even those can be accessed for free by local residents.
Highlights to catch at GDIF 2022…
When: Friday 26 & Saturday 27 August, 9pm
Where: The Queen's House Lawns, London SE10 9JH
This new work by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, inspired by the natural light of fireflies, is an organic firework display of sorts, set to illuminate the sky above the Queen’s House in Greenwich. Thousands of biodegradable lights will twinkle in the sky, and visitors are invited to bring a pillow and a blanket to watch the spectacle.
When: Thursday 1 - Saturday 10 September, 8pm
Where: Limmo Peninsula, Royal Docks
Peter Hudson’s striking installation Charon was first seen at Burning Man festival in America. A 32ft rotating zoetrope mounted with replica human skeletons, the work comes to life at dusk when it's operated by a team of volunteers (join them, if you like!), and invites the viewer to reflect on mortality as it turns in front of the fading light.
Island of Foam: Version XVIII
When: Saturday 3 & Sunday 4 September, 6pm
Where: Greenwich Peninsula
German artist Stephanie Lüning is smothering Greenwich Peninsula in mountains of rainbow-coloured foam, but don't worry, this flowing, shape-shifting installation is entirely biodegradable and will eventually disappear without a trace.
When: Friday 9 & Saturday 10 September, 8pm
Where: Bethnal Green Gardens
Bethnal Green Gardens is illuminated by soft, wobbly, glowing robots as part of this alluring light show. It's interactive too: visitors' footsteps can make these wavering structures move.
When: Saturday 27 August, 1 - 7pm
Where: Old Royal Naval College & Cutty Sark Gardens
Roll up, roll up for an afternoon of free, family-friendly entertainment, as the green spaces outside Cutty Sark and the Old Royal Naval College are swarmed by street artists, theatre acts, circus troupes and interactive installations.
When: Saturday 10 & Sunday 11 September, 1pm - 6pm
Where: Canary Wharf
Back by popular demand, Dancing City is a two-day dance extravaganza spread across Canary Wharf’s piazzas, parks and waterfronts. Performances in afrobeat, ballet, stilt-walking and traditional Indian dance all feature.
|What||Greenwich and Docklands International Festival 2022|
26 Aug 22 – 11 Sep 22, Performance times vary depending on event
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|