Inside Out Dorset 2021 brings people back together again... in their thousands!

Inside Out Dorset 2021 brings people back together again... in their thousands!
Inside Out Dorset 2021 brings people back together again... in their thousands!

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.


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