Every summer, the Horniman hosts a large outdoor event and, for the second year, we were invited to capture the community coming together in Forest Hill. This yeah, Africa was the theme for the whole of the summer in the museum and gardens inspired by their incredible African collections. Africarnival was the culmination of all the events and activities that had happened before it.
We were really struck by the scale of the event and the incredible atmosphere across the gardens as audiences watched acrobats, danced to live bands, paraded in the carnival, took dance workshops, ate Ghanian street foods and generally smiled from ear to ear. It was truly joyous to share in the experience with such a diverse crowd that could only be found in London.
It was a really special opportunity to work on a longer project with two great groups and a very supportive team. We really felt part of the project and developed some wonderful relationships with the participants. It was fantastic to share their final performance with them.
The project involves a group of older people from Blackfriars and a group of young people from Salmon learning a piece of dance repertory with Rambert animateurs.
The first part of the project was a welcome day for everyone at DPG for all the participants to meet and mingle because, for the majority of the project, the groups will learn the dance separately so they can move at their own pace. The day began with some lunch and then everyone got up and started moving around, saying hello to one another and playing some ice breaker games which culminated in getting into pairs and discussing families. Then sharing what had been learned about each other’s families with the whole group.
The participants took a very quick break before starting to look at some of the repotory that Rambert will be working on with them throughout the project. It was a really lively section of dance so it was great that the older people were able to dip in and out of the dance but also very encouraging to see how determined some were to get through the whole routine… and some just danced to their own rhythm – which was amazing!
Then the participants split into two mixed age groups and went on a tour of the Gallery where they learnt about the the Linbury Family through a number of portraits that are some of the first to greet you as you enter the gallery. The Linbury Sisters is a Gainsborough painting and, for me, one of the most iconic images from the gallery and certainly the image I tend to think of when I think of the gallery.
Then we looked at Le Triomphe de David, depicting David’s victory over Goliath.
We didn’t just look at these pics but had a wonderful guided tour from Phillipa who really encouraged the participants to explore and investigate even the most secondary characters in these images; exploring the body shapes, relationships, drama, dance and family relationships that they revealed.
After the tour we chatted, on camera, to some very enthusiastic participants, older people and children, who were very excited to be part of a new way of investigating the Gallery’s collection. Maureen, a regular visitor to DPG, was very familiar with the Gallery and had previously danced with an African dance troupe in Peckham. Young Miracle had visited the Gallery with her school and then brought her mother back with her to visit the gallery before joining this project for another chance to spend time in the gallery and work with its historic collection.
I also spoke to Liz, a retired professional tap dancer, who, despite having problems with her knees, was enthusiastic and very inspirational; absolutely ready to give it all a go!
It was a packed afternoon all finished off with tea and cakes where I got to chat to some of the children who really enjoyed the gift shop. I also spoke with Jeanie, who had been a Ballroom enthusiast in her younger days, as well as rock n roll Aidan, who I had seen dancing to his own beat earlier in the workshop!
We were made to really feel part of the team working on this project with Blackfriar Settlement, Salmon Youth Centre, Megan Taylor – our great photography mate, Rambert and of course the lynch pins, Michelle and Aimee, from Dulwich Picture Gallery. We’re really looking forward to joining the groups at their rehearsals which start next week.