We’ve seen massive transformations over the years, particularly in the way in which the appreciation of outdoor arts and the European style enjoyment of outdoor spaces has become part of the fabric of our lives. The Festival has been very much part of this story.
The opening night of the very first GDIF back in 1996 blazed a trail for the soon to be completed DLR extension under the Thames, by presenting a cross river event in Cutty Sark Gardens and Island Gardens. In the following year, the last Commander of the Royal Naval College, the late and much missed, Jonathan Maughan, gave permission for us to open the gates at the RNC to an outdoor dance programme from Barcelona, which saw audiences amazed as they wandered into the stunning Queen Mary and King William courtyards which had been shut off to the public for three hundred years.
In our early days, an annual youth arts apprenticeship scheme called Gallery 37, took over Dial Arch Square in the Royal Arsenal offering 100 young people paid Summer jobs in the arts. Then there was “Take me to the River”, which took audiences by boat from the Painted Hall in Greenwich via Canary Wharf to the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre, (a destination site now forever associated with outdoor conviviality and festivity).
And of course, who could forget the very first sighting of Compagnie Off’s crimson giraffes, crossing the Green Bridge at Mile End Park or more recently, the experience of encountering Rara Woulib’s cast of Haitian ghosts and musicians dancing across the Halfpenny Hatch across Deptford Creek?
As we prepare for this year’s Festival, we’ll be celebrating the last 21 years, and so if you would like to send a birthday message or have a particularly vivid memory or picture of a past GDIF event that you’d like to share please do so at #GDIF