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.


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.


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.


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

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

GDIF2016 Photography Competition

Once again we’ve paired up with 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
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.


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)


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.


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!



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!


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