GDIF’s Artistic Director honoured with MBE

GDIF’s Artistic Director Bradley Hemmings has been awarded an MBE in the 2016 New Year’s Honours List for services to Culture and Disability Arts, particularly in London.

Bradley has led Greenwich+Docklands International Festival since it first took place in 1996. Under Bradley’s direction GDIF has broken new ground in outdoor arts, commissioning, producing and presenting work by a wide range of UK and international artists. Described in The Guardian as “an event whose annual contribution to the happiness of the people of London is unrivalled” GDIF is now widely recognised as one of the leading outdoor arts festivals in the country, attracting over 100,000 people each year. Bradley has also played a key role in developing new outdoor work with Deaf and disabled artists and in addition to the annual Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, has produced the Mayor of London’s Liberty festival since its inception in 2003, which has included the last three years, in which this major disability arts festival has joined forces with National Paralympic Day.

In 2012 Bradley was Co-Artistic Director for the Opening Ceremony of London 2012 Paralympic Games, watched by 11.5 million viewers in the UK (Channel 4’s largest ever audience) and widely credited with helping to challenge and change perception of disability. He has gone on to direct the inaugural Paralympic Heritage Flame Ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium and the Opening Ceremony to the Great North Run’s One Millionth Finish in NewcastleGateshead. He is a founder member of the Without Walls consortium of outdoor arts festivals and is a member of the London Area Council of the Arts Council.

Bradley said “I’m so delighted by this wonderful recognition. It’s also a fantastic boost for the Festival as we go into our 21st birthday year and I’m enormously grateful to all the artists, audiences, staff, funders and my incredible Board, who have helped, in the words of Lyn Gardner, make GDIF the “annual miracle” that it has become.”

One Million Opening Ceremony



GDIF Artistic Director

Bradley Hemmings



Tomorrow at 8.30pm, I’ll be sitting in a control box overlooking the Tyne and taking a deep breath, as the Opening Ceremony to the one millionth finish of the Great North Run gets underway. I remember back to two years ago in 2012, when Jenny Sealy and I were similarly poised, looking down at the crowds in the Olympic Stadium. It’s going to be an equally emotional and poignant night.



This time, the Arena is even bigger than an Olympic Stadium. It has a tidal river running through it, alongside the most beautiful collection of bridges in the world, plus of course, the breathtaking Sage Gateshead, which, in the course of the show, will be transformed with groundbreaking video mapping. Some of the awe-inspiring behind the scenes production statistics reflect the Ceremony’s ambition: 248 glass panels on the Sage have been covered with vinyl on which 480,000 lumens of projection power will cover an area twice the size of Buckingham Palace. Twelve river vessels will take part, whilst the Millennium Bridge, (the world’s only tilting bridge) and Sir William Armstrong’s hydraulic Swing Bridge, will both be choreographed as part of the show. I’m therefore very fortunate to be working with one of GDIF’s longstanding production managers, the brilliant Gary Beestone, as well as Production Stage Manager, Sam Hunter, who has worked on countless Olympic and Paralympic Ceremonies.



Large scale ceremonies like this don’t come around very often and so it’s been a big honour to have been invited to create and direct, particularly as the finishers of the Great North Run are every bit as inspiring as those Paralympic athletes were two years ago. I’ve been able to meet with many of them at our Volunteer Rehearsals, where I’ve been humbled by their commitment and pride in this pioneering mass participation sporting event, which in complete contrast to the Olympics or Paralympics is not about elite athletes, but running for everyone. It’s this inclusive and democratic spirit that lies behind the Great North Run and in creating this Ceremony which I very much wanted to celebrate. The ceremony boasts a world class creative team, including designer Jon Bausor, hotfoot from his recent success with the National Theatre of Scotland’s critically acclaimed James plays.



It’s also been an amazing experience to work with Carnegie Award winning writer David Almond. When David and I first met in a bar overlooking the Tyne, we saw a salmon leap out of the river and the emotion of that miraculous moment seems to have found its way into the show. David’s beautiful script will be performed by Jill Halfpenny and Tim Healy, taking audiences on a spectacular time-travelling journey through the story of the North East, from the dawn of time to the one millionth finish which take place three days after the Ceremony on 7 September at South Shields. An astonishing and suitably epic score for the Ceremony has been created by Ivor Novello award winning composer Dan Jones, performed by the Royal Northern Sinfonia with spectacular architectural film projections onto the Sage Gateshead from BAFTA award winning film maker Tal Rosner.

The Lords of Lightning

The Lords of Lightning


And throughout, at the heart of the Ceremony, will be a cast of hundreds of volunteer performers who have been inspiringly led by Mass Movement director Nathan Curry. With Ant and Dec welcoming the crowds, and featuring musical performances from Sting, Mark Knopfler, Mercury Music Prize nominees The Unthanks and platinum-selling drum’n’bass Chase and Status, together with Glastonbury favourites Lords of Lightning and Alchemy Fireworks, September 4 will be a night to remember. The Ceremony will also be screened on BB2 on Sunday 7 September as part of the coverage of this year’s Great North Run Millionth Finish event. The countdown begins!


One Year On from the Paralympic Opening Ceremony


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By Bradley Hemmings, Artistic Director at GDIF It’s exactly one year on since the Paralympic Opening Ceremony which I had the great privilege of co-directing with Jenny Sealey. What an incredible, joyous, tear stained night it was. From the pre-show … Continue reading

Introducing GDIF’s writer in residence: Lemn Sissay


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By Bradley Hemmings, Artistic Director at GDIF Poet and playwright Lemn Sissay is GDIF’s first ever writer in residence. He comes to Greenwich having curated the world’s first Literature Festival of the Sea in Southend and has also travelled the oceans … Continue reading

European Programming at GDIF2013


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By Bradley Hemmings, Artistic Director at GDIF GDIF has always been influenced by the example of European outdoor festivals. There’s something quintessentially European about the whole proposition of public spaces being creatively disrupted and transformed with free outdoor performances. Towns … Continue reading

Working with other festivals in the UK


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GDIF’s Artistic Director Bradley Hemmings on collaborations with other UK festivals: Behind the scenes GDIF works throughout the year to make new friends, discover potential venues and generally evangelise for outdoor arts. In the last week amongst many meetings, visits … Continue reading

‘Word on the Street’ – more new writing for the outdoors at GDIF2013


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GDIF’s Associate Director Nathan Curry on ‘Word on the Street’: In 2012 we launched a new programme of work within GDIF – ‘Word on the Street’ – this was a group of companies that were using text, playwriting or with … Continue reading