LIFT - a brief history in four words


How does one become an internationally innovative Festival for Theatre and Performance ? Well, let us introduce ourselves: we are LIFT and since 1981 we have been bringing the Stage onto the Streets of London, breaking some boundaries along the way. This is a brief history of us in four words.

LIFT's artists become explorers of the city, telling stories about borders and boundaries, audaciously taking risks and changing out landscape so that we see it anew. We explore the definition of London as a world city, revealing a fresh perspective on what is already there, rather than creating anything 'new'. Finally, we focus on London's role as a free city which can connect countries - a natural meeting point.
...International festivals shouldn't just tell us about the world; they should tell us more about the city in which we live. Our Productions made London their stage, exploring abandoned buildings, shopping centres, parks, the zoo, streets, churches, allotments the sky and power stations.

The Sky doesn't always need to be the limit.In July '11 Londoners awoke to the sound of music emanating from the skies, as The Sky Orchestra flew over the capital to celebrate LIFT's 30th birthday

Bureaucratic troubles never stopped LIFT from playing with Fire (okay, sometimes it nearly did). We always had a particular inclination towards risk-taking performances - and Fires, meaning that sometimes we'd have to put as much creativity into finding the loopholes, as into the production itself...

LIFT launches its 6th Festival with spectacular Fireworks at the abandoned River Banks - which would 7 years later become the grounds for the Tate Modern.

What's your favourite LIFT moment @liftfestival "An angel put his finger on my lips in the tower Project in 1999"

The urgency to share global stories was LIFT's first seed; From our founding mother's first trip to Poland onto our more recent engagement with artists from the middle east, we have gained an understanding of the world through the prism of theatre...
...LIFT stories run parallel with historic events; the break-up of Yugoslavia, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 'handover' of Hong Kong, the conflict in the middle east. - We have often been taking great risks in seeking out productions, many of which convey a politically charged sense of what it is like to live in a war-torn or oppressive regime, in order to give space to those, which are oppressed in their own countries.
With our mission statement to seek out radical productions from companies all over the world, LIFT was often the first to show pioneering thinkers of theatre & performance to London, such as Robert LePage or Handspring (Warhorse), establishing them as international artists
In the spirit of true Festivals we don't only create space for Performance but consequently, also for its audience. Theatre brings people together. The artists we have worked with recognise theatre as a medium for creating a shared language of imagination that can cross cultural barriers using the melding stories to trigger unique relationships. 

What's your favourite moment @liftfestival "Life Streaming in 2012: Sir Lanka on the Southbank. A world/ a whisker away"

And finally Theatre. But what is Theatre anyway? What can it be, and for whom? These questions lie at the heart of LIFT and helped us to reinvent what it means to make theatre - breaking some boundaries every now and then...

Whats your favourite Moment @liftfestival "2012: sitting rapt for 8 hours of Gatz, then feeling like I'd emerged from a dream"

Remembering "Oraculos": ‘the theatrical equivalent of a spiritual sauna’

We consulted everything from giant Puppetry up to living strip-cartoons, to re awake the streets; To lightly sprinkle (or heavily drape) the public with the magic of Theatre. 
Turn To The Audience: The Art of Immersion
Reinventing theatre meant to reinvent the Performer - and the Spectator. Whether in the individual journeys through a labyrinth, with a new haircut, or in the leading role of a live streaming event, LIFT has turned to its audience in order to transform ideas about conventions, audience participation and community involvement.
Credits: Story

LIFT 2014 Supporters
Principal Supporters:
Arts Council England
Lottery Funded
British Council
EU Culture Programme
14-18 Now
Heritage Lottery Fund

The Keir Foundation
Flanders Fits You
Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation
Japan Foundation
Goethe Institut
Jerwood Charitable Foundation
The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany London
Kingdom of the Netherlands

LIFT 2012 supporters
Thank you to all our supporters and partners who enable LIFT to deliver a diverse and dynamic festival.


Arts Council England
Mayor of London

The Keir Foundation
Arts Victoria
Australian Government
Australian Council
British Council
EU Culture Programme
Time Out London
Saatchi & Saatchi Vintage
London Thames Gateway Foundation
Grange Hotels
Hackney The Rumi Foundation
Peyton and Byrne

Contemporary Myths - a project by Visiting Arts
Coutts Charitable Trust
Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation
Julia Rowntree
The Funding Network
The Tunisian Ministry for Culture
The Leche Trust
Goethe Institute
The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
And the host of generous individuals who have supported us.

Directors Circle:

Kate & Paul Brundage
Judi Caron
Lily & Julian Harriss
Lydia Lee
Gerard Lemos & Paul Crane
Theresa Sackler
Alisa Swidler
Jay Verjee

And all the LIFT Board:
Bernard Donoghue (Chair)
Pat Brown
Jo Burns
Manisha Ferdinand
Craig Hassall
Phillip Keir
George Kessler
Karen Napier
John newton
David Phillip

LIFT works in association with WWF-UK


Battersea Arts Centre
British Council
Brighton Festival 2012
Delfont Mackintosh Theatres
Fairfield Halls
Gate Theatre Notting Hill
GDIF 2012
Hackney Empire
National Theatre
Norfolk & Norwich Festival
People's Palace Projects
Riverside Studios
Royal Shakespeare Company
Shoreditch Town Hall
Stratford Circus
Southbank Centre
Without Walls
The Women's Library
Young Vic

Imagine 2020 - LIFT is committed to developing a festival which promotes sustainability and minimises its environmental impact. This guides all of our activities, from ensuring the organisation is resource efficient to sourcing and creating our productions responsibly and working with staff, partner venues and suppliers to reduce the environmental impact of LIFT.

To see a complete listing of our supporters please visit

LIFT outside the festival supporters
We'd like to thank all our supporters:

Shoreditch Town Hall
Arts Council England
National Lottery Fund
European Culture Programme
Trust Greenbelt
Royal Parks
Seven Dials Trust
Paternoster Square Management Limited
Boat Magazine
Hofesh Shechter Company
Culture Company 2013

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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