Activate Performing Arts’ biennial outdoor arts festival Inside Out Dorset has concluded its 2023 edition to much acclaim, marking another year of bringing extraordinary events to extraordinary places. With 33,000 visits across five festival sites, Inside Out Dorset welcomed a line-up of talented international artists to the county to present hundreds of free performances and installations, celebrating the beauty of Dorset’s natural landscape and enhancing its rich artistic scene.
Audiences shared their reactions to this year’s festival with one attendee commenting, “Just wanted to say how brilliant Poupées Géantes were on Saturday. The singing, drumming and visuals were all amazing especially with the backdrop of the Weymouth harbour. Thank you to everyone involved.”
An attendee local to Bere Regis commented, “Fabulous event. Let’s hope it comes back to Bere next year and another echoed this; Excellent event for the community and visitors to the village. Thank you Inside Out Dorset for all your hard work, all events come with challenges, support and collaboration with the community makes for an amazing event for everyone and Bere Regis is lucky to host such events.”
The 2023 festival was summed up by another attendee, “What a great event, how fab for a smaller community to be a venue!”
The trees of Moors Valley rung out with the sounds of four audio installations nestled amongst the woodland trails. Jane Pitt’s Everyone Says blended voices from all around the world with the trees, celebrating the diverse cultural backgrounds found in Dorset. Morse Code, birdsong, and music were intertwined in Kathy Hinde’s Chirp and Drift, enhancing the natural musicality of the woodlands. Artmusic brought two astonishing installations to the festival – the world premiere of Saeflod, a requiem for the Earth, and Lachrymae, a sonic and visual symphony inspired by Ted Hughes’ adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Activate’s Dorset Youth Dance and inclusive performance group, The Remix delighted audiences in Poole as they performed alongside international performers all the way from New Zealand: critically acclaimed choreographer Chloe Loftus and multi-award winning Māori artist Rodney Bell, who performs in his wheelchair. Chloe and Rodney explored our capacity to exist in harmony with both ourselves and our environment with their gravity-defying street circus performance The Air Between Us, which drew large crowds to Poole High Street. Local artists The Working Boys Club entertained audiences across Poole and Wimborne with their multi-sensory installation Serving Sounds, interacting with traditional items found in bars to create a series of unique sounds, inspiring connection through music.
Tilly Ingram brought Soup and a Story to Wild Woodbury in Bere Regis, where audiences tucked into a delicious soup while listening to a story that was developed in response to the Wild Woodbury site, which has undergone rewilding to restore its natural biodiversity. Dutch group Collectief Walden presented Songs for a Shifting Soil, telling the stories of those who have interacted with the everchanging soil of Dorset to explore how we can reconnect with the environment around us. Oliver MacDonald’s This Woven O, which was at Wild Woodbury to house the Soup and a Story performances, has been gifted permanently to the Dorset Wildlife Trust.
For the showstopping finale weekend, French company Transe Express presented Poupées Géantes, three illuminated giant dolls that glided through the streets of Weymouth, accompanied by opera singers enchanting audiences with captivating melodies. Thousands turned out to mark the end of this year’s festival, celebrating another fantastic edition of Activate’s outdoor arts showcase, which garnered worldwide reach and sparked imaginations across the globe.
As many international companies marked their final performances of the 2023 Summer Season in Dorset, Activate Performing Arts are proud to conclude Inside Out Dorset having brought an exciting range of outdoor arts events to Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, Poole, Wimborne, Bere Regis, and Weymouth. The festival celebrates the vibrant diversity of Dorset’s population, and how this enriches the beautiful landscape in both urban and rural locations across the county.
Kate Wood and Bill Gee, Co-artistic Directors of Inside Out Dorset comment, “We are delighted with this year’s festival. Despite some wet and windy weather, alongside some mid-September sunshine, thousands of people visited our five remarkable festival locations and saw the Dorset landscape in a different light – brought to life by spectacular art. It was fantastic to see a range of people discovering something new about the place they live or as visitors to the area. Bringing a diverse mix of UK and international artists and their unique work to Dorset feels really special – from commissioning local artists to share Soup and a Story, to the colourful Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band all the way from India, there was something for everyone to enjoy.”
A spokesperson from Forestry England who attended the Festival’s launch at Moors Valley Country Park and Forest comments, “It was a lovely evening celebrating what forests can be if we cultivate partnerships to blossom.”
Cécile Durot, from artists Le. G. Bistaki performance group, “It is always a great pleasure for the team to participate in Activate Performing Arts projects. Despite the capricious weather, the boys came back delighted. Thank you for your work and the exceptional welcome you gave us. I’d also like to highlight the incredible work you seem to be doing on issues of audience accessibility.”
Activate Performing Arts would like to thank all of our festival partners for their support, which enabled the festival to be based at a diverse range of sites across Dorset’s unique rural and urban locations.
With special thanks to:
Our core funders Arts Council England, Dorset Council and BCP Council
Our Key Sponsors: We Are Weymouth Poole BID and Wimborne BID
Our Individual site funders/supporters: Dorset AONB, National Lottery Heritage Fund, Forestry England, Fonds Podium Kunsten, Talbot Village Trust, Lighthouse Poole, Dutch Embassy, Italian Cultural Institute, German Embassy, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Arts University Bournemouth, Erasmus +, LAND, Green Carpet, Walk The Plank, Jerwood Arts, PRSF Composers Fund, Weymouth Town Council, Colehill Parish Council
This piece was originally written as a press release by Chloe Nelkin Consulting.
Header image: Poupées Géantes, Transe Express. Photo by Roy Riley.