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Greenwich+Docklands International Festival Comes To An End After 150 Socially Distanced Performances

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The festival came to an end on Saturday 12 September.

Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF), London's leading festival of outdoor theatre and performing arts and the UK's first major festival of live performance to take place since lockdown, came to an end on Saturday 12 September. Reimagined to facilitate social distancing and to ensure the safety of staff, performers and audiences, the festival saw over 150 performances and welcomed over 20,000 people over the last three weeks.

Bernardine Evaristo today said, "One of the most wonderful aspects about this festival is that it is deeply embedded in the local community who attend its events, often free of charge, while producing world-class, innovative performance. This year's festival spoke to current moments in our society while addressing some of the timeless issues of humanity. It has been an incredible and inspiring achievement to pull off this essential festival during this pandemic."

GDIF's Artistic Director Bradley Hemmings said today "I'm so proud of the way in which artists have worked with the Festival and local people to completely ingrain GDIF in the unfolding story of Greenwich and East London. This was our 25th anniversary and it was heartening to witness local people and those from further afield taking their first steps back into the world of live performance. Whilst this year's Festival was completely adapted to ensure the safety of everyone involved, the spirit of GDIF always shone through and I'm grateful to artists, audiences, local authorities and all our behind the scenes staff and freelancers for making this a 25th anniversary to cherish and remember".

Closing the festival on Saturday was 846 Live; a co-production with Theatre Royal Stratford East and the Royal Docks Team in response to the murder of George Floyd. Conceived by playwright Roy Williams, the première of this outdoor production was directed by Matthew Xia.

The festival also offered an opportunity for the community to come together and reflect on the impact of the pandemic. From Luke Jerram's In Memoriam, an installation of flags made from bed sheets, created in memory of those lost in the Covid-19 pandemic, to Bernardine Evaristo's The Weavers of Woolwich, which brought a people's history of Woolwich right up to the present day and then presented it on a giant illuminated book, the Festival combined moments of reflection and celebration.

In the spirit of reinvention, many artists and companies reimagined and adapted their productions to accommodate social distancing; from Upswing's ingeniously designed Catch Me at Dancing City in Canary Wharf, an intergenerational circus and contemporary dance duet exploring isolation with the use of a Perspex screen, to Mimbre's To Untouch which replaced the company's traditional close contact acrobatics with movement which evoked the emotional and physical sensation of touch.

Festival Producer Ellie Harris said "This year has been an incredible team effort to ensure that audiences, volunteers, staff, artists all felt safe to come back and enjoy live performance. We worked collaboratively with an external Health & Safety consultant to put in place systems that would enable us to control the festival as best possible, such as asking visiting artists to demonstrate they were rehearsing, travelling & presenting work in a Covid-safe way, a ticket booking system for household groups/bubbles of up to 4 persons per (easy to clean) bench, mandatory masks on site - or exemption stickers available to reduce potential conflict between audiences, track & trace at every event, and a host of other precautionary measures.

We're very thankful for how compliant and engaged our audiences have been throughout. Hopefully GDIF has created a good example for other arts organisations to have confidence in putting on events safely, and we start to see a much-needed revival of our cultural sector."

Behind the scenes, the Festival employed over 300 freelance staff, including production managers, crew, technicians, stage managers, BSL interpreters, audio describers, photographers, filmmakers, and stewards, to help deliver a festival which placed audience, staff and artist safety centre stage. The Festival also recruited over 150 volunteers who welcomed audiences back to their first experience of live performance for many months, whilst a comprehensive range of access arrangements meant that the Festival was also attended by many D/deaf and disabled people. Via it's YouTube Channel, the Festival also reached a digital audience of over 15,000 to offering access to the NHS In Memoriam ceremonies, The Weavers of Woolwich, highlights from each weekend, and the specially commissioned soundtrack to Lullaby, with more content to be released., the organisation behind GDIF, is now in the process of sharing its learning from this year's festival with producers across the country. Later this year the organisation will deliver Global Streets, a programme of international outdoor arts, which will be touring to 12 different towns and cities across England.

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