Stu Mayhew – on photographing GDIF

Hi and welcome to my GDIF2016 photo blog !

My name is Stu Mayhew and I am an amateur photographer based in Greenwich where I help run Aperture Woolwich Photographic Society – one of the oldest camera clubs in the country. I have been photographing the Greenwich +Docklands International Festival for many years now and it’s always an honour to be asked back. In the build up to this year’s event I have been bust charging camera batteries, getting my memory cards sorted, cleaning lenses and dusting off my trusty GDIF Press and Media vest!

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The first event of this year’s GDIF took place at the Queen’s House in a specially commissioned show marking the 400th anniversary of this beautiful building right in the heart of Greenwich. The show consisted of digital projection onto the facia of the building, dance, music and narration by Sir Ian McKellen.

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I arrived at 8PM to allow myself plenty of time to talk to crew and production members about vantage points and so on, as well as to catch up with other GDIF photographers who I only get to see once a year. I spoke with Rebecca Brower, the costumes and scenic designer, and enquired into whether I could shoot the event from a platform on one of the lighting towers. A quick word with one of the riggers and I was up on my lofty perch with a perfect view over the whole crowd and production area. I set up my tripod, got my cameras (I shoot with two, a Canon 5D and a 6D) and watched the crowds gather below me. As dusk fell into night the show began – the front of the Queen’s House transforming in front of our eyes – the projections were amazing and there were dancers and a performance by Sharon D Clarke –  the whole show was transfixing. The finale was a cascade of pyrotechnics with fireworks shooting into the night sky. As smoke drifted over the audience a huge cheer went up and GDIF2016 was under way. I think it was one of the best opening nights of the festival that I can remember.

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Arlene Phillips on You and I Know

Ahead of their performance at Dancing City, legendary choreographer Arlene Phillips shares an insight into working with Candoco Dance Company on this newly commissioned work.

I’m so excited to be working with Candoco dancers Joel Brown and Laura Patay to create a new piece that seeks to play with and disrupt the structure of the love duet.

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The wonderful thing about Joel and Laura is their ability as actors as well as dancers. My first day working with them was spent developing the intimacy needed for a love duet and finding ways for them to express their love through dance. During the following rehearsal, we had a breakthrough and they inspired me to go on working through every emotion needed for this piece. Joel and Laura make their bodies work as individuals and together in extraordinary ways.

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Love is an emotion we can all identify with and in this duet we will be inviting the audience to explore its complexities and how our daily routines can sometimes shape our relationships.

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See You and I Know at Dancing City
Jubilee Plaza (outside Canary Wharf tube station), Canary Wharf, E14
Friday 1 July 13:30 & 18:00
Saturday 2 July 14:35 & 16:40

Watch a Behind the Scenes video
www.candoco.co.uk
@CandocoDance
@ArlenePhillips

 

Chloe Loftus Dance: Loneliness and an Act of Strangers

I spent my formative years growing up in New Zealand, a place with plenty of space where people say hello as they pass you and doors are left open. I’ve lived in the UK for 20 years now and I can’t help but notice the steady shrinking of our sense of community, where social engagement is replaced by screen time. George Monbiot refers to it as ’the age of loneliness’ and describes the tragic and sometimes fatal result of this loneliness as seen through increased anxiety, depression and addiction. “Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is twice as deadly as obesity.”

Chloe Loftus Dance 'Act of Strangers' (Image 1 - James Merryweather)

It is this lack of interpersonal communication that is inspiring my current work. ‘Act of Strangers’ looks at the potential of the stranger standing next to you and seeks to encourage you to look up and engage with the world. An unexpected conversation and smile from a stranger has the power to shift your mood and lift your spirits.

Outdoor work is wonderful in its ability to access all walks of life so it feels an ideal platform for this work. It’s been a really interesting process developing this work… the challenge of how to deal with a serious subject matter including mental health issues in a way which engages and lifts audiences. Through wonderful directorial support from Gerald Tyler and the physicality of my fellow dancer Hugh Stanier, we have created a work that I believe is touching but also physically dynamic and engaging, hopefully leaving audiences uplifted and inspired.

Chloe Loftus Dance 'Act of Strangers' (Image 2 - James Merryweather)

We’re really looking forward to bringing our work to GDIF.

Cubitt Steps, Canary Wharf
Saturday 2 July | 15:00 & 16:15
More information here

Act of Strangers was commissioned by Articulture and the Wales Outdoor Arts Commissioning Consortium and is touring throughout Summer 2016. For more info see www.chloeloftus.co.uk

 

GDIF2016 Photography Competition

Once again we’ve paired up with Exhibitoo.com to run a competition.

Share your photos from GDIF2016 to be in with a chance of winning some lovely prizes including a Greenwich Food Tour for 2, a family ticket to the ArcelorMittal Orbital in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and a ‘Best of Greenwich’ gift pack with goodies from our friends at Lush Designs, Ben Oakley Gallery, The English Flowerhouse and Oliver Bonas.

The winner will also be invited to GDIF2017 as our Photography Ambassador, with accreditation to attend and photograph all the events across next year’s Festival.

To enter submit your images at www.exhibitoo.com/GDIF
Deadline for submissions is 1 August 2016

Judges to be announced.

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The history of the House

The practice of starting Greenwich and Docklands Festival (GDIF) with an evening spectacular in front of, and incorporating, the Queen’s House is settling into a local tradition – which is entirely appropriate given its centrality, physical and conceptual,  to the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. This year is even more appropriate than most, since it marks the 400th anniversary of the House’s design by Inigo Jones as what was then an avant-garde Italianate private villa for Anne of Denmark  (wife of James I) between the gardens of the long-vanished Tudor Palace of Greenwich and the Royal Park – which is still much the same in outline though changed in layout. ‘The House’ thus seems a good title for this year’s event on 24 June which – as Bradley Hemmings, Director of GDIF explains is

‘mythic in conception, taking some of its inspiration from Inigo Jones and Geoffrey of Monmouth. We’ve also reflected on the way in which the House originally grew out of the earlier medieval palace, a sort of paradigm of the way in which civilizations come and go, but the House is always there as a shining classical exemplar for all people and all time….We’ve also been very mindful of Inigo Jones’ major role in theatre design and the masque, so have imagined the production as a 21st-century masque with spectacular staging incorporating video mapping , aerial structures and pyrotechnics.’

If previous experience is a guide I’m sure it will be a terrific show but there are some ironies on which to reflect. The first is that the House itself is currently closed and under significant internal refurbishment to mark its quatercentenary and will only reopen in the autumn : this itself will be an eye-opener combining historic renovation  and a much denser rehang of both ‘old master’ artworks and a stronger contemporary element, including an already completed abstract gold-leaf decoration of the ceiling of the Great Hall by Turner Prize-winner Richard Wright. The second is that, even when it does reopen, the nature of the building will still not announce the treasure-house that it is: its beauty externally is austerely classical, giving little away, and also slightly misleadingly ‘Georgian’ given that all the external windows were changed in the early 1700s and (on the ground floor) deepened, from  being leaded traditional casements to the present white-sash form.

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GDIF launch events are also often said to be taking place ‘in front of the House’, but as originally designed the view towards Romney Road and the Old Royal Naval College was in fact the back: it is the grander, south-facing side with the loggia as a ‘frontispiece in the midst’, to use Inigo Jones’s phrase, which was in fact the original front. It was the establishment of Romney Road and the Naval College (as Greenwich Hospital) in the 1690s that, in effect, turned it round – not least since the perceptual revolution of the 1860s when the fine see-through Victorian railings were installed round both sites: until then both College and Queen’s House grounds had been enclosed by high walls since around 1700, with only a short run of railings to allow a view south from the House to the Park.

This sense of the House as a very private, closed building was no accident. The Park itself was  originally a privileged, enclosed space with only Court access when the House was built and only gradually became more public in the 18th century. This was even truer of the Palace gardens behind (now the NMM grounds)  and the only public access between them was down the high-walled Woolwich road that ran under the House until the 1690s, where the NMM colonnades now stand.

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In 1659 the Kent antiquary, Thomas Philipott, called it a ‘House of Delight’ that Queen Henrietta Maria (wife of Charles I) had ‘so finished and furbished, that it far surpasseth all other of that kind in England’. However,  he can only have been repeating popular myth – not something he had seen: for while the early artworks in the House were listed when sold by the Parliamentary regime after the execution of Charles I in 1649,  there are no accounts of what the general interior looked like, apart from a note of how drunken vandalism damaged the long-vanished original marble fireplaces during the Commonwealth period. All from the Stuart era left today are some spectacular ceilings –the timber transomed examples in the  Hall and King’s Presence chamber (which has been new-gilded over brilliant blue in current work), the recently restored painted covings of the  Queen’s Bedchamber, and two fine plasterwork ones in the 1660s Bridge Rooms.

Since the House’s major 1980s refurbishment by the National Maritime Museum, its greater use for school-level education work has seen ‘learning’ staff occasionally indulge in wish-fulfilment to make it more interesting for children by saying it was a place where Henrietta Maria enjoyed masques, or music and dancing: the last may be true, but only in the most private way by an elite small group around the queen in the very brief periods she was there between about 1638 and 1643. ‘Marketeers’ have also tended to embroider inconvenient blanks more elaborately to sell the Great Hall’s attraction for corporate hospitality, as a place where the queen held wild royal parties – of which there is no evidence or likelihood whatever.

In fact the real entertainment places at Greenwich in the 16th and early 17th centuries were not the various queens’ entirely private quarters, including the House as the sole surviving element from them, but the Great Hall of the old Palace – whose foundations lie under the Grand Square of the College – and the long Banqueting and Disguising Houses (the latter for masques etc) which Henry VIII built in 1523-4. These flanked his tiltyard (tournament field) which comprised the entire eastern side of the NMM grounds north of the east colonnade, on a north-south line parallel with the central roadway to the House and just east of it. Many of those watching ‘The House’ at GDIF this week will be standing or sitting no more than about a eighteen inches above their substantial remaining foundations beneath the Museum lawns. Both were built for the reception of a French embassy of 1524, and the Disguising House – decorated originally by Hans Holbein- may last have been used for a children’s masque before Anne of Denmark in 1614, while Inigo Jones was in Italy gaining the knowledge of Roman and Palladian architecture that enabled him to design the Queen’s House for her in 1616, on his return.

And then there is what happened in the tiltyard itself, especially under Henry VIII, which was where the really large-scale extravaganzas took place, as during the visit to Greenwich of the Emperor Charles V in 1522:

‘The Wednesday, the more to do the Emperor pleasure, was prepared a joust royal: on the one part was the King, the Earl of Devonshire and  ten more companions, all mounted on horseback; their apparel and tabards were of rich cloth of gold, embroidered with silver letters, very rich, with great plumes on their heads. This company took the field, and rode about the tilt [barrier]: then entered the Duke of Suffolk, and the Marquis of Dorset, and  ten with them … and their apparel was russet velvet, embroidered with sundry knots and ribbons  of gold. The Emperor and the Queen [Catherine of Aragon], with all the nobles stood in the [tiltyard] gallery, to behold the doings. The King ran at the Duke of Suffolk  eight  courses [with the lance], and at every one broke his spear, Then every man ran his courses and that done, all ran together [as] fast as they could discharge, and when the spears appointed were broken, then they disarmed and went to supper.’ (ed. from Hall’s Chronicle)

In short, while the Queen’s House has  always kept its secrets from the outside while concealing treasure within,  it is the former Palace ground to the north-east which has the history of spectacle, with the House  now as its backdrop as far as the ongoing series of  launch events for GDIF is concerned. So think of that ancient tradition, now revived in modern form, when you come and see ‘The House’ this week, and when you return in the autumn once its doors have reopened on enhanced  riches hidden inside.

Pieter van der Merwe
General Editor at Royal Museums Greenwich , Representative Deputy Lieutenant for Royal Greenwich and an authority on the history of World Heritage Site

 

The House
presented in association with Royal Museums Greenwich

Friday 24 June, 22:00
Reserved seats on sale £15, £12 concessions BUY NOW
Free standing access on the day

The House is captioned and audio described – more information here
Watch the access video

 

Behind the scenes with Candoco Dance Company

Making ‘love’ by Saphia Bishop (Candoco Dance Company, Assistant Producer)

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Our new duet You and I Know by Arlene Phillips tells the story of two free-spirited lovers who meet at a summer festival (much like the festivals at which we will be performing this work). The tale of their romantic and, at times, fiery relationship is told through a series of vignettes set to pop music. If you know Candoco Dance Company, you will know that we are always seeking to do something different and challenging. And this duet is no different. With a clear narrative, the use of pop songs and working with a commercial choreographer, You and I Know has been commissioned to engage and excite our dancers and our audiences in new ways.

Given all this, you might be surprised to learn that Arlene, her Creative Associate, Antonia Franceschi, and our two company dancers, Joel Brown and Laura Patay, only had two weeks to make the 16-minute piece. After a grueling month long tour of Switzerland in April, the dancers were straight back into our studio in Stanmore, working day in, day out with Arlene and Antonia to create this emotive love duet.

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For Joel and Laura this was a pretty full on creation process. Arlene had a strong narrative idea for the piece right from the start, and her choreography and direction creates a real sense of character and story telling through dance. This approach required the dancers to really develop their characters to portray the story Arlene wished to tell. This was a key part of the process that pushed Joel and Laura hard both physically and mentally, although I suspect Arlene would have liked to push them even harder with a little more time!

 

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Alongside a tight making period, we performed our first sharing of the work to a large crowd, including various members of the Strictly Come Dancing cast (very exciting!), in a beautiful old building. It was emotional – tears, laughter and lots of applause for the team.

The duet has a real intimacy about it and the concern was that this might get lost in a big outdoor setting. However, reactions at our first performance at Norfolk and Norwich Festival on 28 May, suggest that we had nothing to worry about. Joel and Laura have such an incredible magic between them that the feelings of intimacy, connection and emotion were felt throughout the audience. And, the dancers are embracing the uncertainties and surprises of performing in a public space – a Labrador almost made a cameo in one of the performances in Norwich!

new Candoco show image Photography by Camilla Greenwell 2016

We can’t wait to perform on 1 and 2 July at Greenwich+Docklands International Festival. A new city, a new space, a new crowd – who knows what might happen, we do know, however, that you will love what you see!

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See You and I Know as part of Dancing City at Canary Wharf
Friday 1 July 13:30 & 18:00
Saturday 2 July 14:35 & 16:40
Jubilee Plaza (just by the main entrance to Canary Wharf tube station)
Don’t forget, it’s FREE!

Photography credit: Candoco Dance Company, You and I Know by Arlene Phillips, Photography by Camilla Greenwell 2016

 

We interrupt this blog to bring you a message from the National Institute of Sonic Geology

Professor Stella Barrows tells us about the National Institute for Sonic Geology and explains what will be erupting from underneath the ground on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 of June.

Hello, I am Doctor Stella Barrows, head of the NISG, the National Institute for Sonic Geology*. You can find more about us here: http://sonicgeology.blogspot.co.uk which is our effort to explain Sonic Geology in layman’s terms for the general reader.

The Institute exits for the purpose of exploring, recording and interpreting geological sonic phenomena in the British Isles and sovereign British territories worldwide.

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Sound is erupting underneath us all the time, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where and when it will emit so as to be audible for the average person going about their daily business. Using the latest scientific equipment we have however been able to work out the exact time and location of a forceful eruption, which luckily coincides exactly with the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival. We have identified the eruption point to be Greenwich’s St Alfege Park, behind the Hawksmoor Church of the same name.

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Using a series of beautifully made Ear Trumpets, fashioned from gramophone horns and instruments requisitioned from bad orchestras; the National Institute for Sonic Geology will help the general public to listen in to the sounds underneath the ground – things they would not usually notice. They may hear bells, ancient ships or even the echo of old music halls. It is, in fact, very hard to say until we are on site and listening ourselves as to what we will hear, but early data from the Greenwich sounding space suggests that sonic phenomena on this site are the result of a unique combination of geological and man-made conditions around the River Thames featuring an abundance of proto-historical events.

We are very excited to meet new, intrepid members of the general public who are happy to take part in the ‘citizen science’ of listening to the world around them a little more carefully. We believe that Greenwich will be a rich location in terms of sonic emission: the Royal Borough is the site of Historic Palaces, Viking invasions and public houses frequented by ancient mariners. The NISG looks forward to meeting you.

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Ear Trumpet will take place in St Alfege Park at Greenwich Fair on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 June. Find out more about Greenwich Fair.

The NISG has some friends who reside at this address:

www.gobbledegooktheatre.com
@thegobbledegook

*‘sonic geology’ is defined as the emerging, experimental science derived from the empirical analysis of subterranean sonic phenomena, and the tapping of historical sonic substrata for the release of revelatory data

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GDIF2016 – The Bicycle Ballet Company

The Bicycle Ballet Company’s Creative Producer, Karen Poley, introduces the company and what you can expect to see on the car-free streets of Greenwich during Greenwich Fair

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We create exhilarating outdoor performances with bikes, exploring the joyful highs and gritty lows of cycling.

Incredible as it might seem, 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of The Bicycle Ballet Company. We launched into the world on Brighton seafront with an epic participatory performance of The Mass Show by 100 local people and their bikes.  The show was inspired by Busby Berkeley’s film choreography and performed in the most glorious sunshine.

I mention the weather because working outdoors, it is a bit of a theme.  That show’s rehearsals saw fog, hail, sunburn and just a couple of hours before the show, everyone was soaked to the skin running final rehearsals in a torrential storm.

This kind of weather seems to have marked the beginning of pretty much every show we’ve subsequently made.  So much so, that I’ve come to think of it as part of the ‘birthing’ process. It also directly inspired Strictly Cycling, which we’ll be presenting at GDIF 2016 on 25 & 26 June.

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© Raysto Images

Strictly Cycling is an almost waterproof show in glorious yellow, so bright you can spot it for miles on even the greyest day.  It’s a visual performance and ‘cycle-about.’  Part choreographed around everyday cycling experiences, and part improvised to interact with audiences and anything around the performers.

It’s colourful, anarchic and very very silly.

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© Raysto Images

Come and see epic human/bike sculptures, slo-motion races and celebrate cycling, life and yellowness.

www.bicycleballet.co.uk
Watch a Bicycle Ballet video
@bicycleballet

The Bicycle Ballet Company will perform Strictly Cycling at Greenwich Fair on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 June. Location & time tbc

 

GDIF2016 – Second Hand Dance at Moat Island

Second Hand Dance perform at GDIF’s after-school programme ‘Moat Island’ at Well Hall Pleasaunce in Eltham. Find out how Rosie Heafford, founder of Second Hand Dance, came up with the ideas for the show.

Look down, what are you standing on?

When I was a child I had a fascination with grass and everything that lived in it. I used to collect snails to look after as pets feeding them greens from the garden; or watch woodlice and ants for ages scurrying around underneath rocks, going about their business.

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The show ‘Grass’ came from an image I had of movement on turf – how the enjoyable sensation of soft green blades against your skin might encourage you to move. It was inspired by my memories and collected memories of others about their favourite things in, on and around grass.

It quickly developed into a show about my fascination with bugs as well – so many insects dance! Bees ‘waggle’ to tell each other where pollen can be found and ants use dance to tell if they are from the same colony. We found that mini beasts could move in ways that we couldn’t even start to.

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I wanted to celebrate these bugs, show them off and encourage children, adults, parents and grandparents to get outside and pay attention to what is beneath our feet.

We’ve performed Grass outdoors, in theatres, in parks, gardens, town squares and even cattle markets and we can’t wait to bring it to Greenwich as part of the festival. As well as the show, there’s a chance afterwards to explore some of our set that turn into sand and soil play-crates.

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So, do you know how many hearts a worm has? If not, come along and find out!

See you there,
Rosie

Moat Island is presented in association with Greenwich Dance
Monday 27 June – Friday 1 July, Well Hall Pleasaunce, Eltham 16:00 – 19:00

Explore the full Moat Island programme here

 

GDIF2016 – Deaf Men Dancing

We’re highlighting some of the companies and performances scheduled for this summer’s festival. First up is an introduction to Deaf Men Dancing and their show TEN, written by Deaf Men Dancing’s Choreographer and Director Mark Smith

Deaf Men Dancing is an all-male deaf dance company with a fusion of different styles of dance incorporating British Sign-Language into movement. The essence of my work is to use sign language as an inherent part of the creative process and integrate it into the movement vocabulary, rather than use it as a commentary to the performance.

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The ideas I developed for TEN, were inspired by double acts like Laurel & Hardy, Flanagan & Allen, Morecambe & Wise, Abbott & Costello and Gilbert & George. I was also inspired by vaudeville & music hall acts.

When I was a kid, Charlie Chaplin was my idol. I grew up watching Chaplin’s films. The silent film format was accessible for me to watch because it was very visual and even had “subtitles” or just “titles” for me to read. That’s where I got the idea of getting the dancers to hold printed cards with text to the audience during the performance. While I was researching for TEN, I discovered that Chaplin was good friends with a deaf actor Granville “Red” Redmond, who appeared in Chaplin’s films. Chaplin admired the natural expressiveness of a deaf person using American Sign Language. Chaplin’s interest in Deaf Culture gave me the idea to incorporate a deaf awareness course into TEN but in the form of Ten Commandments.

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In the 60s, Gilbert & George famously created a live-art performance called Singing Sculpture where they stood on a table for eight hours. Gilbert held leather gloves & George held a walking stick. Their faces were painted in silver. They mimed to an old music hall song called Underneath The Arches – a song in which two tramps describe the pleasures of sleeping rough. It was a telling choice, harking back to prewar England and traditions of vaudeville, while also identifying with the fringes of society. Singing Sculpture gave me the idea for TEN. I’ve collaborated with designer Ryan Dawson Laight, who designed DMD’s previous outside performance, Alive!, and he’s designed a table for two dancers to perform on and deliver “speeches” to the audience in a form of Speaker’s Corner or Soapbox such as those that used to to be located on the corner of Park Lane and Cumberland Gate. The table is also a kind of Pandora’s Box, containing surprise props for the dancers to use for the performance.

I collaborated with deaf musician and composer Sean Chandler to develop ten different tracks and I was lucky to have sound designer Syd Funnell onboard to provide the soundscape for TEN.

Deaf Men Dancing will perform TEN at Greenwich Fair on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 June. Times & location tbc.

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Follow Mark Smith on Twitter @DeafMenDancing1
Deaf Men Dancing on YouTube
Deaf Men Dancing website