An illustration of Greenwich Park. By Keith Hau.
Following two summers of lockdowns, Greenwich Dance and Arts Trust Productions set about creating a programme of summer festivals designed to bring people together in open spaces throughout the borough and beyond.
Summer in the Park was a response to two briefs – one from The Royal Parks who wanted to find interesting ways for people to discover the full beauty of Greenwich Park, and one from the Friends of Maryon Park who wanted to reinstate their summer picnic but with help from an organisation who could shoulder the responsibility for infrastructure.
The Maryon Park Picnic, Summer 2022. Photo: Kinga Dawid
In true Greenwich Dance style, we decided to stretch our ideas as far as we could by also hosting picnics in other parks in the borough, with support from Royal Greenwich Festivals, in order to highlight some of the delightful yet under used spaces available.
The Queenscroft Park Picnic, Summer 2022. Photo: Lucy White
In 2022, the first year of Summer in the Park, we brought dance performances and participation to Greenwich Park, involving a giant sea monster puppet, a colourful maypole, a large scale Tai Chi class and an exploratory dance walk investigating some of Greenwich’s notorious past occupants. We also held three community picnics in Maryon Park, Queenscoft Park and Gallions Park, which involved professional performances as well as community groups, workshops, games and more.
Tai Chi in the Park. Photo: Roswitha Chesher
In the summer of 2023, we were delighted to receive additional funding from the National Lottery Community Fund and Peabody to expand our offer. This meant that for the first time, we were able to reach out to the communities around each park and make Creators Groups, who would help identify local artists, discuss what they would like to see happen in their local space to ensure the events truly reflected their identities.
This was the year we discovered jam skating. We had noticed that skaters had already discovered Cygnet Square, where our office is based. Our producer Alliey ventured out to chat to them one day and soon created some test skate jam events with legendary skater and award-winning dance artist Frankie J. They proved hugely popular and so we decided to include them in this year’s Summer in the Park programme, working with Thamesmead based social enterprise Vibes on Vibes.
Vibes on Vibes talk about Jam Skating. Filmed and edited by Roswitha Chesher
For this year’s picnics, we returned to Maryon Park, Queenscroft Park and Gallions Park. While we were less lucky with the weather for the events in Gallions Park (we danced in the rain) and Queenscroft Park (we moved to Middle Park Community Centre) we were thrilled by the attendance numbers and delighted by the range of performances, workshops and demonstrations we could share: from a dance class with BBC Strictly Come Dancing’s Joanne Clifton, to making worry worms with Leslie’s Crochet.
Joanne Clifton's workshop, Maryon Park 2023. Photo: Lucy White
Leslie's Crochet at the Queenscroft Park Picnic. Photo: Kinga Dawid.
We were also able to expand the number of local businesses we were able to showcase at our events this year. And not just at our events – we also created a blog series with local food producers and restaurants, promoting ideas for people to pack in their picnics.
And finally, we’d like to say a huge thank you to our Summer in the Park photographers Roswitha Chesher and Kinga Dawid for their stunning imagery which has captured the essence of Summer in the Park.
TARU Arts, Summer in the Park 2023. Photo: Kinga Dawid