London’s spectacular free outdoor GDIF festival has announced its 2024 line-up

You can always rely on the annual free Greenwich Docklands International Festival of outdoor theatre and performance art spectaculars to announce itself with a proper ‘how are they going to do that?’ piece of programming: think the Northern Lights recreated over the Docklands; think tidal waves of multicoloured foam surging through the Greenwich Peninsula; think giant glowing swans bobbing through the Royal Docks.

This year the festival will return in its now traditional post-pandemic end of the summer slot (dates!) with a theme of All Change, with its 17-day programme focusing on both activism and climate change. 

And while all five of the first batch of shows to be announced look great, it’s obvious that the big 2024 showstopper is likely to be Austrian physical theatre company Legs on the Wall’s ‘THAW’ (Aug 24-25), an epic eight hour aerial performance staged on a two-and-a-half-tonne block of ice suspended high in the air by a crane. Two two-and-a-half-tonne blocks of ice to be precise as there will be two performances, which will take place in the air above the Royal Docks. A reflection on climate change inspired by Australia’s devastating 2019 bushfires, the performance starts gentle and gets more intense as the day wears on. 

The other four shows announced so far are pretty cool too. Following on from last year’s acclaimed bus-set Stephen Lawrence tribute ‘The Architect’, director Matthew Xia returns to GDIF with ‘Bodies of Water’ (Aug 27-31), a theatrical response Beyoncé-collaborating poet Warsan Shire’s poem ‘HOME’ that will take place on the shores of the Thames in Deptford.

Touch, Greenwich   Docklands International Festival, 2024
Photo: Pascale Cholette

‘Touch’ (Sep 7) is a spectacular, Daft Punk-soundtracked piece for trampoline and stairs (!) by hotshot French dancer and choreographer Younn Bourgeois, who has collaborated with Harry Styles, Missy Elliott and P!nk – it’ll be the headline event in the annual Dancing City programme, which this year relocated to Stratford Cross after years in Canary Wharf.

‘Patois’ (dates TBC) is a mix of traditional Caribbean movement and contemporary choreography from the renowned Jeanefer Jean-Charles that’ll tour various locations during the festival.

And finally ‘Pram People’ (Aug 25-26) is a show for little ones (and their parents) by Australian company Polyglot that’ll form part of a two day family programme in Stratford Park, Newham. The interactive performance will revolve around a weird and wonderful series of prams.

It’s also been confirmed that the formerly annual festival within a festival Greenwich Fair will be going biennial and not return until next year. But that’s plenty to get going with, and there’s plenty more to be announced still. 

Greenwich Docklands International Festival will run Aug 23-Sep 8. All events so far announced are free with no ticket required.

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