In the time of Covid, Outdoor Arts provide important opportunities to reinvigorate our cultural lives whilst supporting the creative economy. To lead the way, Without Walls has announced 21 new projects to receive support in 2021. This ambitious and exciting programme brings together up-and-coming companies, established street artists and those making their first foray into creating work for the public space.
This new outdoor art programme from Without Walls will bring audiences together in a safe way to share moments of global empathy and joy. From the epic and spectacular, to the intimate and emotional, the Without Walls 2021 commissions offer a timely moment to explore social justice, family relationships, environmentalism, identity, and much more. The programme includes the fourth large-scale outdoor alternative dance performance from Requardt & Rosenberg, Black Victorians from Jeanefer Jean-Charles which uses dance to tell the story of those whose stories were previously airbrushed from history, Hip Hop collective Far From The Norm who aim to empower marginalised young people under the artistic direction of award-winning choreographer Botis Seva and Kaleider’s massive mural of faces drawn by robots!
With the outdoor sector most likely to be leading the way in cultural recovery, this programme shows the power and resilience of Outdoor Arts to invigorate communities back together in towns, cities and rural areas. The works in the 2021 programme will appear at festivals including Brighton Festival, Norfolk & Norwich Festival, City Encounters by Wiltshire Creative, Timber Festival, Just So Festival, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF), Ensemble Festival, Hat Fair and more.
Physical theatre and dance have a strong presence in the programme this year as artists explore ideas of connection and support. Bonded is Alleyne Dance’s ambitious new dance production exploring the construct of human dependency. Performed by twin sisters, Kristina and Sade, the work uses abstract narrative, West African dance aesthetics and language, as well as circus skills and impressive athleticism. Also exploring relationships is IRMÃ-sisters from DamaeDance which portrays an intricate journey of conflict and vulnerability, tenderness and anger, misunderstanding and support. This powerful yet attentive duet aspires to be a celebration of women’s strength and complexity. Good Youtes Walk from Far from the Norm is a chaotic and frenzied Hip Hop dance theatre work that explores how divided we are as a nation. It unravels how young adults are trying to address this divide by creating a unity and empathy which transcends race, class, gender and geography.
Also using dance, MayFly explores how our survival is inextricably linked to our environment; Kapow Dance Circus Theatre harnesses the power of water on a bespoke set which fires choreographed jets into the air where two women dodge, play, dance. The climate crisis is also addressed by a trio of clowns in astounding costumes in MEarth Mothers. Through dance, physical comedy, music, and shamanic ritual, Beady Eye asks why we are wrecking the world and what we’re going to do about it? Black Victorians is a dynamic dance piece inspired by the discovery of hundreds of portraits of Black people in England during the Victorian era. Through movement, text and music, it gives voice and body to the characters in the portraits. Continuing the theme of ‘invisible people’, Altered States’ The Invisible Man takes inspiration from H. G. Wells’ famous novel to raise awareness of issues including d/Deafness, homelessness and aging.
Future Cargo is an alternative dance show from Requardt & Rosenberg which bridges grand visual spectacle and an intimate fly-on-the-wall experience. Audiences experience a sci-fi world carried on a shipping container fitted with a travelator while listening in through binaural headphones.
Advances in digital tech are continuing to reveal new ways for audiences to engage with art and culture. Using sound to create immersive audio experiences in outdoor environments, The Hidden Music of Trees forms compositions harvested entirely from plant, tree and fungi biodata, Augmented Reality (AR) and binaural (3D) sound. In this exciting work, Jason Singh seeks to celebrate a deeper awareness of the natural world around us. Using digital technology, Up My Street is an immersive promenade performance/installation from The Cultural Assembly. This augmented and virtual reality performance arts trail brings neglected high streets to life. Blurring the boundaries of reality, audiences are guided on a journey across their city through a combination of spoken word and both real-life and digital performers, all viewed with mobile devices. The Lost Opera allows audiences to use their phones to play along with the performance, even as Ashley Peevor and Nikki Watson present an unusual spectacle as three huge bewildering beasts twist themselves through the cityscape, ready to perform a unique musical composition.
Taking the recognisable form of an arrivals and departures board, Arrivals + Departures from Yara El-Sherbini and Davina Drummond is a public artwork about birth, death and the journey in-between. They invite audiences to share names of people who have arrived and departed as a way to acknowledge, celebrate and commemorate in this time of COVID-19, climate crisis and social upheaval. Emergency Exit Arts with leading artist and poet Robert Montgomery will present Recovery Poems – a light-based installation looking at the impact of Covid on our society. Also part of the programme is Robot Selfie; at a time when we are distanced from each other, Kaleider’s wall-drawing robots create a massive mural of strangers to bring us together in unity.
Food is an important way to bring communities together and many of us have an increased focus on healthy eating after so much time at home. TOAST is Pif-Paf’s ambitious beautiful, growing, communal celebration of food, song, story, dance and fire performed on, and around, their ever-moving mobile kitchen cart. It includes a mixture of songs, stories and recipes from musicians and cooks all around the world. Join LAStheatre for The Rascally Diner, which gently explores food provenance, sustainability, and healthy eating in a silly, song-filled, riotous performance that is perfect for children aged 5+. A feast of food fusion and storytelling across geography and generations, Do What yah Mama told yah! is an immersive and vibrant comedy circus show. International contemporary circus artist Blaze and touring circus chef and performer Fatina’s plate-spinning, food-juggling, fire-blazing show brings the family kitchen and recipes from across the globe to life.
Strong Enough from Strong Lady Productions also uses circus to create a powerfully optimistic show. Using circus physicality, comedy and feats-of strength, it celebrates stories of finding strength in unexpected places; in these difficult times, it is a powerful declaration that we are ‘strong enough’. Simple Cypher is an exciting young company featuring graduates from the National Centre for Circus Arts. Their new show Roll Play sees three performers blur the boundaries between Hip Hop and circus by using intricate moves and agility to give a captivating, cheeky and effortlessly cool performance. Exploring themes of life, loss, surrender and acceptance comes Why?, an aerial duet performed using climbing harnesses and abseil lines. The performers flip the stage floor through 90 degrees for a ‘vertical dance’ so they’re actually dancing on the wall! Breaking the boundaries of physicality, What Happened to You? uses three raggedy puppets and real-life stories to promote the importance of access and inclusion. Nikki Charlesworth explores our preconceptions about disability in a playful way that is fun for the whole family.
Outdoor work has never been more important as the entire arts industry seeks to rebuild confidence in audiences wanting to attend events. Having recently welcomed several new partners to its network, Without Walls is more committed than ever to collaborate with the very best artists and companies and bring fantastic outdoor arts to people across the UK.
Without Walls is a consortium of over 30 festivals and arts organisations that brings fantastic outdoor arts to people in towns and cities across the UK. Since its formation in 2007, Without Walls has developed and toured over 200 new shows by UK companies and supported the Research and Development of 67 projects. Without Walls commissions have toured widely both in the UK and internationally across 22 countries.