As temperatures soared it was a marvel to see performers giving it their all in full costume on London’s sunny South Bank for our Night of Festivals London weekend. Right in the heart of the capital audiences were treated to a wide array of stunning performances, none of which were hampered by the soaring heat.
Mandinga Arts introduced the Pineapple Queen, giant skeleton and many other curious creatures to locals and tourists alike. We also had members of the local community starring in the South American inspired carnival as they danced alongside the marvellous samba band and revelled in the glorious weather. Community groups were invited to participate in a ‘Welcome’ picnic and parade shared messages of welcome to Refugee and Asylum Seekers. The parade, part of our EU funded VOICES project under the Night of Festivals banner, culminated in a symbolic sharing of food at the picnic in the Bernie Spain Gardens next to the Oxo Tower Wharf.
Acclaimed artist, Gil Doran, was on hand at the Festival to lead drop in workshops in which participants were invited to create their own placard as a reflection of his bold artwork – the ‘New Union Flag’, a re-imagining of the Union Jack that celebrated diversity and a multicultural society.
Sixteen performers, from Romanian company Masca Theatre, performed several times over the weekend. They wowed crowds with their living statue interpretations of ‘The Forgotten Crafts of Paris’, a unique take on the Parisian street traders of old.
Audiences were also provided an opportunity to soak up more contemporary performances through the VOICES project. The VOICES project, funded by European Union through Creative Europe, is an ArtReach-led initiative taking place across Europe, with newly commissioned professional outdoor theatre and processional performances in each city. These new commissions for VOICES formed a significant part of Night of Festivals London and featured brand new shows that have been created by; major German street arts festival Altonale GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) and international theatre and festival organisation Teatrul National Radu Stanca (Sibiu, Romania).
VOICES performances included an interactive large scale musical instrument commissioned by ArtReach. Parrabbola’s Wheeze: Winds of Change allows people to play with the Engineers multi-faceted musical machine before the performance, which is accessible to people who speak any language. This show tells a tale of good vs evil and the show portrays music as a universal language that brings us all together and celebrates spontaneity and improvisation.
Contemporary dance also featured in the final VOICES performances of the day with, Behind the Wall, a blend of visual art and live DJ, this show is unique to each performance site due to the nature of the live artwork which is central to the show. Borderline, another VOICES performance, explored themes of boundaries, borders and personal limits all of which was set to a soundtrack provided by a live, roaming, accordion player.
Night of Festivals London was a powerful and successful weekend that truly brought something different to London’s South Bank, which, in a summer full of cultural programming next to the National Theatre, is no small feat!