4 min read
With a new financial year now in full swing, we’re reflecting on what the 2022-2023 period had in store for Cheshire Dance. Delighted to continue as a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) of Arts Council England – a role we have proudly undertaken for more than 3 decades – we have seen times change with many innovations and challenges. From Covid19 halting life as we knew it, to the explosion of ‘all things digital’ in wake of the pandemic that transformed (and continues to transform) the ways in which we can engage with dance, and now the cost-of-living crisis and the ongoing climate crisis.
However, one thing has always remained the same; Cheshire Dance’s mission to ensure that as many people as possible, particularly those facing inequality of opportunity and health as well as (for some) extreme financial pressures, can continue to engage in the artform that they love.
Over the past year we have been the catalyst for more than 54,000 dance experiences in the region; 22,000 of which formed part of Cheshire Dance’s Participation Programme and 32,000 as a result of our large-scale international dance and street arts festival, Now Northwich. In fact, across our programme, this has resulted in 35,000 experiences for young people, 12,000 for people with disabilities and 8,000 experiences for older adults.
Young people, older adults and people with disabilities are still our three key priority groups, along with our new initiatives in support of LGBTQIA+ communities and the #BlackLivesMatter movement through our Wildfire Rising Associate Artist Programme with our partners, Movema.
For the period 2022-23, we’ve continued to work hard to address systemic issues around inequality of health and opportunity in under-served communities right across Cheshire, with 92% of our participation programme focused on people with protected characteristics and/or from low socio-economic groups. We’ve also remained wholly committed to supporting artists across the region through hosting Dance Consortia North West.
Times have been – and continue to be – challenging, and artists (particularly freelance artists) are right at the forefront of these tough economic conditions. For this reason, during the cost-of-living crisis we’ve been providing as much subsidised training as we can to support our freelancers.
Over 40% of the artists that work with us have been awarded CPD bursaries and over 60 one-to-one artists surgeries have taken place to support dancers at varying career levels. We have done this because we recognise that without these artists, our work to reach these priority groups would just not be possible – and because the sector needs it in order to flourish.
Cheshire Dance is also delighted to report that we have nearly reached a full recovery in participation levels following the pandemic. Our sessions continue to be exceptionally well attended, with numbers hitting over 20,600. Thanks to our subsided sessions, 2022/23 output has not been affected by cost-of-living crisis and up to now, we feel that dance is proving resilient in these challenging times.
Most importantly though, we’re proud of the work we’ve done. There’s not only been our extensive programme of regular classes (and the emergence of new classes) for ages 1-89, but an immense array of projects that have worked exceptionally hard to reach all corners of the community.
To name just a few…. our Dance Artist in Residence programme ‘Wanna Dance?’ at Vivo Care Choices where we work with people with Profound Intellectual and Multiple Disabilities to find out how they like to dance; the Wildfire Rising Associate Artist Programme with our partners Movema to invest in global majority dance artists and address inequalities; Project #2 and our work with young LGBTQIA+ people exploring Queer Histories; our dance and education programmes in schools across Cheshire; our Creative Health Placement at the University of Chesters’s Faculty of Health and Social Care, which saw the department receive a ‘Nursing Times Award’; our Living Lives Together intergenerational research project at Belong Villages; our Spotlight Project to tackle mental health challenges in young people aged 11-18; our work with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust; our involvement in the Elders Festival at Storyhouse, our Young Producers programme, Now Northwich Festival….. and so many more.
Last but not least, we’re proud to continue to host Dance Consortia North West that brings together dance artists, companies, venues, universities and dance development organisations to collectively respond to the strengths, needs and specialisms of the region’s artists and organisations. It’s been particularly exciting to see the advancement of its Dance Research Programme with 14 commissions evolving from Rounds One and Two – and Round Three just beginning.
Without a doubt, the past year has been hugely busy and fulfilling with more exciting times ahead! However, it’s important to note that all this work would not have been possible without the support of our extended team of 45 freelancers, 30+ partner organisations, 36 volunteers and of course, our funders.
Our ongoing funding from Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation, our continued Service Level Agreement from Cheshire West & Chester Council, a significant Postcode Lottery Grant and support from tens of other organisations has helped us to not only reach more people, but has enabled us to contract high quality artists who have worked with us to bring high quality dance experiences into the lives of so many. Both Arts Council England and Cheshire West and Chester Council are investing in us beyond our annual funding agreements with additional project funding to support many of the initiatives mentioned above.
As always, thank you for supporting Cheshire Dance!