SO Resi Canning Town

Canning Town: How Confluence at Cody Dock is literally immersive as an artwork

Lighting Up The Lea commission plunges visitors into the sounds of the river and the surrounding area

Gino Brignoli, biodiversity officer at Cody Dock

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

“Immersive” is one of the most over-used words when it comes to the arts.

But Confluence at Cody Dock has a singular and legitimate claim to it, if desired.

Artist Tom Fisher has created a body of work based on a five-month residency at the community-led regeneration that literally plunges the ears of listeners into the River Lea and its environment.

Working under the name Action Pyramid, the sonic artist and musician was awarded Cody Dock’s Lighting Up The Lea commission – a challenge to respond creatively to its Tidal Lea River Ecology Report.

While some might have expected lights and bulbs to play a part in that response – given the title – with typical freedom of thought, the decision was made to fund a project that would illuminate the river for visitors in a different sense.

Supported by Cockayne Grants For The Arts, The London Community Foundation and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Confluence itself comes in multiple parts.

Artist Tom Fisher, aka Action Pyramid, records sound under water

The first is already in place and free for visitors to Cody Dock to experience. 

Listen To The Lea allows up to two people to put on headphones at a dedicated spot and listen live to the sounds of the river below via two hydrophones that are permanently submerged in its waters.

The free listening post will be in place until June 12, 2024, with visitors able to listen in person or to tune in online.

“I find it very relaxing,” said Gino Brignoli, biodiversity officer at Cody Dock.

“I can’t stop myself from trying to figure out what it is I’m hearing – perhaps I’m not zen enough – but I really enjoy sitting there and listening.

“I love being next to the water – having the opportunity to see the river, especially at slack tide when the Lea is relatively still.

“I find it fascinating that so much sound is contained within its waters.

“While we don’t necessarily know what we’re listening to through the hydrophones, water is an amazing conductor of sound and there are so many things to hear.

Tom with his Listen To The Lea installation

“Everything that lives beneath the surface tends to communicate that way because it’s a murky world and vision is unreliable. 

“We can’t be certain, but we think we may have heard fish moving pebbles around and clams letting out air on the bottom.

“Personally, I like that the sounds give you an imaginary world to enter.”

While the Lea is considered to be “bad” environmentally speaking – with Gino and other groups targeting improvements that will at least see it receive a rating of “poor” – the river nevertheless teems with life. 

Lighting Up The Lea’s focus is on turning the spotlight on an ecosystem that supports bats, eels, kingfishers and grey seals as well as invaders such as crayfish and mitten crabs. 

“It’s about saying: ‘Hey, this is London’s second largest river and very few people know about it – either that it exists at all or that it’s significant’,” said Gino.

“There’s a lot of work to be done to make sure people know about it, so they can visit.

“We’ve had visitors from Eastlea School in West Ham, for example – which is named after the river – and found that even the teachers hadn’t necessarily made that connection, or been aware that the Lea is here in east London.

Gino enjoys the sounds of the Lea looking towards Tower Hamlets

“The exciting thing about working in ecology is that as long as there’s a will, we can actually achieve quite a lot. The younger generation seem to be more engaged – it’s exciting because this is where the change will come from.”

Awareness is ultimately the point of Confluence  – an appropriate name for a work created on the tidal Lea where fresh water meets brackish, changing direction twice a day as it rises and falls by four or five metres.

The second part of the work will come in the form of an installation that is set to launch with a live event on April 12, 2024.

Tom’s sonic work – wrought from recordings of the subaquatic world, the movement of the Lea estuary’s mud, passing bats and seasonal birdsong – will then be available to hear daily in a dedicated listening space at The Barn, Cody Dock’s new venue and arts space.

“It has been a real pleasure to begin working on this commission, with the Lea often being a source of inspiration for my work,” said Tom. 

“The chance to spend extended time exploring, listening to, and learning about the local tidal ecosystem and surrounding habitat has been really wonderful.

“Something which is often a feature of my practice is using sound as a means to help us reconsider a place.

“The site’s ecology report has been a fascinating starting point.”

Cody Dock CEO, Simon Myers, added: “The lower Lea is rapidly changing and without wider appreciation and awareness of its incredible urban biodiversity we are on track to lose this rich diversity, just as people are rediscovering this under-appreciated corner of London. 

“My hope is that this commission will quite literally help shine a light on the Lea while also producing a new piece of immersive art that inspires people’s imagination.”

Tom’s installation will be available to listen to at Cody Dock’s art space The Barn
  • dive in

The Listen To The Lea part of Confluence is available to experience daily for free on the east bank of the river. It will be in place until June 12, 2024.

Action Pyramid’s installation will be available to listen to for free after April 12.

While Cody Dock is continually open for walkers, its official hours of operation are 9am-5.30pm daily. 

The regeneration effort offers people a wealth of opportunities to volunteer, including on projects to restore and re-flood the dock itself, to clean up the Lea and to observe and record the wildlife that can be found locally.

The scheme is home to a wide variety of initiatives aimed at transforming a formerly derelict toxic waste dump on an industrial estate into an area and facility, which can be enjoyed and visited by local residents and those further afield.

In 2022 it featured in Sir David Attenborough’s Saving Our Wild Isles.  

Find out more about Cody Dock here

Read more: New events space Broadwick Studio launches on Wood Wharf’s Water Street

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Greenwich: Greenwich + Docklands International Festival set to return

2023 event will be the 28th iteration overseen by founder and artistic director Bradley Hemmings

Open Lines is set to take place in Woolwich

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

The soles of Tatiana Mosio Bongonga’s feet will be the focus of the audience as the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival (GDIF) returns to central, east and south-east London.   

Crowds will gather in Woolwich’s General Gordon Square at 7pm to watch the tight-rope walker inch along wire drawn taut by 12 people from the local community.

Her one-night-only performance of Open Lines, high above the heads of her audience, marks the opening of the festival, while also acting as a signpost to its overarching theme.

“It’s an act of everybody coming together to make an impossible act of hope possible,” said Bradley Hemmings, founder and artistic director of GDIF.

“The performance will be accompanied by live music and it just feels like a lovely way of opening the festival by introducing our theme this year.

“Obviously all our eyes will be up on the high wire, but it’s lovely to think of those 12 people playing their part.

“We’ll also be making a film with those individuals, inviting them to think about what acts of hope they’ve observed in their day-to-day lives and how they can contribute to hope in the local community.”

This year will see the 28th iteration of GDIF spreading art, creativity, dance, theatre and spectacle all across this quarter of London with the overwhelming majority of performances free to attend.

The various events roughly break down into 11 – all set to take place between August 25 and September 10, 2023.

Cygnus will take place in Royal Docks

This year these will take place in locations as diverse as St Paul’s Cathedral, Stratford, Royal Docks, Canary Wharf, Woolwich and, of course, Greenwich, where Bradley and his team are based.

“The festival has always set out to try to reflect the unfolding story of Greenwich and east London,” he said.

“When we started it in 1996 and I looked across the river to Canary Wharf and there was only one tower, that was it. 

“Things have changed massively since then. But it’s not just the physical environment, it’s also the stories of this place.

“One of the most painful is the murder of Stephen Lawrence 30 years ago and we’ve commissioned a production to mark that.

“It doesn’t go over the story itself, but is an optimistic piece that speaks of that moment and what the legacy of Stephen Lawrence means to young black people in this part of London.

“It’s called The Architect and audiences will travel on board a red double decker bus – the kind Stephen wasn’t able to board that night in 1993.

“I think this will be the emotional centrepiece of this year’s festival – a symbol that GDIF couldn’t take place anywhere else and of how it works to make this a better and more hopeful place to live and work.”

Tickets for The Architectone of the few paid-for events at the festival, running September 6-10 – have sold out online, although more may become available with interested readers encouraged to follow @GDIFestival on social media for details.

“In their feedback, people often talk about their experience of being with other people, having conversations and enjoying spectacles they have never seen before in public spaces,” said Bradley.

“This year, there will be plenty of opportunity to do all those things – a good example being Cygnus at Royal Docks.

“From August 31-September 3, after darkness falls, a series of robotic swans that change colour and emit sounds and music will light up Royal Victoria Dock.

“Then, over at Greenwich Peninsula, there will be this wonderful performance – Rozéo – from a French company, which will take place on 10-metre high sway poles next to the Thames from September 2-3 at 2.30pm and 5.30pm.

“Our aim is always to programme lots of visually arresting things so people can  share what they’ve seen with their friends and families.

“My hope is that the festival is one of the ways people will remember their summers – a landmark each year in the calendar.”

One of the key dates within GDIF is undoubtedly Greenwich Fair – a whole day of events held among the buildings of the Unesco World Heritage site from 1pm-7pm on August 26.

“We couldn’t do a GDIF without Greenwich Fair and we’ll be introducing a whole range of performers and family entertainment to audiences this year,” said Bradley.

“The whole thing will take place across the Old Royal Naval College, beside the Cutty Sark and this year in Greenwich Park too.

“We’re really excited about that and we’re working with them in a more ambitious way for the first time – focusing on arts created by abled, disabled and neuro-diverse artists, so there’ll be a festival within the festival – loads to enjoy.”

Rozeo will take place on Greenwich Peninsula

Events will include The Air Between Us, an aerial performance featuring disabled artist Rodney Bell at 1pm and 5.30pm and Teabreak, a journey through the history of tea making with fresh brews from a hand-painted Tuk Tuk at 2.35pm and 4.45pm.

Animaltroniek from 2.30pm stars roaming robotic creatures. In total there will be 15 shows or performances to enjoy on the day.

“Another highlight of the wider festival for me will be Woman, Life, Freedom! at Stratford Park at 8pm on August 26,” said Bradley. 

“We’re working with the brilliant, award-winning Ameena Hamid Productions on developing this work with a team of Iranian artists who wish to remain anonymous. 

“It celebrates the voices and music of women following the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran almost a year ago. 

“In that country, those voices can’t be heard, so the idea is to share with our audience this rich culture, which is very much what people are fighting for there.

“Again, it’s another act of hope – standing in solidarity with those women and what they are aiming to achieve.”

Dancing City at Canary Wharf is also set to return this year as part of GDIF, following its cancellation after the death of the Queen in 2022. 

A full preview of the many events taking place on the estate over September 9-10 will follow in the August 23 issue of Wharf Life.

Resurgam will take place at St Paul’s Cathedral

TOP PICK – Resurgam

Taking place daily from August 31-September 2 at 6.15pm, one of the most iconic buildings in London will see American company Bandaloop take over its facade for a series of half-hour, free aerial performances.

“They specialise in amazing abseil performances on sensitive buildings and at world heritage sites,” said Bradley.

“We’re using the south transept of the cathedral, so audiences will be looking at it from the Millennium Bridge side.

“There will be road closures there to accommodate large-scale audiences.

“The piece takes inspiration from the inscription on that side of St Paul’s – Resurgam – which means ‘I will rise’ and refers to the cathedral, which was born out the ashes of the Great Fire of London.

“It stood throughout the Blitz in the Second World War, so it’s a symbol of hope and resilience so it will resonate with everyone in these difficult times and speak to optimism.”

Read More: How Jon Hala in Canary Wharf became a family business

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Canary Wharf: How Festival14 will take over the whole estate with five days of events

Theatre, comedy, dance, wellness and live music make up a packed programme over six venues

Festival14 is set to return to Canary Wharf from July 26-30,2023

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

Where to even start with Festival14?

Having taken the decision to focus much of its summer arts and events programme into four days last year, Canary Wharf Group (CWG) has extended the 2023 iteration by a day, packing the calendar for July 26-30.

“We’ve really built on our programme from 2022,” said Camilla McGregor of CWG’s arts and events team.

“In addition to Winter Lights in January, Festival14 is an anchor event in our season.

“It’s trying to combine all the things that we do, like outdoor theatre, classical music concerts and dance so that people can come down and experience them on a single visit or over a few days.

“The amazing thing about the format is that everything is happening on the Canary Wharf estate within walking distance.

“Someone coming down might see some Shakespeare, take part in a workshop at the Fandangoe Discoteca then see a performance in Canada Square Park.

“Most of the festival is free because it’s important to make it accessible to the local community and as wide and audience as possible.

“We are charging for some events where there is limited space but the tickets are very reasonably priced.

“In planning the programme it’s also been important for us to create an inclusive festival with artists and acts from a diverse cross section of society in London.

“Whichever genre – theatre, comedy or music, for example – everyone should be represented.”

Buskers will be performing in Jubilee Park throughout the festival

With events and performances taking place from 11am or noon each day, there will be big name acts alongside less well-known attractions spread across six main venues.

“We’re incredibly excited to have Soul II Soul to headline Friday night in Canada Square Park because they are world famous and we’ve wanted to host them for a long time,” said Camilla. 

“On the comedy side we have performers like Mark Watson, Lou Sanders and Shaparak Khorsandi at The Monty Tent in Montgomery Square.

The Comedy Club will run in it for four nights with comedy for kids on the Sunday.

“Personally I’m looking forward to Big Fish, Little Fish Family Rave – a two-hour party designed for parents and kids to celebrate life with bubbles and balloons.

“Then on the main stage there are sets from Craig Charles and Norman Jay who are both household names and have been on the London circuit for years – they’re both amazing.

“Over the years our summer concerts have appealed to the community and we have a strong returning audience so for Festival14 we wanted to create a line-up suitable for our loyal fans and new audiences alike.

Westferry Circus will host a number of plays

“That’s why we have chosen jazz, soul and r’n’b.

“For example, we will have Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra  who are very well established and more contemporary sounds from Laura Misch, both on the Sunday.

“Canary Wharf has a long tradition of engaging with the local community too so we will have theatre programmed by The Space on the Isle Of Dogs and a performance from the Docklands Sinfonia in the mix too as well as artists who grew up in east London.

“There will be loads for kids and families to do too with the Crossrail Place Roof Garden the venue for many of these kinds of events.”

So, diaries out – the festival is only two weeks away but there’s still plenty of time to plan those must-sees.

Don’t forget the street food from Karnival in Montgomery Square, daily from noon, either. 

Click here for the full Festival14 programme

Read More: How Leo Weisz Therapy offers rapid, in-depth help

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Bromley-By-Bow: How Bow Arts has found its forever home at Three Waters

Charity founder and CEO Marcel Baettig on the importance of providing space for artists

Bow Arts founder and CEO Marcel Baettig – image Matt Grayson

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

BY LAURA ENFIELD

When the mini budget was announced last week, charities were left mostly empty-handed. It is a scenario Marcel Baettig, founder and CEO of Bow Arts, is well used to.

For the last 27 years, he has worked to generate the means to provide affordable workspaces and steady incomes for artists in Tower Hamlets.

Along the way, the charity has missed out on grants to help buy property, survive Covid and pay energy bills.

But it has thrived through a model that allows it to offer subsidised rents to artists and employment in creative projects for schools and community groups.

It has grown from supporting 50 artists to 500 and from one site – its headquarters in Bow Road – to operating in 15 locations spread across London.

Until now, it has only rented space.

But after more than two decades it has finally entered a new era with the purchase of its first building – on the ground floor of the Three Waters development at the meeting of the River Lea and Limehouse Cut canal.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Marcel, a trained sculptor who established the charity in 1994.

“This secures our future. The aim has always been to use the income we generate from our buildings to support creative community services, like work in schools, public art galleries and different sorts of events. 

“We have been very unlucky with our timing.

“When we grew and property was affordable, there were grants around for organisations like ours to help buy buildings.

“But we were just a bit late and all the money had been given out.

“So we’ve had to be very steadfast, slowly save our pennies and get ourselves into a position where we could afford to buy something. 

“We’ve eventually managed to do that through the partnerships that we set up about five or six years ago with housing association Peabody.”

Nine months ago, it approached Bow Arts to create a permanent creative space on the ground floor of the scheme – a joint project with developer Mount Anvil – as part of its community contributions.

“We had been trying to buy something for a long time,” said Marcel.

“It’s the only way we can maintain low rents for artists and guarantee support for them in the future. If we have a landlord, they can put the rent up and then, so would we.”

The 57-year-old was inspired to set up Bow Arts after his own struggles as a sculptor.

He said: “I had quite a successful career but the trouble with this type of work is that it’s project-based and when you get to the end of that bubble, you have to start all over again.

“It might be six months before you get another commission if you’re lucky.

“So that was quite a hard way to live. 

“I just had the idea that if I could get a collective space, where there would be a group of people doing the same sorts of things, then we could control the rent by sharing it and share all the resources.

Bow Arts supports artists in east and south-east London – image Rob Harris

“I also happened to do quite a lot of education work in schools and with special needs groups – I knew artists had a lot of transferable skills.

“I thought it would be a way to get work and build up relationships in an area.”

He found an ally in Marc Schimmel, who had just supported Damien Hirst and helped kick off the Brit Art movement.

“He offered me Bow Road and helped me set up the charity – we were full within three months,” said Marcel.

“I’m the only failure, as I’m the one that hasn’t been able to go back to being an artist.”

The charity began saving for a deposit, but found it couldn’t keep pace with property prices no matter how fast it saved.

“We had finally saved £1million and my big fear was that we were going to lose all of that through the pandemic,” said Marcel.

“Luckily, we were able to hang on to it, which meant we just about had enough to get a mortgage and buy this property for £2.2million. 

“Where we get hit as a charity it is because none of our artists are higher earners – they are all below the VAT threshold so we’re not registered for VAT and we don’t charge VAT.

“But we have to pay it on the purchase – another £500,000 – and then the extra 20% for the fit-out. It is hard to make it affordable for artists.

“You’re constantly trying to work with the government or HMRC to find ways around it, but there is no provision to support the third sector in doing what it could do very well in this country. 

“It’s a real shame considering charities have taken on an awful lot of local services for councils over the past 10 years.

“A tax break would make a huge difference to us and so many other organisations.”

All of Bow Arts’ education work stopped during lockdown, but it was able to get some financial support from places like the Arts Council and the GLA to help artists keep renting their studios. 

Even so, it lost about 20% of its tenants and Marcel said the energy crisis had hit just as things were starting to bounce back. 

“None of the mainstream stuff ever comes to us because we’re a charity and it’s all targeted at businesses,” he said.

“We will try the best we can to get grants, but as artists, we’re used to not having a lot of money so we’ll just be putting on thick jumpers.”

The charity provides studio space for artists in London – image Rob Harris

Marcel said the charity had finally managed to achieve its goal of a permanent site now the property market was changing.

“People are asking themselves if they are going to get these prices for commercial space and what the alternatives are,” he said.

“Then there’s been a lot of interest in the creative sector and in this new area of business. 

“Over the last five years, there has been a real sea-change in London and awareness of the strength and the power of the creative economy. 

“There are a lot of empty buildings around and people have looked to organisations like ours who have many years experience in filling these buildings and keeping them full.”

Bow Arts’ low rents – which range from £100-£500 per month- have seen it stay 98% full since day one.

The charity creates a circular economy by ploughing at least 25% of that money into supplying services for the surrounding local area, such as arts programmes for schools and community groups.

It trains its artists to be the ones who deliver that work and they get paid for doing it.

The charity is overwhelmed by the demand for what it does, getting about 12,000 hits a month from artists looking for space. 

Marcel said it began building relationships with developers a few years ago to try to increase its supply of studios.

“We have worked with the GLA for many years because there is a creative workspace crisis in London with over 50% expected to be lost in the next few years,” he said.

“We started to form proper partnerships with organisations like Peabody, Notting Hill Genesis and Mount Anvil because they’re the guys that are building new places and we can work together to deliver creative workspaces.

“What has been quite incredible is the value added by building an artist community that works with local schools and organisations. 

“That has meant a lot of commercial landlords and local authorities have actually given us buildings at very reduced rates, so that we can actually develop this creative placemaking.”

Bow Arts first began working with Peabody in 2015 as a partner on its huge Thamesmead regeneration project.

The old Lakeside Centre was transformed into 40 artists’ studios, a community nursery, kitchens and a cafe.

Its plans for the 26,000sq ft of space at Three Waters will see it converted into 70 studios.

Marcel, pictured at Bow Arts’ Three Waters space – image Matt Grayson

Set to open in January, the launch will be celebrated with the award of the East London Art Prize, run by Bow Arts in conjunction with the V&A, UCL and the Whitechapel Gallery. 

“It has grown out of the East London Painting Prize and is all about encouraging new artists and promoting them, to bring as many into view as possible,” said Marcel. 

“We’ve had 670 applicants, which is phenomenal, and shows how many artists are out there.”

The shortlist will be announced at the opening of Three Waters with an exhibition of work held at the charity’s Nunnery Gallery in Bow.

The winner will get a cash prize, free workspace, an exhibition and support for two years until the prize is awarded again. 

“It is really hard for young artists in those early stages,” said Marcel.

“So an organisation like Bow Arts, which is absolutely committed to supporting them and maintaining affordable rent levels, is vital. 

“There’s so much talent out there and, as London pushes east, we’re opening up more markets for people who want to go into the creative sector.

“It’s become a very viable career.”

Bow Arts also supports the next generation of artists through its work with 100 schools across London. 

“We train artists very carefully to be able to deliver workshops, activities, commissions and things like that,” said Marcel. 

“Then we’ll develop long-term roles and partnerships with the individual schools and with consortium groups of schools to deliver a creative programme.

“A lot of the creativity has been taken out of the curriculum in mainstream schools. 

“We want to expand that operation and Three Waters means there will be permanent funding to support that work in Tower Hamlets and Newham, which will have a huge impact.

“There’s so much talent in the area.

“So many people from less privileged backgrounds just simply don’t know how to access the arts or even understand that there is a potential career for them there.

“We’re giving them those opportunities.”

Looking back, Marcel said it was strange how he’d changed alongside the charity, finding a new career without even realising.

“I would never have expected this if I’m very honest, as I always saw myself as an artist,” he said.

“I couldn’t have stayed as enthusiastic about it if it wasn’t such interesting work with interesting people. 

“I don’t just mean the creative community, it’s everyone we get to work with – developers, schools and the local community. 

“The support we’ve had and the interest from people has been really quite amazing. 

“So I have been distracted by this for the past 27 years and that time has really flown by.”

Read more: Discover east London firefighter Stephen Dudeney’s book

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Laura Enfield is a regular contributor to Wharf Life, writing about a wide range of subjects across Docklands and east London 

Subscribe To Wharf Life

Greenwich: How Greenwich + Docklands International Festival is filled with hope

Artistic director Bradley Hemmings talks healing, unity and highlights across the River Thames

GDIF artistic director Bradley Hemmings – image Matt Grayson

There’s something very reassuring about the return of the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival (GDIF). Now in its 26th year, it’s set to run from August 27 to September 11, promising its usual rich collection of performances and installations running the full spectrum from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Bradley Hemmings founded the festival in 1996 and has been at the helm as artistic director for more than a quarter of a century.

“This is a very wonderful and important year for us, because it follows on from what we did in 2020,” he said. “Last summer we were able to deliver the festival in the middle of the pandemic, safely and in a completely re-imagined way – bringing performances to people, rather than the traditional focus on encouraging everyone to come to town centres.

“We’ve taken some of that learning from last year and mixed in a bit of both – town-centre fun and conviviality, that sense of occasion, but also taking doorstep performances out to neighbourhoods.

“One of those that I’m very excited about is called Mystery Bird, which features a processional giant birdcage with images of birds projected on it and a beautiful soundscape all around, that will move through places in the dusk and early evening.

“At certain points it stops, birds are released, and, by the miracles of technology and sound, they fly everywhere – onto houses and into trees. It’s a wonderful experience of release and all the things we’re looking forward to.”

Balsam is set to take place in Woolwich as part of the festival

From his base at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, Bradley and his team have been working to come up with the finished programme, which has just been released and includes the fruits of a two-year partnership with the Diplomatic Representation Of Flanders to the UK.

Central to that arrangement will be a production of Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills at a site in Thamesmead that’s been closed to the public for more than 100 years, created by Flemish company De Roovers in response to its setting. It’s set to take place from September 7-11 and will cost £15 per person.

“It’s one of the projects we’d hoped to present in 2020, but the situation with international travel made that quite difficult,” said Bradley. 

“We’ve always been committed to it, because the play, which was originally written as a TV film, has a wonderful connection to the site we’re taking it to.

“When Thamesmead was created, this area was used for the spoil, which came when they were draining the land so it’s created this landscape of hills and woodlands where nobody is allowed to walk.

“Potter’s story features adults playing children and it takes place in wartime in the idyllic Forest Of Dean. But, like Lord Of The Flies, things aren’t quite so idyllic.

“We look through rose-tinted glasses, but the reality of it was actually rather more brutal – children and their games, which go seriously wrong, who are very much the victims of war, just as much as their parents are.

“The setting, where still in the 1960s and 1970s there were stories of kids who would explore this remarkable landscape on summer adventure schemes, is part of the psycho-geography of Thamesmead and we’re playing with that by bringing this production here.”

GREENWICH AND WOOLWICH DIARY DATES

Balsam
Building 41, 
Woolwich
Sept 7-11 (£15)
Potions and elixirs are created to heal and calm in this theatrical adventure

Family Tree
Charlton House And Gardens
Aug 27-30 (£15)
Discover this new play exploring exploitation and ethics in healthcare

Dance By Design
Greenwich 
Peninsula
Aug 28-29 (free)
Check out The Lost Opera, Finale and Dandyism at this free pop-up in North Greenwich

Another key part of the programme is the return of Greenwich Fair on August 29. This collection of circus, dance and theatre performances, complete with street games, owes its lineage to a regular historic festival that brought travelling shows and attractions to the town until 1852 and was much loved by Charles Dickens.

Flying high over that spectacle will be We Are Watching, in place at the Old Royal Naval College from August 27-30 – Swiss artist Dan Acher’s monumental 10-storey high flag depicting a giant eye made up of digital portraits from people in 190 countries across the globe.

Bradley said: “The idea of it is that all those people are expressing the fact that they are watching what is about to happen later this year at climate change conference COP26 in November.

“It’s a provocation, if you like, to all of us – to the festival audiences, to think seriously about what this all means and how they might be able to contribute to that, but also to the global leaders who are going to assemble in Glasgow.

“The other work we have featured from Dan is called Borealis and there has been a huge amount of interest in that already.

“It is an extraordinary recreation of the Northern Lights, which are certainly on my bucket list.”

Dandyism will be part of Dance By Design on Greenwich Peninsula

The installation promises to create the experience of seeing the Aurora Borealis at two locations in south-east London.

Like the vast majority of the festival, it is free to attend and will be in place from August 27-September 5 at the Old Royal Naval College and from September 9-11 in Woolwich.

Closing things out, on September 10 and 11, will be Healing Together – a programme of street arts, installations and performances focused on the environment and taking place at both Royal Victoria Gardens in Royal Docks and Woolwich town centre.

“The first year of the festival was 1996 when you could only go from the Isle Of Dogs to Greenwich via the foot tunnel – there wasn’t even the DLR,” said Bradley. “Not everyone was in love with the idea of a cross-river festival. The way this area of London has transformed is part of our story. 

“With Healing Together we’re supporting another cross-river relationship that isn’t new – North Woolwich, Woolwich and Silvertown used to be part of the Borough Of Woolwich but were separated in the 1960s, so we thought we’d bring them back together.

“There will be gardens of light and fire to explore, a cross-river street theatre programme and a finale moment you can experience on both sides of the river on September 11 that, by the miracle of light and fire will unite both Woolwiches.”

Read e-editions of Wharf Life’s print edition here

Subscribe to our regular newsletter here

Subscribe To Wharf Life