Certain Blacks present Ensemble Festival 24

Sat 20 to Sun 21 July, 1pm-8pm
The Royal Victoria Docks, Western Gateway, London, E16 1FA
Free and suitable for all age groups
Words: Sophia A Jackson
Published: Friday 18 June 2024, 7:00am

Chad Taylor by Amir Shah_group photo
Chad Taylor by Amir Shah group photo

Bigger and bolder than ever before, Ensemble Festival returns to London’s Royal Docks on the 20 and 21 July. Produced by East London arts development organisation Certain Blacks, Ensemble once again presents an action-packed and diverse programme of spectacular circus, street theatre, live music, dance and more. Ensemble Festival is completely free to the public.

At this year’s Ensemble Festival, Docklands audiences are set to experience the celebrated feats of NoFit State Circus, one of the UK’s most treasured contemporary circus companies, set to create and perform their signature stunts on towering structures built entirely from bamboo. Following a dazzling display last year, Gorilla Circus are back for 2024, their new show combining acrobatics, street dance and roller skating, performed on a giant moving treadmill.

Renowned theatre company Cardboard Citizens present Cardboard Collective, a showcase of young talent from their in-house youth programme and as a festival opener and JW3 pay homage to an East London working class tradition via the Great Yiddish Parade. All of this and much more at Ensemble’s outdoor extravaganza including commissioned emerging artists from the UK and beyond.

This year marks the fifth Ensemble Festival, which first took to the streets in 2019 as part of Newham’s Join the Docks Festival. With ongoing support from the Royal Docks and as part of the Without Walls consortium, Certain Blacks have grown and diversified Ensemble year on year, including a Covid-safe event in 2021. Clive Lyttle, Artistic Director of Certain Blacks, says:

‘Ensemble represents everything we’re about at Certain Blacks. Our aim is to bring diverse artists from the margins into the mainstream, and we’re wowed by the imagination, diversity and sheer artistry of this year’s line-up, including new work commissioned especially for Ensemble 24. I think the range and ingenuity of artists creating work for the public realm is only matched by the appetite of audiences for these often transformative experiences. The arts are increasingly integral to how we connect with where we live, or to the places we visit, and there is nothing quite like the thrill of a shared, live performance to bring people together.

We are grateful to the Royal Docks team for their continued support and for sharing our vision for Ensemble, and to the very many agencies and individuals who make the festival possible. Everyone on the ground (and in the air!) is gearing up for Ensemble; we are so excited to meet the audience.’

Schedule of events:
Saturday 20 & Sunday 21 July 1-8pm, times to be announced
Cardboard Citizens – Cardboard Collective (Saturday only)

Created and performed by young people aged from 16 to 25 with lived experience, or who are at risk of homelessness and poverty. Renowned Theatre company Cardboard Citizens showcase a sharing of high calibre work developed over the course of the year via music workshops. Expect Alternative R’n’B, spoken word performance and more

Gorilla Circus – RPM
RPM stands for revolutions per minute as Gorilla Circus present a mesmeric new show combining acrobatics, street dance and roller skating, performed on a giant moving treadmill. RPM explores tragic, comic and absurd aspects of modern society, unravelling links with the UK’s troubled history and asking the question, ‘Has this country ever confronted its colonial past?’

Joli Vyann – Life’s A Beach
A playful new performance piece, happening across three locations at the Royal Docks. Life’s A Beach observes family life and classic seaside culture via a fusion of dance and circus skills. Expect plenty of fun nostalgia, with a look to the future of beach life as the planet inevitably change

Chad Taylor by David Oates - Certain Blacks Ensemble Festival 2024
Chad Taylor by David Oates – Certain Blacks Ensemble Festival 2024

Chad Taylor – Closer to My Dreams
Follow the story of two young Black brothers from inner-city Manchester pursuing their shared dream of achieving their ambitions: Chad as a creative director and his brother Ziggy as a recording artist. A site-specific journey weaving poetry and rap with hip hop choreography, this site-specific show, which audiences experience via headphones is a joyous, heartfelt take on family, friendship and how we respond to the trials and tribulations life throws at us. Chad Taylor created this new work featuring Chad alongside Ziggy Taylor, Kieron Simms, Miguel Gomez and Ellis Brownhill.

JW3 – The Great Yiddish Parade
Prepare for a Klezmer big band, singers and street theatre performers marching on the Royal Docks. Inspired by the migrant protesters in the Victorian East End and with audience participation at its heart, this is one huge marching, musical creation giving voice to Yiddish song and culture

Head Over Wheels – Anchored in Air
A thrilling journey into the world of flying wheelchairs, integrated audio description and acrobatics. Anchored in Air the debut work from this company of disabled and non-disabled performers, who combine circus, dance, spoken word and live music as they grapple with themes of isolation, connection, struggle and rewards, all while navigating a colossal tower.

Bureau of Silly Ideas – Island Storm
Returning to Ensemble by popular demand, Bureau of Silly Ideas present a story set where coastal erosion has caused the catastrophic loss of a family-run amusement arcade. The survivors are now on tour and scratching out a living with what they managed to salvage. Join them for circus, watery fun, laughter and stunts as audiences enter their magical arcade.

NoFit State Circus – BAMBOO
This celebrated alternative circus company arrive in Docklands armed with bundles of bamboo. Arriving at an empty space they build towering sculptures, creating an improbable, delicate circus playground as live music, comedy and amazing feats of strength and agility take centre stage. NoFit State Circus celebrate what’s possible when humans and the natural world trust each other and work in harmony.

Tit for Tat Circus – Now I am become d/Deaf (Destroyer of Words)
With physical comedy, eccentric juggling and absurd acts of balance, a solo performer explores his hearing loss as a celebratory source of play and invention. A visual spectacle that tears down barriers, celebrates silence and fires an ear-splitting laugh in the face of frustration.

La Casa Oscura by Gino Rosa - Certain Blacks Ensemble Festival 2024
La Casa Oscura by Gino Rosa – Certain Blacks Ensemble Festival 2024

La Casa Oscura – Uroboros
Combining contemporary dance and physical theatre, two performers take a journey through the cycle of life. Universal themes and intensity of movement are offset by emotional tenderness and a sense of fun from this exciting duo, who are based between Catalonia and Italy.

Stompy – The Mod Father
A walkabout act with a specially modified Zimmer frame, complete with speakers, soundtrack and an old parka-clad Mod in the frame! Performed by comic, absurdist and theatre maker Richard Stamp aka Stompy.

New Commissions
Certain blacks have commissioned two short new works performed by local artists especially for July’s Ensemble festival following an open call. More details soon.

Need to know: Ensemble Festival 24 takes place at the Royal Docks in London, The Royal Victoria Docks, Western Gateway, London, E16 1FA. Transport: DLR – Royal Victoria  or Queen Elizabeth Line – Custom House. For full details of all events, including details of performance times and precise locations, please visit www.certainblacks.com