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2021 highlights at Greenwich's Old Royal Naval College
Painted Hall ceiling (detail), Sir James Thornhill, 1726. Photo: Courtesy Old Royal Naval College.

GREENWICH.- The Old Royal Naval College will safely welcome visitors back in 2021 once they are allowed to reopen, with amazing events, from the return of sell-out sculptural installation Gaia to an art and illustration exhibition by Nick Ellwood and the extension of Black Greenwich Pensioners.

After a sell-out display in Summer 2020, UK artist Luke Jerram’s monumental sculpture Gaia will return in 2021. Made using NASA imagery, this internally-lit sculpture is a scale replica of Earth, which will slowly rotate in the magnificent Painted Hall, instilling a sense of the ‘Overview Effect’ on viewers. The 7-metre-tall art installation will inspire awe and allow audiences to view the planet as though from space.

Uncovering the rich and fascinating past of Black mariners in the Royal Navy and Greenwich, Black Greenwich Pensioners, which was co-curated by British Black heritage expert S. I. Martin, is being extended. This vital exhibition, which opened in October 2020, explores the Black seamen who worked in the Royal Navy and retired in Greenwich, from John Simmonds, a veteran of the Battle of Trafalgar, to Briton Hammon, the author of the first ‘slave narrative’ and significant contributor to the Abolition movement in the UK. The closing weekend will see performances of award-winning British-Nigerian playwright Adeola Solanke’s Phillis in London. The play follows Phillis Wheatley, the first Black poet published in English, on her 1773 visit to London and the Painted Hall.

Award-winning illustrator Nick Ellwood, whose wonderfully mischievous drawings feature in the Painted Hall Family Trail, will have an exhibition from March – September 2021, Mischief and Misadventure: Exploring the history of the Old Royal Naval College with award-winning illustrator Nick Ellwood. Original artworks and illustrations from his booklets, inspired by the art in the Painted Hall, will be on display, featuring tales astronomers, architects, royals, gods and goddesses and figures from the navy. Running alongside the exhibition will be drawing workshops for children and adults, interactive and digital demonstrations and the launch of a new Old Royal Naval College activity book available from the Painted Hall shop.

Coming this Spring is Up, Down & Beyond from award-winning performer Laura Mugridge. Take a walk around the grounds with Mugridge as stories drawn from people connections to the Old Royal Naval College unfold around you. Along the journey there will be music, comedy, stories and the walk will end with a silent disco.

Families will have a cracking time exploring an adventure-filled Easter Egg trail through the grounds in April. Inspired by the incredible surroundings and the naval history of Greenwich, the Easter Egg trail will see children embark on a quest to solve clues and find letters spelling out a winning word for a prize Easter Egg.

The Old Royal Naval College summer festival series sees the grounds and buildings brought to life with spectacular events including the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF) and Luna Cinema.

Immerse yourself in the stunning artworks and history of the Painted Hall from home with the Old Royal Naval College’s free virtual tour, narrated by Game of Thrones and Belgravia star Tara Fitzgerald. Users will be able to zoom in and explore the space in 360-degree high resolution images, guided by Fitzgerald’s calm, distinctive voice. The digitisation of the Painted Hall allows online visitors to experience it in an innovative and accessible way, with a customisable version with British Sign Language available.

2021 promises to be a great year with fun events for all the family; with a wide-ranging offering including art, culture, history, outdoors and great food and drink the Old Royal Naval College really does have something for everyone with its permanent site only enhanced by this amazing programme. Events will be subject to government Covid-19 restrictions.

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