It’s with excitement that I write this blog on the eve of my final days at Déda after 16 years of service. I’m moving on to start another chapter of my working life as a freelance arts and cultural consultant and producer.
This blog is for me to share some of the reflections of things I have been involved with during my time at Déda and to help me with the grieving process that will inevitably arrive after I walk out of the building on my last day.
So, where to start... How about some highlights from each of those 16 years? Well here goes!
2007 – Producing the Launch of the then Westfield Shopping Centre. Two-day extravaganza of all thing’s community dance. Learning who was who in the dance world in Derby.
2008 – The Big Dance. Producing a week-long celebration of all things dance in Derby, which I missed the delivery of as I was off having a baby!
2009 – Founding the Déda Academy. Still going strong today, this programme was designed for 18 months – 18 years aimed to provide a ladder of opportunities for children and young people to learn, create and perform dances.
2010 – A Festé Flash Mob to remember! Déda|Artist Katie Green transformed Derby Market Place into a disco dance floor. Katie choreographed this energetic performance which was danced by eight regional dance artists and many members of the Déda Academy and community. We encouraged people to dig out their dancing shoes, fling on their flares and strut their stuff in the biggest outdoor disco Derby had ever seen! I also set up a new advanced youth performance company for Déda – Bounceback.
2011 – Save Déda Campaign – Sad but true, all our creative efforts were put into saving the organisation as funding cuts were announced. These included a flash mob outside a Derby City Council Cabinet meeting. It worked, and we are still here today 12 years later! We also developed Games Time Skegness, as part of the Igniting Ambition Programme for the East Midlands Cultural Olympiad for which I was Outreach Manager.
2012 – A big year for me as Outreach Manager responsibilities continued with Games Time in Northampton, Loughborough and Derby, with a community cast of 120 people in each location we smashed our overall audience targets with an estimated total of 49,000 people seeing the show. It was great to be doing something so amazing as part of the Cultural Olympiad celebrations for London 2012. Alongside this, Bounceback did an amazing project with Tom and Tia Dale and Sinfonia Viva. Together they created a new version of The Rite of Spring, which was performed at the Derby Assembly Rooms with a full orchestra and then again as part of U.Dance National at The South Bank Centre, London.
2013 – I spent most of my time designing and developing a BA Honours Dance Degree with colleagues from the sector and from the University of Derby. Having achieved validation for the course I went on to recruit the first cohort for the degree itself.
2014 – Two of Déda’s Youth Performance companies were selected for U.Dance National in Nottingham – Javaani and Derbyshire Youth Dance Company. Lots of building work took place at Déda whilst we created a new dance and aerial studio and learning suite out of 3 squash courts. AND finally, the launch of the new Dance degree programme in the September of 2014.
2015 – We did a very fun community project with Dance 4 and New Art Club called Hercules, performed at Derby Theatre in May of that year. Then two of our youth performance companies, Bounceback and Derbyshire Youth Dance Company were selected for the National Youth Dance Festival, U.Dance Plymouth. I even got to see both companies perform at the Plymouth Theatre Royal on my birthday!
2016 – We completed our first year of our Creative Arts Employer Academy for BTEC Performing Arts students at Derby College. This provided the students with valuable work experience as well as talks from the Dance Development and Learning Team.
2017 – Was one of the best Festés ever with students and community participants taking part in Artonik’s - Colour of Time and the Garba in Derby Market Place with hundreds of people dancing together to celebrate Navrati. We also began a three year Start Project with Artcore involving three city primary schools and a three-year Creative Living Project for people aged 50+ also with Artcore in several community locations across the city. In addition, we also began our work with Derby City Council on the Dance Active Programme, using dance as a means of falls prevention and on All Dance with Derbyshire County Council.
2018 – 19 - Derby’s Cultural Education Partnership (DCEP) in association with Derby County in the Community Trust and Derby Sport Forum, were successful in their tender for £1 million to deliver an Essential Life Skills project in the most disadvantaged areas of Derby (funded by the DFE via the Derby Opportunity Area). The project, called This is Derby ran for a whole year and included Déda delivering sports and arts activities in Derwent and Chaddesden. The project helped young people develop skills and attributes such as confidence and resilience. Déda also delivered a project based around the STEAM agenda (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) in three Derby Primary Schools in partnership with Rolls-Royce Plc and Matt Pang from Pangottic.
Déda celebrated 20 years of being in our building on Chapel Street and we marked this with a wonderful Twenty event. I also became chair of Hubbub Theatre Company.
2019 – Building on the success of This is Derby, the Cultural Education Partnership were successful in obtaining funding from Arts Council England for a 3-year programme, which became known as Reimagine, working with children and young people in disadvantaged areas of Derby to upskill them in performance skills and performance making. We had a great Festé in 2019 with Full Moon Friday featuring Hubbub Theatre Company’s wonderful One Moon Community Project.
March 2020 - The Covid 19 Pandemic hit. We cancelled all our in-person delivery and went into hibernation. We (DCEP) managed to produce Reimagine 2020, an online creative development opportunity for young people.
2020 – 21 - Culture Recovery Fund application & success for Déda and Hubbub. Déda on Demand call out, artist selection and filming. Déda’s online class programme began in November 2020.
2021 - 22 - We explored possibilities for formal Dance Education at Déda for 14+, and the Déda Campus created. Déda on Demand was released in September and Choreo-Lounge, an artists’ CPD programme in the form of a micro-credential pilot ran in the summer 2022. Building back the class programme and outreach activity has been a major endeavour post Pandemic. I am proud to say that we now have 25 adult and 18 Academy Classes on our programme and between us all we have reached approximately 400,000 participants through Deda’s various community, outreach, and education programmes over the past 16 years.
Alongside all of this I started to develop my own creative projects outside of Deda. I created Art Share Crich and developed a Community Art Sharing in 2020, 2021 & 2022.
I applied for and was accepted on the UK Creative Community Fellows Programme with Derby Museums. This was the second cohort and consisted of fellows from all over the UK meeting online to learn together. We then attended a 4-day residential in Yorkshire, where we had the opportunity to learn from mentors, speakers, and peers, and then again in 2023 I had the opportunity to attend a retreat in Maryland, with National Arts Strategy (NAS) USA, and met many more Creative Community Fellows from the wider NAS network.
Being a part of the Culture Reset and UKCCF/NAS programmes created a paradigm shift in my view of the process of cultural production in terms of why we do it, who we do it with, where we do it and how we do it. As such I am now ready to take the next step in my career and become a freelance arts and cultural consultant and producer.
I am grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way through Déda. I am also so very grateful for all the support that I have been given by colleagues from both inside and outside Déda over the years and am looking forward to building upon these relationships for many years to come.