Award-winning Shuffle Festival launches science programme with support from the Wellcome Trust
Shuffle Festival returns to London's East End to present five days of arts and science events, supported by the Wellcome Trust. The festival will transform the landmark Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park from 30 July to 3 August with an innovative programme centred around the city, nature, death, love and survival.
Visitors to Shuffle Festival can explore London’s most urban woodland, an undiscovered oasis of nature and history. Together with two outdoor cinemas and live music, the event will also host comedy acts, an outdoor swimming pool, a short film competition run by film-maker Danny Boyle, a pop-up restaurant, a free 500+ Village Feast (with fresh fish from SoleShare – London's first community-supported fishery – and free-range chicken from Kentish Rangers), art installations and more.
The unique ecosystem of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park includes a wealth of plant life rarely seen in London. Shuffle has created a bespoke menu, with locally foraged ingredients and signature Shuffle drinks including a home-made cordial and a Shuffle Festival limoncello.
Danny Boyle says: "Shuffle is the most fun anyone can have in a graveyard in Mile End. It's going to be brilliant: outdoor film screenings, live music, a restaurant serving locally foraged food, and a fantastic programme of science events. The point of the festival is to help build a stronger community in East London and campaign for permanently affordable housing in the area, so please do come on by."
Throughout the festival, Jack Wolf and Peter Hudson’s innovative installation uses lightboxes to tell the history of botany. Using images from the Wellcome Trust’s archive that date back to the 1400s, lights will guide visitors through the woods in an interactive tour where smartphones become narrators.
On Saturday 2 August, an intimate, bespoke tour of the cemetery, a Voicewalk, will be run by Hearing the Voice. Guests will meet five people who hear voices when no one else does, with the voicehearers sharing their stories and experiences in the quiet of the woods.
Following the Voicewalk, the festival presents Shuffle Your Mind – a series of short films about altered minds, inner worlds and the limits of mental health. This is curated by Vaughan Bell, clinical psychologist at King's College London and the NHS, who will also be in attendance for post-film Q&As, alongside some of the film directors.
During the years in which the park was an open cemetery, there was a direct access gate leading to the mortuary from St Clement’s, the former psychiatric hospital and site of Shuffle Festival 2013. This year, the Lodge will host a photographic exhibition, The Demise of the Asylum, for the first time combining modern and historical photographs of the now abandoned St Clement’s site and the wild exteriors from Bethlem Royal Hospital (notoriously known as 'Bedlam'). On Sunday, Barbara Taylor, professor of humanities at QMUL, one-time resident of Friern mental hospital and author of 'The Last Asylum', will host a discussion on society’s approach to mental health treatment against the backdrop of the exhibition.
Throughout Sunday 3 August, the Wellcome Trust and Shuffle Festival present the Day of the Dead science fête, with a programme designed to tickle and tantalise the curious, and explore the inevitability of the unknown.
Sanctuary Wood provides a unique venue for theatre, with sections of Kandinsky Theatre Company’s new work, Still Ill, performed among the trees. Taking as its starting-point the fact that the NHS is the only institution to serve the entire East End, in all its diversity, Still Ill explores a sense of home found in the hospital.
Also in Sanctuary Wood, Cirque Bijou performs death-defying acts high among the treetops. In the afternoon, visitors can join a circus acro-balance workshop – for the ultimate test of strength, balance and trust – with professional circus performer, trainer and choreographer Lucy Francis-Litton. Dr Liz Wickham performs Cloudswing – telling the story of The Mercury 13, pioneering female aviators in the 1960s who passed the same tests as their male colleagues but were stopped from becoming astronauts. Cloudswing shows a glimpse into the dream of space flight shared by so many, and considers the limits the body may achieve – or be allowed to achieve.
The short documentary Circosis explores the wonders of the human body through the breathtaking feats of the circus performer. A discussion will be held prior to the screening with film-makers and two circus performers, one of whom holds a doctorate in astrophysics and the other broke her back in the ultimate pursuit of daring and jeopardy. The discussion will centre on the minds of these performers, asking what compels them to consistently push their bodies and minds to the limit.
Old East Enders – Bow Geezers and Bow Belles – share their stories of east London’s colourful past, and of those friends laid to rest in the cemetery park, and Art Macabre will hold a session of life and death drawing at a secret location in the woods.
On Sunday evening, film-makers Danny Boyle (director of the Olympic Opening Ceremony) and Clio Barnard (the first BFI, Wellcome Trust and Film4 Screenwriting Fellow), present the Science and Imagination prize in Boyle’s inaugural short film competition.
Shuffle’s Artistic Director, Kate MacTiernan, says: "This year we take the cinema, theatre, kitchen and laboratory outdoors to Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. Check out our programme of weird and wonderful workshops, theatrical performances, school summer camps, film screenings and unique dining experiences. Come and explore this unique space, you never know what you may stumble on in the deepest, darkest woods…"
In 2013, Shuffle Festival was awarded the 'Cultural Excellence Award 2013' as voted by Time Out readers. The festival is about living in the city, in the best way possible. It's about the quality of spaces in the city and the connectivity of the people that exist in these places. It is about shaping an area for healthy, affordable living.
Born out of the Community Land Trust (CLT) – providing sustainable housing in urban areas – Shuffle is about bringing a sense of community back to London. Shuffle began in summer 2013 to create awareness of the UK’s first urban CLT, the former asylum of St Clement's Hospital. Shuffle secured the space as a cultural centre for Mile End.