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GIFT Festival makes a return to Gateshead

Barbara Hodgson welcomes the news that GIFT is making a comeback so get set to enjoy another mixed bag of treats

Kate Craddock who co-devised the GB Project and stars in it
Kate Craddock, director of Gateshead International Festival of Theatre

Theatre-lovers are in for another free GIFT this summer as organisers announce the return of a popular festival.

Gateshead International Festival of Theatre will be back for the fourth year this May, building on past successes with a wider spread of innovative ideas and must-see performances.

From the inaugural event, which set about bringing a mix of international, UK-wide and locally-based theatre to the town centre streets and venues – basically anywhere other than a theatre – GIFT has grown in size and prestige.

Delighted organiser Kate Craddock said: “I am thrilled that GIFT will be taking place again this year.

“We are moving our activity further into Gateshead than ever before, with performances taking place at Caedmon Hall and Shipley Art Gallery as well as our regular venues St Mary’s Heritage Centre and The Central.

“There will also be a range of sited performance works again across Gateshead.”

The festival, which is seen as a creative and cultural response to the ongoing redevelopment of the town centre and connects with the regeneration on the Gateshead Quayside, returns from May 2-4 with performances, workshops and discussions taking place at various locations.

Celebrating contemporary theatre, it’s also becoming an important platform for new theatre-makers in the North East as well as showcasing the work of students and recent graduates of performing arts courses through a strand called GIFTed.

This year there will be a special one day GIFTed workshop led by a York-based duo 70/30 called Split which will include a short performance created for the main May 2 launch event.

Among the upcoming festival highlights will be Spanish artists Atresbandes who played a part in the 2012 festival and return to Gateshead with their new piece Locus Amoenus; Peter McMaster with his award-winning all-male version of Wuthering Heights; Nic Green’s Fatherland which is described as harrowing and beautiful; and Cape Wrath - billed as an epic journey in a stationary minibus - by Third Angel’s Alex Kelly, which enjoyed a sell-out run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Kate said: “It is such a privilege to be working with such a range of brilliant and pioneering artists and I am delighted to be bringing this work to the North East for the first time.

“GIFT really aims to develop both artists and audiences, through offering a programme of professional development workshop activities, alongside a programme of performance work that is unique in the region as well as free events suitable for people of all ages.”

Among the venues joining in this year will be the Little Theatre near Saltwell Park, with one-woman performances on the Sunday by Jo Hellier around a series of conversations with her Grandfather. The piece, 97 Years, will invite the audience to help decipher a confused mind as, with live audio and video manipulation, Jo picks through a rollercoaster of memories.

Lovers of live music and dancing, meanwhile, might want early notice of the festival party being planned on the Saturday night in The Blue Room at The Central bar.

Kate added: “I really believe that it has something on offer for everyone in Gateshead.”

For the full festival line-up keep an eye out at www.giftfestival.co.uk

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