With more than 27,500 visitors in five stunning outdoor locations across the county, Inside Out Dorset has demonstrated just how much we have missed getting together and sharing cultural experiences.
The biennial international arts festival, delayed from 2020 because of the pandemic, returned last month with a rich and varied programme of free to attend art installations and performances in extraordinary locations. Hosted by Dorchester-based outdoor arts producer Activate over two weekends from 17 to 26 September, the festival presented 104 performances featuring 24 UK and international artists alongside opportunities to join in for 1,280 participants.
“Inside Out Dorset has always been about presenting innovative and challenging art as a collective experience in extraordinary locations,” say Inside Out Dorset co-artistic directors Kate Wood and Bill Gee.
“This year that aim has felt particularly pertinent. The pandemic cost us a great deal, as did the effects of leaving the EU, but we overcame many of those challenges and are enormously grateful to the artists, our funders, partners and volunteers – not to mention the overwhelmingly positive response of the public who attended in their thousands – for their help and support in getting the festival on.
“It just goes to show what can be achieved when people pull together in response to adversity.”
In line with the festival themes of sustainability, land use and lifecycles, human and environmental, among the many highlights were the installations of artist Luke Jerram’s astonishing Gaia at Moors Valley Country Park and Forest and the Symondsbury Estate. The seven-metre scale model of Earth made using NASA photography offers an out-of-this-world opportunity to see our planet as an astronaut would view it from space, prompting thoughts about climate change and humanity’s effect on the planet in many of people that visited the installation, either in person or among almost 3,500 that viewed video footage online.
In each location it was supported by an artwork trail of site-specific events and performances responding to the climate emergency and our use of the land. These included the premiere of No Going Back, composer Karen Wimhurst’s collage of Shaftesbury voices produced by Ed Bersey; Gallycrows – an ensemble of interactive scarecrows created by Angel Exit – and Two and a Half, a new work from West Dorset community dance company Fingerprint performed by Forest, a new company of adults with different abilities, and mature dancers company Grace + Growl. Directed by Anna Golding with choreographer Emily Aiden, the piece was inspired by the 2.5-degree rise in Arctic sea temperatures due to climate change.
The festival also commissioned two world premieres – Partnering With Earth, a performance poetry installation by theatre-maker Dave Young, aka The Shouting Mute; and Geophonic, artist Lorna Rees’s uplifting and other-worldly response to the landscape in which visitors listened to the earth’s geological processes using hand-spun aluminium geophones. The festival also commissioned another UK premiere, Whistlers, Red Herring theatre company’s comic exploration of birdsong, dialect and extinction.
Dorset-based companies were commissioned across the festival with new work ranging from interactive sound and performance created by The Working Boys Club to the most creative hand-sanitiser stations seen this summer by Emma Dumeresque and Adam Dupree.
With street performances of outdoor circus and dance in Poole and Christchurch, the festival was brought to a spectacular finale in Weymouth where people came out in their droves to witness two performances of the promenade show Sense of Unity featuring the UK-based Worldbeaters drumming team and the mesmerising giant puppets of Dundu, from Germany. Thousands flooded the streets to watch the story unfold and reach its climax in front of the Jubilee Clock.
One audience member commented: “I hope to see more like this. Watching people’s faces you could just see the magic it created.”
Inside Out Dorset will return in 2023.
For more information please contact the Activate team on 01305 260954.
Notes to editors:
Activate exists to promote, support and produce performing arts projects in our communities. Bringing world-class events to unexpected places such as town centres, village squares, beaches and hilltops. And we’ve been doing it for over 30 years.
Our aim is to break down barriers and reach the widest possible audiences, while celebrating our natural landscape and sense of place. Supporting our performing arts community is at the heart of everything we do. We bring people together, offer advice, and provide access to learning and resources. We’re here to help creatives at all levels on their journey towards creating outstanding, inspiring work.
As one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations, we receive regular funding to initiate, develop and sustain a range of dance, theatre and outdoor arts opportunities for the people of Dorset and the South West. We are also core funded by Dorset Council and BCP Council. As a not-for-profit organisation, we work in many ways and with many partners. Our team may be small, but we’re agile, expert and very well connected, with a will to make things happen.
Inside Out Dorset is supported by:
ArtfulScribe, Arts Council England, Arts University Bournemouth, BCP Council, Christchurch Town Council, Creative Europe, Cultural Hub, Dorset AONB, Dorset Council, Forestry England, Green Carpet, Jerwood Arts, LAND, Lighthouse Poole, SoundStorm, Symondsbury Estate, The Ashley Family Foundation, The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, The Garrick Charitable Trust, The Leche Trust, Wave Arts Education, Weymouth BID/We Are Weymouth, Weymouth Town Council.