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A Cultural Celebration

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On Sunday 14th October a plethora of communities from across the Borough of Greenwich came together to enjoy a day of dance, music and games under the roof of the Great Hall at Eltham Palace. And thankfully there was a roof, as the rain hammered down pretty much relentlessly all day! Our storyteller TJ, from local drama group Bananadrama, took a look at her open-sided tent, beautifully festooned with fairy lights and cushions, and wondered how long the roof would stay watertight. But it did (or mostly did….).

The day commenced with an extra special treat... 43 performers from The Chineke! Youth Orchestra filling the Great Hall with musical beauty. Greenwich Dance were honoured to welcome Artistic Director and world famous double-basser, Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, herself who introduced the concert and explained the ethos of her Foundation - a company setting the standard for diversity by embracing and celebrating it at every level of the organisation: from their board, to their performers, to the composers they showcase, many of whom they feel are at risk of being forgotten. Amongst the beautifully pitched programme were two minuets from one such ‘forgotten’ composer, Greenwich-based Ignatius Sancho, whose story, she explained, is as fascinating as his music. It’s certainly worth a date with Google if you are interested in Greenwich or musical history (or both)…

Following Chineke’s first performance came our informal platform for community arts groups in the borough called the Cultural Exchange. This started gently with an invitation from Greenwich Dance artist Maria Ghoumrassi to join in a hand warm up, and then flowed into a delightful excerpt by the Over 55’s Performance Company of Alvin Aileys’ Revelations. Actors from the Bob Hope Theatre followed performing excerpts from their new work, Secret Lives and Equality Dance had everyone up and cha-cha-ing. Chinese Lion Dancers from the Chinese Performing Arts Centre then explained the significance of their costume before giving everyone a demonstration….the larger-than-life lion winking alluringly at littles ones who were unsure whether to stroke it or run!

Meanwhile, braving the rain, were our two dance artists Amy Robinson and Rachel Southern who led children through the outdoor games of kabaddi, ten-ten and catch the dragon. The little ones, unperturbed by the damp, wound excitedly around the trees catching the ribbons as their parents sought refuge with TJ within her storytelling tent. Shelter does not come for free however, and parents were soon coerced into costume to take part in her brilliantly interactive animated story, much to the delight of all who beheld them!

A second concert by The Chineke! Youth Orchestra followed before the whole of the Great Hall erupted into a scene of sequins and colour as the magical dancers from Nutkhut had everyone up and dancing. It was a very happy audience who departed, back out into the grey rainy day, to head home for a well earned cup of tea.
Meanwhile Greenwich Dance pledged that next year we would remember to book the sunshine along with such an array of fantastic talent. …

*“A really wonderful setting – thank you!”

“It is a rare and fantastic opportunity for children to sit just in front of a real orchestra”

“Outstanding event highlighting culture and ethnicity”

“A wonderful use of the Great Hall”

“What a treat! I loved the fabulous music, an extraordinary setting perfect for showcasing their talent”**