beer and trade at the royal docks

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The Royal Docks, a focus area for this year’s festival, is steeped in a rich and complex history. Some may describe it as a wasteland but the leftover warehouses and docks are a physical memory of a district that helped build London as a global trading nation.  The UK also has a worldwide reputation as a beer-loving nation, and on Saturday 17 June the former Carlsberg Tetley factory rang with a chorus lamenting the changing communities of the Royal Docks and the challenges they faced.

This strange and wondrous performance was the product of a partnership between Annie Freud and composer Benjamin Tassie. Annie wrote a text that responded to the area and the physical state of the building and Benjamin added the musical score. Together they created re-imagined layers of history, performed by Musarc, a choir dedicated to investigating city spaces through untraditional forms of music.

Access to the building was only made possible as it is currently undergoing a refurbishment project to turn it into a series of creative workspaces by The Mill Co. Project. They commissioned architects SODA to help them transform the spaces and a lot of work has already been done to clear out debris and asbestos. However, the spaces are still very raw and the walls bear the scars of the buildings former use and subsequent decay. SODA led tours of the factory to the audience who were then treated to three performances in very different spaces within the building. The final piece culminated on the top floor with views out to the Greenwich Peninsula, the Millennium Dome and the Emirates Airline, a view that the original dockworkers could hardly have ever anticipated.

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