UK's Without Walls Festival Announces Exceptional Outdoor Programme for 2023

Circus News

UK’s Without Walls Festival Announces Exceptional Outdoor Programme for 2023

Without Walls has announced the 13 artists included in this year’s programme, who are due to tour throughout England this summer to major UK festivals. With arts spaces disappearing across the UK, Without Walls is committed to making vital and accessible work for public spaces in 2023. The programme is filled with fantastic circus work such as UNITY from Gorilla Circus, a contemporary circus production company specialising in large-scale outdoor circus shows that feature high-octane works with strong narratives surrounding global issues; and Upswing and Unlimited’s outdoor spectacular, Ancient Futures,that blends contemporary circus and storytelling with Sound System culture and West African folklore.

The artists included in the programme will tour concurrently this summer to visit Without Walls festival partners which include Brighton Festival, Hat Fair (Winchester), Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Stockton International Riverside Festival, Timber Festival (Staffordshire), Certain Blacks – Ensemble Festival (London), Just So Festival (Cheshire), Greenwich+Docklands International Festival and Leeds 2023.

In 2023, the Without Walls Festival programme explores multiple themes, including protest, darkness and light, family, food heritage, imagined futures, and ballroom culture. In these challenging times, it gives much-needed breathing space to complex yet important issues, while providing warmth and hope for better days ahead.

Five shows in the programme are by artists and companies of South Asian heritage. Pravaas from Akademi is a performance inspired by the climate migration of people from the Sundarbans across India and Bangladesh. The piece explores the beauty and poignancy of South Asian dance forms and classical Carnatic vocals. Through this promenade performance, audiences will follow an evocative experience of migration, witnessing the lyricism, fluidity and symmetry of ancient South Asian dance forms.

Nominated for the National Dance Awards in 2022, Amina Khayyam Dance Company returns this year with You&Me, which contains short Kathak dance pieces realised from a South Asian feminist perspective.

Beeja (the name means ‘seed’ in Hindi) will bring choogh choogh to audiences. Conceptualised by one of the most exciting exponents of Bharatanatyam, Anusha Subramanyam, the piece is inspired by the train which chooghs chooghs on. In this show for all the family, Beeja aims to generate new ideas and new understandings through Indian classical and folk dance forms.

Trigger brings us TEABREAK, which serves as a portal into an experiential world of tea drinking and performance. From the producers of large-scale epics PoliNations & The Hatchling, TEABREAK aims to shine a spotlight on the contested history and story of the apparently quintessential English cup of tea. Putting audiences and togetherness at the heart of their work, freshly brewed tea will be served from Trigger’s Tuk Tuk, offering companionship and stimulation.

The season is completed by Sonia Sabri Company with Mughal Miniatures, a vibrant outdoor performance event celebrating and taking inspiration from the exquisite traditional art of Indian and Persian miniature painting. A series of pop-up, living pictures evoke scenes of Indian princely courts and lush gardens and the glory of the Mughal period with a contemporary twist.

With a stark decline in programmes aimed to engage young people in the arts, Without Walls has made sure their 2023 programme includes work specifically for family audiences. Thingumajig Theatre will tour a collection of pop-up puppet stages built onto the back of electric tricycles, A la Puppet Carte. Suitable for all ages, each show is full of surprises, fun, and a heartwarming story of friendship and home.

Just More Productions’ ethos is to educate and entertain through food, bringing families and cultures together. This year the team will tour Fussy Foodies: Battle of The Pans, an interactive cooking game show where you have the chance to win a grand prize, play games, and take part in the ultimate celebration of food, music, roots, and culture. A kitchen party where the audience joins in on the fun!

Ghetto Fabulous is a dance and visual arts company that aims to excite, entertain and have fun. Bringing glamour, glitz and grace, Family Catwalk Extravaganza is a fabulous celebration of self-expression. Four dancers will go head to head in a dance, fashion, and lip sync competition in an interactive event where the audience decides the winner.

To complete the family offering, Working Boys Club will bring Serving Sounds, a multi-sensory sound installation that creates connection through music – a bar that serves bass rather than drinks. The installation is an interactive work, playful and joyful, with spaces for up to four people of all ages to interact with the bar at any one time, each experience lasting up to the length of a song.

Dance, circus, and physical theatre are seen throughout the programme. Upswing and Unlimited’s outdoor spectacular Ancient Futuresblends contemporary circus and storytelling with Sound System culture and West African folklore. Both a headlining festival experience and a pop-up installation, the show fuses dance, circus, parkour, music and storytelling, with a design inspired by West African masquerade and Afrofuturism.

Avanti Display has developed a performance designed for twilight into darkness as well as a roving musical act for the daytime. Crow features video projection, live music and fascinating gadgetry and is created by Bill Palmer in collaboration with two hugely experienced outdoor artists, Chris Squire and Paschale Straiton, and the extraordinary musical talents of Seaming To and Semay Wu.

Following on from the success of their previous outdoor duets, Candoco Dance Company is a world-leading inclusive company of disabled and non-disabled dancers that commissions and produces work by world-class choreographers. Their new work in the 2023 programme is directed by Jamaal Burkmarand is set to popular music, providing an opportunity for audiences to expand their idea of who can dance.

Gorilla Circus is a contemporary circus production company specialising in large-scale outdoor circus shows that specialise in high-octane works with strong narratives surrounding global issues. UNITY is a reflection on community, an act of protest, a call for change and a dream for the future. This large-scale, aerial-spectacular production features wire-walking, dance trapeze, hair hanging and hydraulics. Each show is focused on a poem which has been commissioned by a local artist of each location the show is touring, making each one unique and relevant.

Brighton Festival returns with a joyful celebration of collaboration and community taking place across the city between 6 May – 28 May. Their A Weekend Without Walls series of events takes place on 27 & 28 May and is free to audiences. It includes Pravaas from Akademi, You&Me from Amina Khayyam Dance Company, choogh choogh from Beeja, new work from Candoco Dance Company and Jamaal Burkmar, Mughal Miniatures from Sonia Sabri Company, Ancient Futures from Unlimited Theatre/Upswing and TEABREAK from Trigger.

Norfolk & Norwich Festival is the flagship arts festival in the East of England. For 17 days each May, the Festival transforms public spaces, city streets, performance venues, parks, bringing people together to experience brilliant and inspirational events. The world-class programme spans music, theatre, literature, visual arts, circus, dance and free outdoor events. The outdoor programme takes place on 12 & 13 May, including Pravaas from Akademi; Crow from Avanti Display; new work from Candoco Dance Company and Jamaal Burkmar; UNITY from Gorilla Circus; Fussy Foodies: Battle of the Pans from Just More Productions; TEABREAK from Trigger; and Serving Sounds from Working Boys Club.

Jo Burns, the chair of Without Walls, comments, “The 2023 programme sets a new bar in the breadth and quality of work we are supporting. We are particularly happy to be presenting a strong body of South Asian-led shows and seeing this new work presented at partners’ festival events located widely across the country.”

Without Walls Director Ralph Kennedy comments, “Without Walls commissions have a track record for high-quality new work that explores important societal issues – and for successfully putting this work into public space. Our 2023 programme continues this, with exciting new work from established names in outdoors arts, as well as the most exciting new artists coming into the sector.”

Without Walls annually invests commissioning funds into a programme of new outdoor shows that go on to tour across the UK and internationally. These works range from the intimate to the epic, aiming to create high-quality arts experiences that are accessible to all, regardless of personal, social or economic circumstances. The organisation consists of the Artistic Directorate (AD), which delivers the artistic policy of the company by supporting and presenting new work; the Touring Network Partnership (TNP), which is made up of organisations who are committed to touring Without Walls shows to neighbourhoods, towns and cities across England with low arts engagement; and the Creative Development Network (CDN), which is made up of organisations and freelance professionals developing an outdoor arts programme and who receive mentorship, training and support.

Without Walls will announce artists and companies selected for the Blueprint R&D programme, which supports the development of new innovative outdoor touring work, later in 2023. The organisation will also add more details on further festival dates for the programme from Just So Festival, Hat Fair, Stockton International Riverside Festival, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, Leeds 2023, Certain Blacks – Ensemble Festival and Timber Festival.

Main image: Circus Gorilla UNITY

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