As temperatures soared it was a marvel to see performers giving it their all in full costume on London’s sunny South Bank (Bernie Spain Gardens and Riverside Walk) for our Night of Festivals London weekend. Right in the heart of the country’s capital audiences were treated to a wide array of stunning performances, none of which were hampered by the soaring heat. Alongside Night of Festivals regulars Mandinga Arts, audiences were treated to performances from the EU Creative Europe funded Voices of Solidarity (VOICES) project. VOICES was a series of new artistic collaborations which explored and celebrated freedom and provided a voice for those who go unheard.
Mandinga Arts introduced the Pineapple Queen, giant skeleton and many other curious creatures to locals and tourists alike. The Festival 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 and refugees and asylum seekers were invited to participate in a ‘Welcome’ picnic and Performance Parade that shared messages of welcome and commitment to integration. This parade culminated in a symbolic sharing of food at the picnic in the Bernie Spain Gardens next to the Oxo Tower Wharf.
A first ever UK tour featuring 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 provided an opportunity to soak up more contemporary performances through the VOICES project. The VOICES project, funded by European Union through Creative Europe, took 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 which were 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 a commission from ArtReach with a show that included an interactive large-scale musical instrument. Parrabbola’s Wheeze - Wind of Change allowed people to play with the Engineers multi-faceted musical machine before the performance began. This show told a simple but effective tale of good vs evil, freedom v suppression and the show illustrated music as a universal language that brings us all together.
Contemporary dance also featured in the final VOICES performances of the day with, Behind the Wall, a blend of visual art, dance 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 an exciting weekend that brought different international ingredients to London’s South Bank, which, in a summer full of cultural programming next to the National Theatre, is no small feat.