Autumn 2022 in London, at the headquarters of Greenwich & Docklands International Festival, which has presented a cross-artform programme of (mostly) free outdoor fare annually since 1996 – twenty of those years including Dancing City, a weekend of work dedicated to presenting dance outdoors, against the dramatic corporate backdrop of Canary Wharf. This year’s festival is over, and the small team of dedicated staff, overseen by visionary artistic director Bradley Hemmings and nimbly managed by executive producer Ellie Harris, can reflect on the multi-layered challenges they face to preserve the all-important ‘I’ – for ‘international’ – in GDIF.
On the surface, it’s clear that the large majority of performances in Dancing City 2022 were ‘home grown’ works from the UK, with just 3 of 12 companies visiting from mainland Europe – unquestionably a less international offer than in previous years. In the wider GDIF festival, this proportion also holds true. Support from the Flanders Institute facilitated a small glut of exceptional Belgian circus artists, and there was a smattering of work from across western Europe. Yet for the festival team, the international element remains an absolute priority. As Harris puts it, ‘it’s embedded in the DNA of the festival’: a vision, and certainly a mission… maybe even a raison d’être in the crowded and competitive UK festival sector. So why the relative dearth of artists from overseas this year?