Over the weekend, the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF) began with a large number of events, the GDIF is London’s leading festival of free outdoor performing arts (theatre, dance, and street arts) and runs from the 23rd June to 8th July
Whilst many of the events take place in Greenwich and Woolwich, on July 1st the festival arrives in Canary Wharf with Dancing City. Dancing City offers a series of performances from UK and international dance companies. In the parks, piazzas and waterfronts of Canary Wharf. This year there is a wide range of performances and includes something for everyone.
Maduixa Theatre (Spain), “Mulier”: Powerful contemporary dance from Spain, MULÏER is a stilt-based performance exploring female identity. In tribute to women oppressed through the centuries, the dancers’ balance, power and movement claims a woman’s right to live freely, to have freedom of expression and, if she wishes, to run uninhibited through the streets.
1.25-2.10pm & 4.15-5pm / Canary Riverside
Modern Table (Korea), “Men of Steel”: Modern Table is an all-male company from Seoul, South Korea making a rare UK appearance at Dancing City with Men of Steel. This striking performance expresses confrontation in a series of rhythmic and highly physical interactions.
2.20–3.15pm / Jubilee Plaza
ZoieLogic Dance Theatre, “Ride”: RIDE tells the story of three men whose separate paths briefly coincide as they discover a most curious thing: a car, (affectionately known as Stanley), that seems to have a life of its own. Dynamic, innovative and great fun for all the family, RIDE explores the relationship between man and machine.
1-1.20pm & 3.20-3.40pm / Canary Riverside, upper terrace
Tango Sumo (France), “Achilles”: This hypnotic trio from Tango Sumo and choreographed by Olivier Germser is inspired by martial arts and hand to hand combat. The three dancers are in constant motion, weaving together a performance based on a balance of strengths.
1-1.25pm & 4.35-5pm / Jubilee Plaza
New Adventures, “Country”: Moving and hilarious, this heartfelt pastiche explores notions of national character from a bygone era through the evocative music of Edward Elgar, Noël Coward and Percy Grainger, amongst others. Country is an early work by superstar-choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne.
2.20–2.45pm & 3.50–4.15pm / Westferry Circus
Compagnie Concourdance, “Bug and Buzz”: MA café becomes a performance space in this show which breaks with convention. Organic, robotic dance movements are paired with an ephemeral soundscape created from table-top instruments including a violin-fork and a flute-glass, in a duet that challenges the boundaries of private and public space.
1.25-1.55pm & 3.30-4pm / Jubilee Plaza near All Bar One
Motionhouse Dance, “Lost”: Lost is an intimate, dramatic and passionate work that explores the limits of what it is to be both physically and emotionally lost. Incredible athletic precision and an emotionally charged fluidity set Motionhouse apart and this sensual duet is fused with raw emotion as one dancer desperately fights to pull the other back from the precipice.
2-2.10pm & 4.15-4.25pm / Jubilee Plaza
C12 Dance Company, “Secret Encounters” : A series of short dance pieces inspired by first encounters that last forever, choreographed by Tony Adigun, Sally Marie, Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster and Corey Baker. Perhaps you’ll find them. Or else, they may find you…
The performances will take place on the 1st July between 1 and 5pm, throughout Canary Wharf and are free to attend. For more details, visit the event website here
For those at the bottom end of the Island, the arrival of the RFA Argus in Greenwich provides considerable interest.
The RFA Argus is one of the more unusual ships in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary operated by the MoD under the Blue Ensign. The ship was built in Italy as the container ship MV Contender Bezant. The ship was requisitioned in 1982 for service in the Falklands War and purchased outright in 1984 for use as an Aviation Training Ship.
Before the ship entered service, the ship spent four-years at Harland and Wolff in Belfast to be converted from a container ship into a hospital ship. In 1991, during the Gulf War, she was fitted with a fully functional hospital to assume the additional role of Primary Casualty Receiving Ship.
The unusual layout of the ship allows the ship to be used for aviation training when small helicopters can land on flight deck.
Since its conversion, the RFA Argus has been seen service in Bosnia, Kosovo, Middle East and Sierra Leone and many other areas.
The ship has undergone upgrades to its hospital functions with its Primary Casualty Receiving Facility consisting of over 40 different medical and surgical specialties, and is manned by personnel drawn from the MOD Hospital Units and Royal Marine Band Service.
The unit has a state-of-the-art emergency department, resuscitation and surgical facilities, a radiology suite that includes a CT scanner, a critical care unit, a high dependency unit and a 70-bed general ward.
Argus is generally stationed at her home port of Falmouth in Cornwall.
Although we have often seen the HMS Ocean berthed at Greenwich, it is rare to see the RFA Argus with its very unusual design.
With the warm weather, summer seems to have finally arrived and we welcome a regular visitor to West India Dock with the arrival of the British Tall Ship Stavros S Niarchos into dock .
The Stavros S Niarchos was last in the dock in September 2016 and is a regular visitor to the Thames and Tall Ship events.
The Stavros S Niarchos is a British brig-rigged tall ship owned and operated by the Tall Ships Youth Trust. Built in 2000, she has been used to give young people the opportunity to develop skills and talents whilst undertaking voyages to various locations. She is also available for voyages and holidays which provide revenue to maintain the operation of the ship.
In the last couple of years, the Stavros S Niarchos has been put up for sale to enable the Trust to get a smaller ship, so if you have dreamed of owning your own tall ship here is your opportunity.
The ship has a length of 197ft , masts of 148ft and beam of 32ft, she usually operates a crew of 69 which include regular crew and volunteers. The Stavros S Niarchos is quite a bit larger than the TS Royalist which is still in the dock.
In the midst of all the building work around the dock, it is nice to see a couple of tall ships to remind us of the past.
In 2014, I was contacted by Alex Barrett who was raising funds for his very interesting film project about London. The project has now become a reality with the impending release of London Symphony.
London Symphony is a new silent film which offers a poetic journey through the capital. It is directed and edited by Alex Barrett, and features an original musical composition by composer James McWilliam.
The film is a contemporary take on the ‘city symphony’, a genre of that flourished in the 1920s and consisted of works that attempted to build poetic portraits of city life. London Symphony is celebration of London’s culture and diversity, footage for the project was captured in over 300 locations around every borough of London.
London Symphony will get a theatrical release in the UK on September 3rd 2017 and will be launched with a special screening at the Barbican Centre, where it will be presented with the live premiere of McWilliam’s musical composition, conducted by Ben Palmer.
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Barrett, McWilliam, Palmer and London history specialist Mark Rowland, chairman of Footprints of London. It will also mark the opening of the Barbican’s autumn ‘Silent Film and Live Music’ series.
After this special launch event, London Symphony will tour around a number of carefully selected venues throughout the UK, including conventional cinema spaces and alternative spaces such as a Parish Church and a Buddhist Meditation Centre. “In many ways,” says Barrett, “London Symphony is a community project, and we hope to bring it directly into those communities during our release”.
If you would like to see the film, you can find tickets here
After the departure of one training ship, the Lord Nelson, we see the arrival of another with the TS Royalist.
This is the new TS Royalist, the old TS Royalist was decommissioned in 2014 after 40 years service. In her years of service it is estimated she had taken over 30,000 cadets to sea. The cadets generally join the ship for a week and learn the rudiments of sailing a large ship.
To build a replacement for the ship, the Sea Cadet organisation had to raise nearly 4 million pounds in two years, when the target was reached the organisation awarded the contract to a Spanish shipbuilder but sourced a considerable amount of the equipment from the UK.
The new ship which is the Sea Cadets flagship looks on the surface very similar to its predecessor but is fitted to better suit the modern sailor and is more economical to operate. The training brig takes twenty-four cadets to sea for six day voyages.
The new TS Royalist is beginning to build its own reputation appearing at the recent Tall Ships Festival 2017. It is one of a number of training tall ships that play an important role in providing training for young people to learn seamanship, sailing skills, leadership and teamwork.
Wandering around the West India Dock, it is nice to see the familiar masts of the STS Lord Nelson which arrived a few days ago.
The Lord Nelson was the first tall ship that was purpose-built with the aim of integrating disabled with able-bodied people. The ship was the fulfilment of the vision of JST’s founder, Christopher Rudd who believed that physically disabled people should be able to sail alongside able-bodied people as part of the crew.
The Lord Nelson sailed on her maiden voyage in 1986, Since that voyage, the STS Lord Nelson has sailed 461,943 Nautical Miles and taken nearly 29,000 people to sea. Of these, 10,500 people were physically disabled and more than 3,500 were wheelchair users.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the ship is that Lord Nelson’s has many facilities for disabled crew including flat wide decks, powered lifts, speaking compass, Braille signage and bright track radar for visually impaired crew members.
However, the whole purpose of these facilities is to enable the disabled crew to work side by side with the able-bodied crew.
Between 2012 and 2014, the Lord Nelson undertook its greatest challenge by completing a voyage around the world visiting 7 continents and 30 countries. Whilst in Australia and New Zealand she raced in tall ships races and also carried out an Antarctic Expedition.
The Lord Nelson and her sister ship, the Tenacious are regular visitors to West India Dock and both ships are a wonderful reminder of what can be achieved by fulfilling a vision of providing opportunities to people with a wide range of abilities.