Category Archives: Dance

The Invisible Ones Are The Influencers For Those Who Are Always Visible. An Interview with Ffion Campbell-Davies

I had the pleasure of interviewing Multi-disciplinary artist Ffion Campbell-Davies recently. In this interview we will be talking all things arts, creativity, Identity and Wales.

Credit Vikki Marie Page

Hi Ffion, it’s lovely to meet you and to get the opportunity to pick your brains. So just to introduce yourself to our readers, please can you give them some background on yourself and how you define yourself as an artist?

I was born and raised in Wales and moved to study at London School Of Contemporary Dance, graduating in 2013. I have since worked in various avenues within the industry as performer, teacher and choreographer. Over the last 5 years I have been developing my own artistic practice and creating my own work as well as collaborating with other artists.

I term myself as a multidisciplinary artist as a few of my disciplines other than dance are at the core of my work. My self produced work cross pollinates with music production, text, voice, expressionism, exhibitionsim, dramaturgical principles and [more recently] visual & digital art.

Credit Celine Fortenbaucher

I am a co-founding member of all female company collective House Of Absolute; we are a diverse group of multidisciplinary females creating boundary crossing, politically active theatre, sight specific and digital movement, sound & visual works collectively and independently.

My work explores themes and subjects around psychoanalysis, gender, race and spirituality, working with experimental devices and the influence of ritual to dismantle conditions around definition, power and politics.

So moving to London from Wales to gain better opportunities in the arts seems like a common trend among young people. Why do you think that is and what can we do here in Wales to change that?

I believe Wales has a lot of resources within its artistic demographic, with multiple communities of various levels and spheres of skill and knowledge. I recognise that infrastructures have excluded and disabled social mobility for many communities in being able to exercise and contribute to the collective central culture of arts in Wales.

There are many conditions which are similar in all cities here in the UK, but I believe London has an effective fluency in generating micro economies for artists to exercise and contribute to the collective culture. There seems to generally be more structures in place for diverse sources of funding to support varying different artistic communities, where sub cultures are actually at the core of reinforcing and empowering the collective. Because of this naturally people of any socio economic background have more of an access point to engage in the artistic climate, with more spread for opportunity and information to be easily accessed.

It is difficult for communities/artists outside of the capital culture [in regards to Wales; the traditional welsh cultural agenda] to be part of the solution of development and empowerment when many organisations of funding, or spaces of information and power are gated for exclusive representatives.

I see diversity as a fertiliser for soil, just the same way varying different types of stimuli rapidly develop the neural connectors in our brain, we need constant interaction with varying different human beings of different traditions, sciences, arts and practices to fuel innovation. This is something London taps into very well, in which I believe people from all over the world are drawn to.

Traditions are never lost and I believe Wales has a wonderful opportunity to find synergy with its ancient history and the fertility of its vastly diverse origins to energise and activate all representatives in wales of all different cultural backgrounds to cross pollinate.

As you have mentioned whilst in London, you’ve been a member of the company ‘House of Absolute’ which combines various street styles alongside other styles of movement. How has Hip-Hop culture helped to develop you as a Contemporary artist?

Hip-Hop has been at the axis of my growth and development. It is one of the most iconic symbols for the term ‘contemporary’ quite literally it is with the times. Hip-Hop is not only a ‘style’ but also a culture and even a philosophy with which most people involved would say it is a way of life. Hip-Hop is a mode of resistance, a political instrument for reconstruction. It is one of the most influential cultures on the planet, because of its wealth of knowledge and teachings through trans-generational art, it is legacy.

It is a cultural library archive of the preservation of people of the diaspora, which houses many different languages of the body, many trans-migrational stories of the intersectionality between races and cultures, and serves as a global home for people of any origin to communicate through mind body and spirit.

Of recent years Hip-Hop ‘theatre’ has emerged as another form of innovation to supplement indoctrinated Eurocentric modalities of black box performative culture. The marriage of visual art, story telling, acting, poetry, immersive engagement, grime music and the genius of Hip-Hop movement language and musicality. This has had a great impact on transforming my perception of using theatre space as ritual, broadcasting cultural and ancestral presence.

Overall my support and mentorship has come from;
Dance communities and peers in the underground Hip-Hop scene,
Artist4Artist an organisation run by artists for artists 
Founding members and representatives of Sadler’s Wells Breaking Convention festival. 

Growing up in Cardiff, do you think there is a significant Hip-Hop scene here and what do you think can be done to help it evolve?

There is definitely a Hip-Hop scene in Cardiff, however maybe lacking a cohesive integration of the multiple layers and dimensions of inclusivity. It is important for artists of all practices, sectors, class and culture to be in dialogue.

For examples different Hip-Hop music and visual artists, writers, poets, event organisers, venues and dancers could have more consistent relations with each other. If there aren’t visible invites and hubs/centres for representation, cultural information remains fragmented, and the overall culture cannot develop infrastructures for impact. Funding is also at the core of this.

Credit Vikki Marie Page

I understand that a lot of your work uses Identity as a concept. When in WHO (2017), you said “#TheSystem and #Society do not provide space for authentic self”, what did you mean by that and do you still find it relevant today?

I do believe society has had a long term relationship with resistance to change, and the notion that homogeny is safe, difference is threat. I recognise the culture of duality that has been at play for a long while, and that at present we may be realising as a collective society in our need for each other, dependence and preservation as a whole, which is the acknowledgement of polarity and the active inclusion for unity.

We still seem to have many protected and guarded infrastructures which dictate our attention towards fundamentalism, with which any organically evolving contemporary innovations outside of societally validated constructs are met with fear, discomfort and rejection, unless it is something recognised and originated within elitist culture.

So to draw from these concepts and bring it into the personal sphere, I believe we as individuals have the capacity to re invent ourselves any way we choose, but at the cost of being questioned and challenged constantly by those who are still existing within societal constructs.

On the one side, anything foreign to those constructs causes great discomfort, essentially the unknown, an anomaly to which we feel out of depth with our relatability. On the other side there is fatigue; being misunderstood, misrepresented, displaced, excluded, silenced, ignored, isolated and questioned. For many that is a lived experience that is still happening today. I think these polarities exist everywhere because it is essentially to do with consciousness and perception.

I feel lots of things have become cataclysmic in our society of recent. People are really fighting for spaces to empower authenticity and difference. Actually pioneering companies and representatives look to bespoke and eclectic minority individuals for inspiration and influence. The invisible ones are the influencers for those who are always visible. For example if we’re talking about fashion and media, it’s everyday people who inspire and influence those making decisions on top about what gets modelled and represented.  

I still believe there are conditions we are pressured to obtain in the broader mainstream culture which restrict us, only validating and respecting things we are a custom too, things we are told and taught have value, anything outside of that does not posess the same power.   Things we do not understand, we do not like or we do not feel comfortable with we disregard. But authenticity, originality and honesty is so powerful, in the overall context of polarity, we as a society now are recognising we need these attributes, and we are seeing willingness for difficult and uncomfortable conversations in the wider culture.

In my perspective for the majority there’s still a lot of shame, fear and taboo around self expression, and this is what makes art so evocative. When many people feel the fear of judgment, they look to artists who do and say all the things most people are terrified to do, there is this sacred unspoken empathic emancipation shared between artist and audience.  

You also spoke about the concept of ‘Mind, Body and Spirit coming together at a meeting point’ in an interview with Catch the Vibes last year. How does this psycho analysis come into the process of your making? Be that your movement or your other creative outlets?

It is particularly through the lens of dramaturgy that I get the opportunity through my work to investigate psychology. I often find that for performative works to have concrete coherence in how the work is experienced, there needs to be psychological integrity, either between the relationship of the performance and audience, or also the chronology of the work, and what the work is doing, what role it serves as an experience.

Quite often I have a focal drive to want to evoke and impact the audience in some kind of interpersonal way. In order to do that safely I really do need to understand the effect on myself of what I’m experiencing. The effect of the process, what psychological journey am I undergoing just to create the work, and then from that process constructing an infrastructure that allows me to guide the viewer into the areas of enquiry that exist in the work.

I work with all layers; the visual, the audible, the sensory, the intellectual, to find different ways of inviting my audience into the non verbal conversation between spectating, listening and actively responding. Regardless of how big or small those social queues are, we all feel it when an audience collectively holds their breath at a certain point, sometimes its the silence that communicates consent, or the twitch or cough coming from the upper left auditorium, we know that particular person just non verbally objected ‘subconsciously’.

If it’s an immersive work, there are other dimensions at play, with proximity being a massive psychological conversation. There is our body language and our power dynamics; whether an audience member sits on the floor cross legged, or stands right behind me, we have varying different capacities of what access points we have to a psychological dialogue. And then I wonder which way can I communicate this performance. Of course eye contact and touch being the most dynamic contributions. 

All of these elements play a vital role in my process, and its why ritual is such a pivotal instrument for creation in my work. Ritual allows the mental/psychological space to be more transient, meaning I can access the collective mental space with the openness and safety of a held experience set by intentions. This naturally propels the willingness of an audience to be vulnerable with me in the conversation, allowing for suppleness and great changes to occur in perception.

Performance work is always a conversation for me, it’s not about interrogating my own psychology to create work, it is about really understanding psychology to execute distinct forms of communication between my work and the audience. To do that effectively I need to understand a great deal of my own psychology. I feel that’s where the freedom to shift perception and rewrite history comes from, the game changers who change the world through art.      

Credit Vikki Marie Page

How has lockdown affected you as an artist? And also what long term effects, do you see Covid-19, having on your artistic practise?

Covid has given me the opportunity to redefine my priorities, values, boundaries and reinforce my principles. I have had to question my purpose beyond the industry, and become aware of areas that I have not developed and the areas which I have neglected in myself.

This time has also allowed me to rediscover a new way of living, a new way of working and a new way of communicating. I have had many moments of exhaustion, overwhelming bewilderment and uncertainty, but none of these feelings are new to me, in fact the last two years have been so groundbreaking’ly challenging that lockdown was like a breeze. The political and economic climate however has had a great impact on my perception of reality and my stability within that. But it’s the sense of community that has become more evident during this time for me, with a beautiful anchoring in the various relationships I have with people that have grown deeper and stronger during this time.  

Following on from that actually, how has lockdown affected you personally? I recognise that we often separate performers from people and that needs to be raised.

Lockdown has allowed me to journey inwards with a great deal of introspection and time to reconstruct myself from the core. These are elements I do practice, however there is never usually time to really uncover the uncomfortable subconscious patterns that need redefining, when I am moving from one project to another with usually no recovery time.

Although challenging, I have been able to sit with myself and confront difficult things and rewrite those narratives.
I have also been able to connect with people I would have never usually connected with prior to Covid, simply because online networking is far more direct and immediate. Fundamentally I have been able to slow down and have moments of stillness and solitude, amongst the chaos.

I’m a big fan of the ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ podcast and something they do on each episode is ask their guest “If they were in government as an advisor for their specialist field, what would be the first change that they would make?”
So I’d like to ask you, if you were an advisor/ representative for the Arts sector, what would be the first change that you would make?

I would want to change the ‘perceived’ division between economy, finance and the arts. I believe so many fundamental movements within history and society sit on a large library of knowledge in strategy, financial infrastructures, economic preservation, assimilation as well as generational business modes that support successful agendas in all industries.

Often even the simplest areas for accessing training in these fields are seen so far removed from the arts. Educational models are often attuned to industries regarded superior, operating purely from strategic principles within business sectors.

We as artists have major blind spots because of the lack of accessibility to especially tailored training schemes, courses, workshops that provide tools within understanding the financial politics of the arts and its economy. We are unhealthily dependant and unempowered to a degree with previous models such as Arts Council funding applications being the main and only doorway for many. Yet this cannot guarantee long term support and struggles to give artists/companies/organisations stabilised independent agency over their future careers. I’m sure at some point in time we have all witnessed the impact of funding cuts for companies/artists, resulting in the immediate amputation of their capacity. Funding has already been challenging particularly for individuals outside of certain socioeconomic class groups and artists who haven’t had the opportunity to generate credibility with sponsors or funding audiences. Many artists with an excellent capacity are unable to generate work at the rate of their potential. This is debilitating and capping our capacity for genius as an overall industry, only select few names get to exercise their worth. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say a great deal of artists do not get the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding on modes of financial strategy in relation to the artistic climate.

I’m not saying we all as artists need to study business and finance, because often all of that knowledge is difficult to contextualise in specific relations to the neurodiversity of an artist and the unprecedented lifestyle that an artist might live. But what I am aware of is the benefit of having specialists within business, economy and finance working with artistic representatives to establish an access point hub for freelance artists/organisations and younger generations educated to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to create financial and economic engagement, allowing agency and fluidity within their artistic career.

We as artists promote ourself like business products, we sell ourselves through business models, but if we are to now look at the future of the arts industry, the greater economy an it’s impact on the rest of the world we need to be equipped with the tools to know how to adapt, preserve and not only survive but thrive as artists. I do feel such aspects should be addressed and mandatory within the training of an artist, not just be trained on how to become an artist.

In order to create powerful art that actually has long lasting impacts on humanity and society in the evolution and rewiring of the human conscious, we need money, and we should be educated about how we can generate that independently.
We see the value in funding science, it shouldn’t be any different for the arts.

So to conclude, Is there anything that you’re currently working on or anything that you’d like to highlight/ share with our readers?

I’ve been refining and redefining the development of my personal practice, which has felt like a monster to tackle as I exist in multiple sphere’s of discipline. Looking at the intersectionality of where a process begins and ends and where meeting points bridge between one discipline to another within the practice. How voice informs the body and vice versa, and also how multiple forms of conditioning/training practices converse/overlap or contradict within the body. What technique do I hold onto and what do I let go of.

In the productivity of what I’m currently working on is a body of work that holds both my music identity and my visual art and movement identity. I’m generating a portfolio which involves self produced songs with the layers and the depth that I would usually engage with in my conceptual theatre work. Looking at how I can make my approach to music production more performative, and have my body as equally a visible voice as my lyrics and my singing. I’m wanting to use the medium of music and song composition to speak on behalf of things I would usually devise and create dance theatre. I want to present narratives both through live art and digital where the boundaries and cultures blur between music gig and dance theatre. I will be supported by Kaunstrum Gallery to create and present an exert in the autumn.

Aside from that I am collaborating with musician Soweto Kinch for a conceptual music video, and composing/producing/researching with Isaac Ouro-Gnao and Tyrone Isaac Stuart for a production called the Oreo Complex.

Thank you ever so much for your time Ffion, it’s truly been a pleasure talking to you.

Mymuna Soleman and The Privilege Café

Hi Mymuna great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hi Guy thank you for this opportunity, my name is Mymuna, I’m of Somali origin and was born and bred in Cardiff, Wales. I have a huge passion for equality and diversity but most importantly equal representation for Muslim women of colour like myself. I studied Health and Social Care at undergraduate level and my Master’s in Public Health; both obtained from Cardiff Metropolitan University.

I set up The Privilege Café as soon as we got into Lockdown as I was frustrated with the lack of diversity and couldn’t express myself as a woman of colour in spaces filled with privilege.

To date, I’ve facilitated 10 sessions on Zoom covering various themes including mental health, ‘unconscious’ bias and privilege in the recruitment process. The level of engagement has been incredible and the speaker’s insight knowledge and expertise have brought nothing but positivity to all those who have attended the sessions. I’m truly greatful to everyone who has been part of this learning and growing journey with me; Diolch o galon.

The Café is an open to all, its a safe space for all to engage, learn and to use their privilege for good.

 As you have mentioned you run The Privilege Café, the Café is advertised as a place to discuss all things privilege. For those who have not yet attended how would you best describe the Café and its work?

I would describe the virtual Café as a safe, open forum whereas you say we discuss privilege among other topics which to date since starting on April 20th this year have included mental health and privilege, language and linguistics, ‘unconscious’ bias and various others. I created the Café as I was frustrated with this whole ‘systems’ approach which is very formal, agenda-based and wanted the Café to be the opposite of that. Once I decide on a theme and a title for discussion, I put out a call out on social media for anyone interested to speak for a 10-15 mins or so and then open it out for open questions and discussions. Like I said it’s a very informal space so anyone is welcome to come, learn and discuss ‘difficult’ topics but most importantly how people can use their privilege for good.

To discuss specifics White Privilege is an overarching topic in every Café. Why is this such an important area of discussion in the Café?

I think the words white privilege hold a very strong and weighty meaning for so many people not just people who are non-white. White privilege is a difficult concept to take on board and is not something you can pinpoint onto one individual. The unearned privilege or superiority white skin gives people is wider and deeper than something a lot of people deem to be ‘individual finger pointing’, you know the whole ‘I’m not racist’ sentence which usually takes up the space where more meaningful conversations could be had. This is why I have the mindset that white privilege will not be tackled in one session or ten sessions, but that it is the foundation and base of all conversations had at the Café. Positive mindset change takes time and it would be disingenuous and frankly hypocritical if I expected people to come one session and then I ‘ticked off’ the white privilege element. White privilege is a deep thread embedded in society and the same goes for the café. That thread will be untied, hopefully, through various discussions, themes, conversations and questions as the café evolves.

The Café is a space where contributors can share real points or lived experiences that many people find difficult. The Cafe is a safe space for these conversations. As the meeting host you frequently state it’s OK to ask questions. How did you decide how to format the Café and the conversations that take place there?

Its always OK to ask a question in my view, the Privilege Café being on Zoom doesn’t make that approach any different for me. As I said above, I didn’t want to have a ‘format’ so to speak, it’s much more of a safe, open forum which naturally involves asking questions to learn and engage more. I feel that the more I reinforce that it is OK to ask a question, the less intimidated people feel and if that’s what it takes for me to help educate people then that’s what I’ll do. Learning is always a two process and open questions, for me, give that relaxed, open atmosphere which is part of the DNA of my Café.

Has this changed as the number of Café’s have increased and the number of your guests?

No this approach hasn’t changed nor has it impacted the number of guests. I guess the more guests there are as in speakers the less time to answer questions but again I try to answer as many questions as I can though the chat as well as the open forum discussions with the help of my incredible speakers. The number of panel members really does depend on the interest after I put the call out and so again this reinforces my approach for my Café to be very informal, space and open to all.

During Lockdown the murder of George Floyd and worldwide public demonstrations under the Black Live Matter movement have highlighted institutional racism, inequalities and discussion around Privilege. Do you feel The Café has a role to play in tackling some of the areas above?

Yes, I feel the Privilege Cafe does have a role to play in terms of raising awareness of the issues you raised in the question and it is the exact reason why I created the Café in the first place. I felt that these topics were always seen as ‘add-ons’ in every space I went to and they were always on the ‘menu’ until I as the only person of colour the  majority of the time brought them up during discussions and so with The Privilege Café I hope these issues are on the table and open for debate, discussion and hopefully positive change.  

I first became aware of your work in The Privilege Café on social media. I found the Café and format to be a revelation in terms of the conversations in which you could actively participate. You bring together a broad range of people, providing new perspectives and the opportunity to learn.  There has been a great deal of discussion during the Lockdown of a rejection of the “Old Normal” and embracing the “New Normal” For me personally discovering and attending the Cafes has been one of the most positive outcomes of Lockdown. Your attendance’s can be as high as 300 people, which is staggering. It’s evident your work is hugely important, what would you like to happen next?

Thank you for your comments and an excellent question. Ideally, I would like to take the virtual Privilege Café I have created online and take it offline, in the ‘real world’. I’d love to have a ‘Centre for Women’ where the Privilege Café takes up the main holding space. I’d love the Café to have separate rooms just like it does online where each room has a different speakers or panel members tackling a different theme each week. These rooms would cover topics similar to the ones I’ve covered on zoom which include mental health and wellbeing, education and employment.

Get the Chance supports the public to access and respond to arts activity, if you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

I would fund Somali folk dance classes as this is a huge passion of mine as a Somali-Welsh female living in Cardiff; a city with a huge Somali population, one of the oldest minority ethnic group in the UK. Somali folk dance is exciting, fun and most of all its an amazing way to keep fit and healthy; yet this is not included in the ‘arts’ in Wales and this needs to change.

During Lockdown a range of arts and third sector organisations and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working that you would like to highlight?

I don’t think there’s a particular way to engage or work with people, it’s about your network and how you use them wisely, transparently and honestly without trying to better yourself or achieve personal goals. I think what some organisations have found difficult is that they haven’t engaged as they should have prior to Lockdown and so now adapting to the new way of working has meant that those challenges will be that much harder. Advice I would give to these organisations is to be as honest as possible and openly admit that this is not tokenistic and that they haven’t done as well as they should have but this is the long term sustainable goal we want to achieve, oh and we will pay you for your time as we value your input.

Thanks for your time

Review Fy Ynys Las, Eddie Ladd, A Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and National Theatre Wales production in partnership with BBC Cymru Wales and BBC Arts

From one Country Bumpkin to another..

Eddie Ladd provided us with a virtual tour unlike any other. This captioned performance gave the audience an insight into Eddie’s childhood home and where she was residing for lockdown. By using a pre-recorded Zoom session, Eddie shared her screen as she looked back through images of her home, telling whimsical tales and allowing us to experience her nostalgia of her childhood with her.

Eddie sat in one corner of the screen, using the rest to direct us through her process of thoughts. By seeing her reactions to what was occurring on screen, the audience resonated with her and her experience of these events whilst still allowing us to create our own experiences of what was happening. She used layering of images in a stylistic way, much like how we would layer movement to create effect. A box of files also sat on the screen, organised by section into folders of Subheadings. This gave a very organic feel to the performance as was if she was flicking through her memories rather than watching a finished performance. By also using her dialect and country slang, all formalities of the performance were lost and hence it became a sharing, from one person to another.

The performance paralleled with Martin Parr’s exhibition “Martin Parr in Wales”. These snippets of images resonated with a sense of home and a resemblance to growing up on a farm (although mine was a sheep farm in Yorkshire). This is something I have never come across before. Through the familiarity of how ordinary farm life was and the niftiness of adaptations (using a soil filled bucket as a dumbbell), the piece really resonated with me and my lived experiences. It held truth and honesty about a simple life of living in the sticks, and especially highlighted how British farming has changed over the past decades and even more so the economic struggle of British Family farms today.

Not only did this resonate through farming life but also through the isolation of being in Lockdown and how it has affected our livelihoods as artists. The resilience needed to continue and adapt with the change happening all around us (and in Eddie’s case, with a fallen tree full of memories) was eminent as looked through past, present, and future obstacles. With comparative reflections of the events that occurred over time, Eddie used a mixture of light-hearted anecdotes and trivial props to provide a wonderfully human experience. This alongside the pulsating techno, carried us through a vast range of shared experiences whilst also gaining insight into Eddie’s creative process.

This piece was refreshing and an honest reminder of the beauty within simplicity and the importance of shared human experiences. And for that reminder, thank you Eddie, as it’s something we all need. Now more than ever.

Becky Johnson, GTC

Participatory Arts: Thinking Beyond Lockdown – Community Arts. Jên Angharad, CEO, Artis Community

Jên gave the presentation below as a part of the recent Zoom Participation Meetings. This meeting was supported by Art Works Cymru, NDCWales and Tanio. Thanks to Jên for sharing her statement.

Cyflwyniad Presentation: Participatory Arts: Thinking Beyond Lockdown – Community Arts. 18/06/2020

Bore da… good morning! Jên Angharad ydw i… I’m Jên Angharad… a year into my current post as prifweithredwr… CEO with a wonderful organisation that is Artis Gymuned – Artis Community.

Cyn i mi ddechre… before I begin… hoffwn jesd diolch i Guy, Lisa a’r partneriaeth, sy’ ‘di gwneud y sgyrsiau ‘ma’n bosib… ac am fy ngwahodd fel un o’r siaradwyr… I’d just like to say a big thank you to Guy, to Lisa and the partnership, that has made these discussions possible… and for inviting me to contribute as one of the speakers…. Diolch o galon!

So here we go…. Yn meddwl tu hwnt i lockdown… Thinking Beyond Lockdown … catapulting between what was…. what is … and what MIGHT be… at a time projecting into a future that is still unknown! Sounds like a dance improvisation to me! 

I’m not going to talk about the work that Artis did before lockdown, (perhaps you can visit the website if you want to know more about that – because beyond lockdown is of course, about our futures… the future of us… as creative, cultural organisations, of independent artists… the future of us as a practice… and the future of us as a community of practice that includes the people who we are building relationships with and people who we’ve yet to have the privilege of meeting, making and growing with…

A future that sits within a broader arts ecology, currently in crisis.

Mae ‘na fwy o gwestiynnau nag atebion… There are many more questions, than answers and so, I asked the Artis team and board, what are the questions they are asking about our future as an organisation and as part of a national practice beyond lockdown and I’m focusing this reflection on just some of the many questions they’ve shared with me!

So this is a collective effort that we can continue to explore further with our communities.

The first question is a big one! It asks for thoughts on how the community arts sector might navigate its way out of lockdown? This is probably a question many of us are trying to answer!

When we consider community arts as a sector, currently capsuled into zoom boxes and flat screens, I think navigation requires kindness, it requires us to take good care of our health and wellbeing and to support our colleagues and friends, so that we are then able to maintain good connections and support as best we can, the people in our communities who make and feed our collective creative practice.

Then I like to think that we can draw strength from being a community of practice that holds a common unity locally, regionally and nationally, we are after all a people practice. We are a community of improvisers, planners, dreamers, strategists, collaborators, communicators and engagers and isn’t it fantastic when we come together to share concerns, find solutions to puzzles and celebrate successes! Conversation platforms like this one are providing a space to reflect, share and learn… connecting, re-connecting and I hope, strengthening our collective knowledge, practice and passion into the future. The more we do this, the more we can feed a shared understanding and form a united voice, which I’m sure we can all agree, is needed if we are to convince the Westminster government, that the social and economic value of community and participatory arts, is crucial to the wellbeing of our both our current and future generations.

The next question asks… What impact can we have now, in the next few months and further ahead into the future? 

In Artis we’re learning through the stories of current lived experiences that in as much as it can never replace social 3 dimensional gatherings and interaction, we are making some difference to people who are engaging in our current digital, local doorstep drop offs, telephone conversations and posted activities… for some living in isolation and without access to digital technology, the non-digital activities provide a crucial connection with the outside world and that of their own imaginations.

Our digital activity has had a surprising impact, I think mostly on our own thinking about the possibilities that digital engagement can create!

The main driver for this development was an urgency…. a concern about how, during lockdown, we could possibly maintain a connection with the people who regularly take part in activities.

Refocusing practice into a digital domain is time-consuming work, but it’s worth it in terms of connecting people during social distancing, it means we can continue to employ freelance artists and we’re learning new skills!

But, if we are to survive beyond lockdown, we face an even bigger challenge and that is to add our voices to the voices of Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Government in influencing the thinking of the Westminster government… to call them to understand the need for and the benefits of, locally driven community and participatory arts experience… on health & wellbeing, on learning, on skill development, on identity, on our sense of place in this world, on our environment and on the economy and regeneration of communities. [These are] Community and participatory arts practices and experiences that are priceless and can be life changing.

Efallai mwy nag erioed… We now need perhaps more than ever, financial investment in the arts, and importantly, not just in the larger organisations, but in smaller companies and charities and independent artists who do incredible work in and with communities of people who can otherwise be invisible and feel the weight of injustices, amazing people who are entitled, after all, to explore a world of imagination, creativity and growth.

I attended an ArtWorks Cymru partners meeting yesterday to discuss the Parliamentary Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s call for evidence, of the impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors… the deadline is Friday – that’s tomorrow! ArtWorks Cymru is drafting a national response and if we can, as organisations and individuals also submit responses, however small, our national voice – our sector voice can be louder. Our immediate challenge is to convince the current powers that be, of our relevance. 

Projecting forward… Beth yw’r heriau… What are the challenges of facing a new and different future?

There are undoubtedly big challenges ahead, not only in the practicalities of coming out of lockdown, and transitioning into choreographed… physical… social… spaces, but also in how we approach this… mindful that social distancing, isolation, ill-health and grief will have impacted individuals in many ways and require sensitive approaches to re-engagement.

Lockdown has unearthed the ugly truths about inequalities and injustices in our society and in as much as the Artis vision is well intentioned, we, as an organisation need to question what we mean when we say:

Mae ein gwaith yn ceisio creu lle i bawb

I brofi rhyddid mewn creadigrwydd a grym i ddarganfod gwychder mewn dathliad o fynegiant artistig.

Our work seeks to create space where all people

find freedom in creativity and are empowered to discover great moments in a celebration of artistic expression.

If we truly mean ‘pawb’ … ‘all people’, then we must proactively change our focus towards areas and cultures we are failing to reach in the South Wales Valleys. We know that we can’t do this alone. We need to work together with organisations and individuals to achieve this.

The unknown is perhaps, for most of us an uncomfortable prospect. But I think if we look to our community and participatory practices, that are by their very nature, improvised, uncertain, adventurous, unexpected… we can remind ourselves, that we can call on these same resources to propel us forward into the unknown, knowing that our collective creativity and resilience will see us through.

Diolch am wrando… thank you for listening!

NDCWales creates live version of Ed Myhill’s Clapping with Company Dancers in Lockdown.

National Dance Company Wales has announced its next live streamed online premiere, Ed Myhill’s Clapping, which will unite Company’s dancers together in lockdown. 

Following the first ever Live Streamed dance performance of Alexandra Waierstall’s 2067: Time and Time and Time, NDCWales are again creating a Live Stream Online Premiere, this time Ed Myhill’s Clapping created via Zoom and broadcast on Facebook. Clapping will be bringing the dancers in lockdown together for a one-off live performance on Thursday 25 June 7pm. 

Clapping uses rhythm as a driving force. The dancers use lively movement and clapping to create a soundtrack for the fun and dynamic dance.

A few weeks ago, the Company created a short 1-minute Clap for Carers version, as a thank you to NHS, carers and support workers across the UK and beyond. 

Company dancer, Ed Myhill created the piece originally for National Dance Company Wales’ Alternative Routes in 2018, before it toured across Wales as part of the Company’s Routes tour in 2019. The extended version, Why Are People Clapping?! will be included in NDCWales’ tour of Europe in December 2020, and as part of its Spring UK repertoire in 2021. Following the 10-minute live stream performance on 25 June there will also be a live Q & A.

The broadcast is still available on Facebook on NDCWales’ Video channel here

From 8 June there will be classes for young people and those who have restricted mobility based on the dance piece, as well as an insight into the rehearsals process in two Open Rehearsals on Facebook and Instagram. Audiences will be able to join the Company on Thursday 11 and 18 June 2-2.30pm to watch how rehearsals are developing, plus an opportunity to ask NDCWales questions via comments on Facebook Live during the session. 

NDCWales wants to keep connecting to its audiences across Wales and the world, as well as engage with new audiences, many of whom many not have had the chance to experience Contemporary dance before lockdown.

Over the last eight weeks, NDCWales has been premiering many of its productions online for the first time for audiences to watch for free as part of its online programme KiN:Connected, including Afterimage (by Fernando Melo), Rygbi: Annwyl i mi/ Dear To Me (Fearghus Ó Conchúir) as well as a live streamed Zoom version of Alexandra Waierstall’s of 2067: Time and Time and Time where the dancers joined together to create a dance piece from isolation.

Associate Director, Lee Johnson said, “This uplifting dance piece is immediately relatable as you bounce from a tennis match to a rendition of Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes, to a dance-off, and from these into full-bodied, energetic & joyous dancing. The choreography is sophisticated and witty yet laidback and down to earth.

Full details of the KiN:Connected can be found at and on social media channels @NDCWales

Participatory Arts – Thinking Beyond The Lockdown. A Response From Kathryn Williams, Director Rubicon Dance and Tracey Brown, Mentoring, Training, Development Leader, Rubicon Dance.

In response to the lockdown triggered by COVID-19, many arts organisations have taken their work online, sharing content for audiences to view for free. However, creating participatory engagement online is much more challenging and, as a sector used to being face to face with people in their practice, it’s clear that the current restrictions change the nature of participatory arts based activity substantially.

Following a vital conversation on social media led by Guy O’Donnell, Learning and Participation Producer, National Dance Company Wales which opened a discussion on how we can deliver participatory arts effectively, a range of partners are collaborating to lead Zoom discussions for the sector where we can talk about the impact of the lockdown on our work and work creatively together to think beyond the lockdown.

In partnership with ArtWorks Cymru a series of free Zoom meetings have been set up to discuss and share current working practices in participatory delivery.

Thinking Beyond the Lockdown

These Zoom meetings will explore how we think beyond the lockdown. We’ll explore what the future might hold, what we might keep from our online experiences, and how we live with an uncertain future.

Tracey Brown, Mentoring, Training, Development Leader and Kathryn Williams, Director, Rubicon Dance Dance are presenting at the Dance focused Zoom meeting on Wednesday the 10th of June 3-5pm. 

Kathryn Williams, Director, Rubicon Dance is presenting at the Community Arts meeting organised by Tanio on Thu, 11 June, 2-3.30pm

The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Kathryn and Tracey share their biographies below and some information on of areas they will discuss at the meetings below.

Kathryn Williams

Rubicon’s Director since 2014, I studied Dance at Roehampton. My career has spanned IT, Finance as well as the Third Sector and the Arts. I have an MSc in Entrepreneurship, I’m a Lead Wales graduate and I’m also Wales’ first Pilotlighter.

I think that access to the arts is a democratic right and this very much spaces my approach to what I do. I’m also a School Governor, childcare campaigner, advocate for the arts and committed martial artist. I live in the former mining community of the Rhondda in South Wales with my husband and teenage sons.

Tracey Brown

Tracey has worked at Rubicon since September 1996 and her very first role was Dance Development Worker, leading dance sessions for a wide range of ages, abilities and backgrounds and contexts whilst setting up Rubicon’s development programme across Cardiff which initially targeted five key areas of the city.

Tracey now manages Rubicon CPD programmes, an annual summer programme for community dance practitioners from across Wales, an individual learning programme for Rubicon’s dance practitioners, the community dance apprentice training programme, mentor development as well as the Wales Wide Training Programme (WWTP).

Highlight’s for Tracey’s time at Rubicon includes the success and reach of the development programme, the Rubicon to Romania programme working with deaf children in Craiova, the community dance apprentice programme and the Wales Wide Training Programme! In 2017 Tracey won a Creative and Cultural Skills Council UK Award for her work with community dance apprentices.

Wales Wide Training Programme (WWTP)

At the Dance meeting Tracey will talk about the Wales Wide Training Programme (WWTP) which is an initiative that exists to support the development of community dance practice and provision across Wales. WWTP was established in 2013 with seven partners, all of whom were community dance/arts organisations. There are now seventeen partners from across Wales and these include venues and theatres, universities, national companies, colleges as well as the initial community dance and arts organisations. WWTP is steered by the partners who work together to design and organise training and professional development programmes that respond to sector-need.

The database is currently at 250 (it started with 40 in 2013) and includes a range of people from practitioners, apprentices, venue managers, health boards, arts organisations, freelancers and directors.

Challenges and solutions

WWTP is a programme that enables people who work in the dance sector to come together regularly and this takes place across Wales. There are currently twelve strands to WWTP and it was important to keep all of this work happening, especially as many of these strands take place more than once eg CPD days three per year across Wales. Initially when COVID-19 and lockdown began we were coming out of one year of funding and into another so the challenge was how the whole programme would be adapted in the new climate especially as both programmes overlapped. However we have adapted well and have re ordered the programme (May 2020-April 2021) and have met with partners and also practitioners from the database regularly via Zoom.

An Evaluation Forum that was scheduled for March 2020 (pre lockdown) and due to be led by Dr Susanne Burns was initially open to twelve people as this training is very tailored.

We have adapted this to have three Evaluation Forums on Zoom and they are open to eight people per session so our reach is higher, albeit online. The first two forums have already sold very quickly.

Another big challenge was thinking about the work force and that people will have less money than ever so it was important to offer a “pay what you can” approach. People have great trust and loyalty to WWTP and we feel that being fair to all is really important right now. WWTP is a training programme and no one should not sign up for events and CPD due to lack of finance or these people could de skill or lose confidence in a professional capacity quickly.

Further links

Wales Wide Training Programme Facebook Page

Meeting Minutes, Beyond The Lockdown
Wednesday 10th June 2020

44 Participants

Catherine Young – Dawns i Bawb –

Community dance organisation for North West Wales – all ages and abilities

Lockdown started early for them as much of their work is in care homes. Three weeks later all our programs were cancelled and the office was shut. We set up homeworking.

They put support in place straightway for the freelance team we work for, and honoured all the work they were contracted for.
Catherine’s been working on a contingency plan in place looking at financial scenarios for how the organisation can emerge from lockdown. The final scenario is beginning again in January – although if this is the case it will be very serious for the organisation.

They’ve had to consider all the programs we run and how they would adapt our work. Catherine created an online policy for staff. This was an important basis for their work.

They launched an after school program for schools and have launched a package which is paid for. The package includes a live session, a recorded session and a creative task. The first live session was a really successful event

Care home project / dementia project – they created online versions of the workshops we delivered. Talking to care home staff it was clear that participants couldn’t even leave their rooms. They looked at one to one sessions and got a grant to buy tablets that could enable this. They will be linking with Coleg Menai to create a buddy scheme with students and trying to link with families.

Catherine will look at fitness programs and schools work next. There still needs to be discussion about how these programs are shaped.

Catherine is keen to make their Christmas performance happen in some way as it’s a highlight for all their participants.
The lockdown has thrown up a lot of questions. We need to question what we take with us and what we leave behind.
This is an opportunity to make dance accessible to people who can’t attend in person, or aren’t confident to attend. DIB will definitely keep some online sessions.
But online is not accessible to some people – so they need to be mindful of this and keep exploring how they reach these people.

Freelancers – this crisis has shown how vulnerable they are but also how much we depend on them. We need to address more solid terms and conditions and contracts for them.
It’s difficult to see how DiB will come out of the lockdown. It’s going to be really hard to finance a model whilst ensuring social distancing. “There are lots of hurdles and I don’t know all the answers.”

DiB needs to remain relevant – bringing people together, creating together is what they do. They have to discover new ways of doing this

Rachel Pedley – Avant Cymru

Rachel is from Rhondda valleys and from a working class background. She is dyslexic and also has antiphospholipid syndrome, which means she needs to move around to prevent clots and joint pain otherwise she is in pain and suffered a stroke which led to frontal lobe damage and epilepsy. So engaging online can be very hard for her.

Rachel started dancing at aged 2 – she loved it and embraced it all. She got a paper round at 12 to help pay for all her classes. Dance was where she was able to express herself. She trained at London Studio centre and got into Hip Hop.She went into commercial dancing, worked on the West End, and then on to New York training young people. She came back to the UK and made her way back to Wales. She trained as an RAD teacher and a IDTA teacher. She also taught GCSE and A-Level. When she came back to Wales she set up Avant.

Avant focuses on hip hop dance theatre and drama theatre and supporting events and workshops. She talked to YPs in the Rhondda about what they wanted. They all wanted to leave Wales to be successful. So Avant have been looking at how they can bring people to Wales to create opportunities.

Avant is not core funded. They are project funded. They had a project fund in progress when lockdown started. They have been linking to partners in UK, like Breakin Convention, who can offer Q&As and talks.

They have been doing online hip hop for young people and Ballroom for older people.

Because of Rachel’s disabilities, she always starts with an evaluation of what’s possible. So this is what she did when looking at their online activities.

Story Sharing – hyper local – people have been sending Rachel stories and then local children have been posting them to older people.

Another project has been collecting stories from local people in the Rhondda so a graffiti artist they are working with has put some of the characters they discovered on local walls.

They are linking up with other organisations who deliver hip hop and having a joint competition. There is now a UK national governing body for break dance. It will go into the 2021 Youth Olympics. So Avant is working with partners to start structuring the sector.

Tracey Brown & Kathryn Williams – Rubicon Dance –

Rubicon Dance is a social arts organisation. They exist to connect people and they do that through dance. Dance can change people’s lives. It’s a way that we can all express our shared cultural identity. But now they can’t bring people together.

Rubicon created a pandemic policy in February after seeing what was happening in Wuhan. They also created a framework for business resumption. This explored finance, communication and operations. This was signed off in early March. One week later, they invoked this policy. At the heart of this, was keeping staff and freelancers safe. They have honoured all freelance contracts for the spring and the summer. They haven’t furloughed anyone.

Insight 1 – It’s important to scan the horizon and assess what is needed in the future.

When they closed, it triggered a massive communication exercise. They work with a wide range of people. They contacted all participants. Staying connected to people was the important part. They used phone, postcards, texting and using zoom.
They tried to stick to the timetable that they normally have – first everyone needed to talk but as the weeks have gone on, participants have wanted to dance and they’ve been able to facilitate this. They’ve been focusing on our existing participants.
Our courses for young people have moved online successfully.
Now they are looking at new partners. Menter Caerdydd – they are now delivering interactive zoom sessions with them in Welsh. It’s been a great learning experience and they’ve had to learn about cameras, lighting , microphones, digital rights.

Insight 2 – focus on the participants

Workforce – staff and freelancers – Kathryn’s priority has been to keep them safe and employable. They have offered tailored CPD – 3 days per person. Rubicon is part of a wider ecology and the Wales Wide Training Program has also adapted and its become a vehicle for keeping in touch with people.

Wales Wide Training Platform – started in 2013 and had 7 partners. Now we have 17 partners and very contracting organisations – from Artis Community, Cardiff Met, wales Millennium Centre and Theatre Felinfach.

Lockdown has led to rearranging six events. Evaluation session is being run online again – so now it can reach wider. Policy forum – about partners and database coming together – moved this online and ran it on the same day. Best practice forum – also took place online – they had good number attending.

They usually shift across the country and don’t expect all partners to attend every meeting. Now people can attend each meeting, and they have had 3 partner meetings already since lockdown.
Tracey has also set up micro zoom sessions where people can meet to just talk about what has happened. There are never more than 4 in each meeting. This is vital support.
Practice Exchange – it will now happen online.
Bursary Award – allow people to apply for money to spend time with someone who inspires them

Challenge – Apprenticeship Training programme – they have an apprentice at the moment but her final term, which would usually be the time she would be out and involved in everything, can’t happen as usual. So Tracey is trying to find ways for her to engage in work. She is leading Menter Caerdydd sessions and has had her time with Rubicon extended.

Tracey is looking ahead to the autumn and what the CPD would look like. Cai Tomos will bring them together to dance together.

Suzy West, Impelo offered a response to what she had heard:

How do we find the time to look at big change that we want to take into the future? How do we sustain our organisations and practice at all?

Place and connection with people is so important. What stays face to face and what might continue online?

Given that the UK wide picture of accessing any online activity (schools, support for differently abled, cultural etc) has so starkly highlighted existing inequalities what does this mean for a prolonged alternative delivery model for those at continued risk and sheltering (older and vulnerable)?

For Impelo in a rural area this has been an incredible opportunity for us and our participants to access some really amazing online work and to actually able to attend things without 6 hour round trips! How can we hold on to this?

How do we work with freelancers and big venues?
What will be the impact of lower family incomes?

However when we look at the transformative power of the participatory process for health (mental and physical) as well as reaching into communities that don’t access or see themselves as cultural consumers (the figures were bad enough before this) online has just not cut it. So what to keep and what to throw out?

What are we not sure of? What’s doing our head in?


What about the practical things for live sessions?

Catherine – I’m reading as much as I can. I’m looking at how we might get people in and out, how we might use the toilets, how people register. It’s a military operation.
Citrus Arts – we create work outdoors and are happy to share ideas about how to do this. – published a guide to re-opening. There are some things that apply and others which don’t. For instance – you might want to appoint an infection officer. You need to speak to your insurance company and look at duty of care and liability.
Guy suggested a zoom to explore the practicalities.
Diane Hebb – there are several different guidelines that have been published. Schools and childcare centres guidance has been published today by Welsh Government. We are also looking at attitudes of audiences and we are designing a survey to put out to the public to find out how people feel. This will be a survey that people can revisit so we can keep testing the attitude. Please send us any specific questions that should be included in this survey.
Suzy West – Impelo are going to do a pilot in their dance space and are happy to feed back on this
Rachel Pedley – Avant are using a thermometer to take the temperature of staff and participants throughout the day. Anyone with an elevated temperature will be sent home. They have a residency at Pavilion Dance in August and that will go ahead. So they are putting things in place. They have created a detailed Code of Practice for their staff.
Tracey Brown – Rubicon are thinking about how our participants will feel about using public transport to get to our session. We already have to clean when we work in the Children’s Hospital so we have some systems in place already that we can share.

Music Rights
Catherine – DiB have found a good site where you can use music for free which she can share. This is a difficult area to navigate.

Freelance Support
Angharad Harrop – I’m a freelancer and the amount of work that it might be to put health and safety needs in place is huge. This feels very scary. Please get in touch and support any freelancers you are working with.
Catherine – please come to us – we don’t know everyone who is out there. Please know that doors are open and come to us.
Rachel – Avant are a collective of freelancers. We managed to pool funding. So look for funding and try and work together.
Community Musicians – Sound Sense – highlighting that there is a lot more planning and set up involved away from the actual delivery. When people employ freelance artists this needs to be factored in. Hopefully that will improve.
Heidi – Dance degree exploring whether they can meet their learning objectives through blended learning – there are lots of questions.

Technique and Quality
Uma – how are people managing this? When you do this live, you can show people and move people. But how do you do this online?
Gerladine passed on advice from Gwyn Emberton – he works with students online and gets them to watch first, talks them through and then gets them to repeat and observes / gives feedback. In my Chi Gong class, the teacher watches carefully and will ask people to change positions. Zosa also suggested asking people to think about using the space around them, so they are not always looking into the camera. Julie Hobday asks participants to go away from the camera and
Guy O’Donnell – we should start to shape a document together that we can share together and co-author.

Helen Woods – today we shared some of the experience of preparation and what happens when you work on zoom working with the Rubicon apprentice. NDC Wales are paying us for four sessions so we can prepare and this will be needed.

Participatory Arts – Capturing The Learning, A Response From Kelly Barr, Arts and Creativity Programme Manger, Age Cymru

In response to the lockdown triggered by COVID-19, many arts organisations have taken their work online, sharing content for audiences to view for free. However, creating participatory engagement online is much more challenging and, as a sector used to being face to face with people in their practice, it’s clear that the current restrictions change the nature of participatory arts based activity substantially.

Following a vital conversation on social media led by Guy O’Donnell, Learning and Participation Producer, National Dance Company Wales which opened a discussion on how we can deliver participatory arts effectively, a range of partners are collaborating to lead Zoom discussions for the sector where we can talk about the impact of the lockdown on our work and work creatively together to think beyond the lockdown.

In partnership with ArtWorks Cymru a series of free Zoom meetings have been set up to discuss and share current working practices in participatory delivery.

Capturing the Learning

These Zoom meetings will explore how we capture the learning from organisations and artists who are currently delivering projects. We’ll explore what methods are working well, what are we learning through this experience, and how we are adapting our working practices.

Kelly Barr, Arts and Creativity Programme Manger
Age Cymru hosted the first Zoom participation meeting. The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Kelly gives an overview of the work Age Cymru has created to meet the challenges and the companies solutions to support the public and her service users in the current climate.

Hi can you tell me a little about yourself and your organisation?

Hi, I’m Kelly Barr, and I am the Arts and Creativity Programme Manager at Age Cymru, who are the national charity for older people in Wales. I have been working on participatory arts projects with all sorts of organisations for 6 years, including NDCWales, Earthfall and the Sherman.

The two main arts projects here at Age Cymru are Gwanwyn Festival, an annual celebration of creative ageing which happens in May each year, and cARTrefu, the largest arts in care homes project in Europe.

We also run other projects throughout the year that might try to tackle isolation and loneliness (like our Gwanwyn Clubs), stereotypes of ageing or representation of older people.

Your organisation is hosting one of the free Participatory Arts – Capturing the Learning / Beyond the Lockdown meetings. Why do you agree to support these events?

I am in a very fortunate position to still be working at this time, and I felt like I had a responsibility to support conversations within the participatory sector. I saw many people reacting wonderfully quickly and adapting their practice, but I also recognised that that isn’t always an option, particularly with the groups of people that I work with. I have always believed that we have much to learn from each other so it was an ideal opportunity to do my bit to support some good practice sharing.

What challenges has lockdown present to the delivery of your service?

Gwanwyn Festival has often been about bringing people together, many of whom are in the high-risk category at the moment, so we made the decision fairly swiftly to postpone the festival.

We had a duty of care to protect the people that might attend the festival events, and those that are running them.The creative ageing sector is very supportive so I have been lucky enough to have regular chats with colleagues across the UK and Ireland (Gwanwyn Festival was inspired by Bealtaine Festival), so that we can support each other to think about how festivals like ours might work moving forwards.

We also knew early on that it was going to be difficult to continue to deliver the cARTrefu project, as care homes were starting to close their doors in early March. We’re lucky to have supportive funders who we will be able to work closely with as things progress. We have multiple scenario plans but are very much being led by what care homes want and need right now.

What issues have your service users/participants faced?

I’m really proud to be part of Age Cymru, as they have been able to adapt really quickly during the pandemic to ensure that older people in Wales are supported. We run an Information and Advice line, which received a 200% increase in calls at the start of the pandemic; people needed advice on whether they should be self-isolating or shielding, where they could get support with food shopping and collecting prescriptions. People have also struggled to access their money, and needed support to find new ways to stay in touch with family members. I’m pleased to say that we have been able to help, in partnership with our local Age Cymru partners, Age Connects and other voluntary services across Wales.

What systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?

Many of us are well-used to working from home, but it’s been really important to find moments to connect with colleagues. Many of us are spending most of our day making calls to older people through our Check In and Chat service, so it’s not always easy to have online ‘meetings’ as often as we used to have physical meetings. So we’ve set up Whatsapp groups, we send voice-notes, have catch-up phone calls, send pet pictures (in my case, plants!) as well as whole team Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings. It’s ever changing and adapting!

With my specific work, it’s about being available to our partners and being flexible and open about the realities. We’ve been taking time as a team to think further ahead, and problem solve, and take any opportunities we can. We’re also keen to use Gwanwyn and cARTrefu Facebook, Gwanwyn Twitter and cARTrefu Instagram to promote creative opportunities for older people as far as we can.

Did you have any particular challenges or success that you would like to share?

Back in April, I, like many people who are in a position to, wanted to offer out informal chats to anyone interested in running creative ageing projects, or having to adapt current projects. I had no expectations of what would come from this, only that it felt like the right thing to do, but it’s introduced me to new practitioners and individuals, which has helped to build up my understanding of what’s happening in Wales. Many people I might have struggled to physically meet pre-lockdown, due to being based in Cardiff, I have been able to connect with over the phone. I hope to continue to offer this out and to meet more people – digitally!

What are your plans for future delivery?

We’re exploring a range of options at the moment, but we’ll be working closely with our Gwanwyn Festival event organisers to look at how this might be possible. There may be ways to replicate events online, or using social distance rules. I have no doubt that our event organisers are already coming up with innovative and interesting ways to continue to connect to people and I’m looking forward to working together to adapt and learn!

With cARTrefu, we are ensuring that we are listening to care homes, and being led by their needs right now. We have developed a fortnightly e-newsletter that gives care homes low-resource activities to try, and links to lots of online performances and activities from Age Cymru (like Tai Chi classes, now on our website) and other organisations.

I’m aware that we’re now regularly speaking to people that are more isolated, some of whom who aren’t connected to the internet, so a lot of my thinking has been about how to stay connected to them and to provide interactive creative opportunities that are offline.

I’d like to highlight Age Cymru’s Friend in Need service that has launched this week, and direct anyone to it if they’ve been supporting someone who is self-isolating or shielding through lockdown. There’s lots of useful guides and resources, as well as details of our new Befriending scheme – Friend in Need

A range of organisations have worked to continue delivery of their art form during lockdown are there any that you would like to mention that you found either professionally or personally useful?

I’d love to highlight the wonderful speakers from our first Participatory Arts Capturing the Learning Event:

Artis Community, Re-Live and Welsh National Opera.

And I’d love to shout out to all of the cARTrefu artists whose work has suddenly come to a grinding halt with us, but have been helping us to provide creative activities for care homes remotely.

Thanks for your time  Kelly

The meeting notes from Participatory Arts, Capturing the Learning – Older Peoples Zoom Meeting that Kelly hosted hosted on Thursday 28 May, can be found at the link

Participatory Arts – Capturing the Learning, A Response from Megan Pritchard, Marketing Campaigns Manager, National Dance Company Wales

In response to the lockdown triggered by COVID-19, many arts organisations have taken their work online, sharing content for audiences to view for free. However, creating participatory engagement online is much more challenging and, as a sector used to being face to face with people in their practice, it’s clear that the current restrictions change the nature of participatory arts based activity substantially.

Following a vital conversation on social media led by Guy O’Donnell, Learning and Participation Producer, National Dance Company Wales which opened a discussion on how we can deliver participatory arts effectively, a range of partners are collaborating to lead Zoom discussions for the sector where we can talk about the impact of the lockdown on our work and work creatively together to think beyond the lockdown.

In partnership with ArtWorks Cymru a series of free Zoom meetings have been set up to discuss and share current working practices in participatory delivery.

Capturing the Learning

These Zoom meetings will explore how we capture the learning from organisations and artists who are currently delivering projects. We’ll explore what methods are working well, what are we learning through this experience, and how we are adapting our working practices.

Megan Pritchard, Marketing Campaigns, National Dance Company Wales is presenting at the first Zoom Dance meeting on Wednesday 3rd June 3-5pm The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Megan gives an overview of the work NDCWales has created to meet the challenges and the companies solutions to support professional and participatory dance delivery in the current climate.

Hi can you tell me a little about yourself and your practice?

Hi I’m the Marketing Campaigns Manager for National Dance Company Wales: under usual circumstances that means I lead on connecting with our audiences and communities with a focus on the national touring work that we do. I work closely with the Participation department who are a fundamental part of how we connect with and stay connected with our audiences.

At the moment that work is much the same – but with a hugely digital focus, and a wealth of new ways to share dance with people. From early on in the lockdown we’ve seen a huge rise in people dancing across media from TicTok to daily community dance parties in the street.

I’ve been with the Company for just under nine years so for me that’s really exciting to see, the heart of my role is sharing this thing that I love with the world- I truly believe that dance is a universal language that is available for everyone from shuffling along to the radio in your kitchen right through to sitting in an Opera House watching a contemporary ballet.

NDCWales has as real ethos that dance is a wide spectrum and we try touch people with dance at all levels. I’m here to reassure those unsure about watching dance or bringing physicality into their bodies – to take away that fear of the unknown.

What challenges did lockdown present to delivery of your participatory practice and what systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?

Our biggest challenge was not unique – how could we digitally re-create work that relies on physicality and connection; how could we do it with reduced resource, and what should the focus be?

We were just two venues into our twelve venue mid-scale touring – our largest annual tour, one that we rely on not just for income but for connecting with people.

As a Company we already had plans to create a digital programme over the next year, but in response to COVID 19 we needed to do this more urgently. We were not in a position to move everything that we usually do online, there wasn’t the money or capacity – but as a Company we value all aspects of our work equally. To help focus our resources, we asked our audiences and looked inwards,

“National Dance Company Wales makes brilliant dance with and for all kinds of people in all kinds of places. With innovation and imagination, we widen the spectrum of what dance can be so that more people can make, watch, participate in and learn about dance in Wales and across the world.”

So we put our energy on repurposing what we already had and building on what we do well-  creating spaces to learn about, and participate in dance at a range of levels.

It was important too that content was as accessible as possible – using captions and BSL interpreters wherever we could. This meant that things such as live classes were not a solution for us at the outset because they could not easily be captioned in real time.

To make things as streamlined as possible we used simple ideas and simple programmes, that could be used quickly and taught quickly to people who might be working in new ways.

We used Zoom, YouTube and Facebook live and explored new ways of manipulating these programmes in ways that they may not usually be used. We also used simple editing and captioning programmes – and taught anyone in the Company with a free hour how to use them.

To ensure a polished feel despite content being created in different spaces, on different cameras and in different styles, we created simple branding and guidelines that were easy to follow and carefully spent money on animations to tie the content together.

The creation of #KiN:Connected was hard work, but that hard work was met with innovative ideas and rewarding content – and I’m really proud of how quickly all of the team pulled together to create a virtual version of our work – right through from the performance streaming and post-show-talks to the . bilingual classes for children about rugby and dance.

Did you have any particular challenges or success that you would like to share?

I’m really proud of all of the work that we’ve pulled together to get done during this time – but some stand outs for me are:

The live performance of 2067: Time and Time and Time (a reimagining of a repertoire piece from our cancelled tour, performance from the dancers home and directed in real time by the choreographer).

Our Rygbi learning pack and everything that surrounds it (including bilingual classes for parents of welsh speaking children who may not speak welsh themselves, and of course the full length stream of the piece itself).

Our dance classes for adults with mobility issues – we’ve had a lot of mums of NDCWales team members use them in their daily routines, which has been really directly rewarding.

I think the biggest challenge for us moving forwards is maintaining meaningful relationships with our amazing participants and continuing to imagine new ways to bring dance to them – especially those who may not be digitally proficient. 

What are your plans for future delivery?

We are just moving into the second phase of our digital delivery – taking our learning from the first phase and building on it with more real-time live performances and exciting collaborations with other Welsh companies. We’re also launching some things that took a little longer for us to perfect for our participants such as our Dance for Parkinson’s classes.

A range of organisations have worked to continue delivery of their art form during lockdown are there any that you would like to mention that you found either professionally or personally useful?

It’s been really inspiring to see how resilient the sector is as a whole and how vitally important the arts are for people’s health and wellbeing at this time (possibly more than ever). Arts companies have been at the forefront of providing accessible and free content for home-schooling, fun classes to keep us fit when we are unable to leave our homes, and beautiful digital distractions in the forms of films, play readings, dance, get togethers, streamed performances and more.

Below is a guide to streaming a live performance from NDCWales, Stage Manager, Perla Ponce. (Please note this information is in a draft format and will be updated.)

Participatory Arts, Capturing the Learning

Meeting Minutes

35 Participants

Julie Hobday – County Youth Dance Swansea

  • Sister company of West Glamorgan Youth Company
  • Created when Swansea became a County
  • To promote dance for 13 – 21 and also run an outreach strand for younger pupils
  • Collaborate across Swansea with schools, YMCA, Taliesin Arts Centre
  • Creative educational model – training – exploring professional work – peer support – develop a love for the artform
  • Follow an academic year
  • Challenge to be flexible and keep the company relevant
  • Community element is very important / but also the opportunity to create work in response to stimulus 

Challenges of Lockdown

  • No direct funding – all income from the students
  • Meeting through Zoom. Had to put robust safe guarding in place
  • Meeting participants in their homes – some participants don’t have the internet connection or capability to digitally engage. 
  • No shared space – we start with conversation – just so people can chat about how they are feeling and keeping everyone positive
  • Keeping the dancers engaged is hard – some people are keen regulars – but some people drop off. We deal with this by emailing and prompting them through social media.
  • We can’t recruit for new members at the moment.
  • At the moment, we are not charging. But there are questions about how this will develop. It leaves us with a shortfall and this is vulnerable.

Positives of Lockdown

  • We start by asking participants how they feel at the beginning and the end. They have usually doubled their energy by the end of the session.
  • We can use artists from anywhere in the country. This has helped us to support artists who might have lost work.
  • We’ve been able to engage with some of recent graduates who have missed out on  their final presentations
  • Being creative about how we make work – participants are making videos – they have to think differently about how to work in different spaces
  • Access to resources – suddenly students can access performances and class online from some amazing companies and artists
  • Trying to stay positive about the future and keep thinking about ways we can keep participants engaged through the autumn

Gwyn Emberton – BA Honours Dance University of Wales Trinity St Davids 

  • University course has moved on line
  • Degree is based in Carmarthen. 
  • Intensive training in dance focused on contemporary & ballet. Also look at inclusive practice, community work. 
  • We hope our students will stay in Wales.
  • The shutdown was very sudden – we only had a week to move everything online. We were about to start our last 2 months of big projects for the 3rd years & a final show for the 1st years. It was crucial to be face to face.

First Years

  • Challenges  – Bad wifi – small spaces that students were working in
  • Gwyn found an online resource that he could focus the 1st years around
  • They kept class regular at 10am and explored lots of different ideas 
  • They wanted to keep it positive and try to find things they could focus on
  • Explored musicality, articulating with the upper arms, creating phrases
  • 1st year is about introducing ideas and reaffirming their practice
  • Ballet class – they did two phrases in one hour – took time to watch Gwyn on speaker view – and then repeat it so that Gwyn could watch them. Then they could reflect and consider.
  • Used the breakouts for creative making and collaborating. It actually helped some of the less local students to open up. This was a very useful tool and gave them space and time to investigate themselves.
  • Mental Health was a big thing – everyone was fluctuating. Gwyn and the students were constantly in contact with each other – used Whats App and had regular tutorials. Gwyn introduced a thursday afternoon social – a quiz or coffee and cake.
  • Creating a dialogue was important – getting feedback through the screen was hard – so Gwyn would call on people and having them named was important.
  • Resources online were important – students got to watch pieces that they wouldn’t usually see.


  • Worked with students to not focus on looking at her and explore disconnecting and being present in their space.
  • Visualisation – Deborah Hay’s work of absorbing the space through your body.
  • They made site-specific work – learnt how to make dance films together
  • Each day they would make a little film – meet in the morning, work through the day and then meet in the afternoon to reflect.
  • Meeting more frequently for less time works much better. 
  • You can only do one thing at a time online.
  • Giving students as much autonomy as possible worked well. Zosia was available for questions.

Sara Sirati – Ardour Academy

  • New organisation. Ten years of working in the community led to setting up a studio – mind , body and soul
  • Dancer and psychotherapist – interested in trauma and how to use the body to explore it
  • The dance studio also have a counselling service online – this is unusual
  • We work with schools, community and the health board
  • They also have a coffee shop and bar online where they do events
  • Students are usually people who haven’t danced much before
  • Covid struck – my first priority was the make sure all artists we worked with were OK
  • Considered the options for how we might work carefully. We wanted to offer something that was good quality and really helped our dancers

Jack Philp’s experience

  • Having a regular online session gave everyone a sense of stability
  • I was nervous about delivering online sessions – would I be able to communicate?
  • Trial and error – we navigated it together and found what worked
  • Pitching the level of complexity was hard as you can’t see what people are managing and not managing
  • Understanding how you can move big in a small space was a challenge
  • Grappling with the tech was also difficult but Sara supported this well
  • Jack found he needed to stop and check in with people regularly to see what was working and what wasn’t

Megan Pritchard – NDC Wales

  • Participation is tied into touring work – decisions had to made about what needed to be taken online
  • Blindsided by the sudden lockdown and were 2 venues into the tour
  • We couldn’t just move everything online – lots of difficulties and barriers including Intellectual Property & rights issues

Kin Connected 

  • Online digital season replacing the tour 
  • Watch Together – some live & some pre recorded – Q&As with artists following them – they wanted to keep connection to the audiences
  • Create Together – for professional artists to create something
  • Dance Together – focused on dance classes for young people and for older people
  • Learn Together – schools and digital work for education – 
  • 1. Tundra Learning Pack relating to a piece that was already online – made a you tube playlist 
  • 2. Created dance classes for pupils relating to our repertoire online 
  • 3. Rugby Learning Pack – relating to work they were already doing around rugby
  • Kept things simple and accessible – so they were easy for dancers to make – and they wanted to use captions – and for them to be short, simple and available at different levels
  • Created a simple brand to over arch everything. 
  • They had a team of people who were keen. Megan taught dancers to caption and edit. Created best practice documents to help the dancers and an intro so that the dancers all said the same thing.
  • They created something for the Wales Arts Review Digithon early on and this got us thinking about how we could make work.
  • Dancers are performers – we needed to make this possible somehow – so we looked at Zoom. We wanted to make it love somehow.
  • Zoom can go live on You Tube – we hadn’t seen anyone using it. We played with framing and using phones. We used the spotlighting function – this was done live.The choreographer could direct the show live. The stage manager controlled the holding screens, music and spotlighting. They have created a document about how they did this which they will share with the sector.
  • They have more performances planned and are thinking about how they can develop the Dance for Parkinson’s work.
  • More people are dancing at home than ever – the opportunities are really exciting.


How has online learning challenged people’s teaching skills? What strategies are people using?

  • Sara – I use a feeling scale to see how people are doing. We keep our Zoom classes to smaller number so they feel more personal. We use people’s names and give people a chance to talk.
  • Julie – using directive teaching methods is the default online – its harder to get feedback online. But if you know people then that’s helpful – check in moments are important. Asking questions is important so that people engage. Trying to have prolonged moments when they are doing things – but then stopping and talking – and working to get that back again. The pace is more like a rollercoaster.
  • Mirroring is tricky – the camera flips round on some computers. So either you have to negotiate this or not worry about it.
  • Explore Stop Gaps access training – they use great language for describing movement and this works really well on zoom

Has anyone considered creating dance exchanges with groups that wouldn’t normally get the meet?

  • NYDW are involved in UDance – there will be ways to get involved.
  • We can team up more as a sector. Zoom helps us to do this much better.
  • Youth Dance night for NDC Wales – they are exploring how to do this online. We can co-create work with young people across the sector.

Music and licensing – questions around how to negotiate this? How have people managed this?

  • NDC Wales have done lots of work on this. To use music you need written permission from the artist and the publisher. Online streaming is not covered by PRS.
  • It’s a difficult area – there is music online that has been shared through Creative Commons and they are clear what tracks can be used for
  • You can also get young people to compose their own music
  • Or work with existing composers so it’s clear what the contractual arrangement is

Participatory Arts – Thinking Beyond the Lockdown, A Response from Catherine Young, Director Dawns i Bawb.

In response to the lockdown triggered by COVID-19, many arts organisations have taken their work online, sharing content for audiences to view for free. However, creating participatory engagement online is much more challenging and, as a sector used to being face to face with people in their practice, it’s clear that the current restrictions change the nature of participatory arts based activity substantially.

Following a vital conversation on social media led by Guy O’Donnell, Learning and Participation Producer, National Dance Company Wales which opened a discussion on how we can deliver participatory arts effectively, a range of partners are collaborating to lead Zoom discussions for the sector where we can talk about the impact of the lockdown on our work and work creatively together to think beyond the lockdown.

In partnership with ArtWorks Cymru a series of free Zoom meetings have been set up to discuss and share current working practices in participatory delivery.

Thinking Beyond the Lockdown

These Zoom meetings will explore how we think beyond the lockdown. We’ll explore what the future might hold, what we might keep from our online experiences, and how we live with an uncertain future.

Director of Dawns i Bawb, Catherine Young is presenting at the second Zoom meeting on Wednesday the 10th of June 3-5pm. The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Catherine gives a personal response below to the challenges and solutions she has created to support participatory dance delivery in the current climate.

Hi can you tell me a little about yourself and your practice?

Hi my name is Catherine Young and I am Artistic Director for Dawns i Bawb – the Community Dance Organisation for North West Wales.

I have worked in the Community Dance sector for over 20 years. I graduated with a BA Contemporary Dance from De Montfort University, did a 2 year Community Dance apprenticeship before working as a Community Dance Practitioner in Ceredigion for 18 years before coming to Dawns i Bawb 4 years ago. I have also worked as an independent choreographer, creating professional work within community contexts. The values connected to Community Dance have always been a passion of mine and I love creating work with people of all walks of life. I am also very passionate about the Welsh language and this is always reflected in every creative thing I do. I believe that Dawns i Bawb is the only Welsh language dance organisation in Wales and I am very proud of this fact.

What challenges did lockdown present to delivery of your participatory practice?

This has been the biggest challenge that we as a Community Dance organisation and the sector as a whole, has ever faced. Community Dance is about a connected and shared experience – bringing people and communities together through dance. These important factors have not disappeared and in fact, are more important than ever. But our old way of working has gone. Our challenge now is to maintain our purpose but find a new way of doing so. We have to respond and adapt to our current way of life. For me personally, the lockdown has caused me to question a lot of our current way of working – from how accessible we really are to how our relationships with freelance dance artists. I’ve been having many of these conversations with Arts Council Wales recently and I think that this situation is going to raise many conversations. We need to be brave and have these conversations. I think our future dance sector might look very different after this. And perhaps it should.

What systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?

It took about 6 weeks in lockdown before we started focussing on delivery. In less than a week we lost our entire dance programme, had to leave our office and were then placed in lockdown and like with everyone, it was a huge shock. Myself and my staff needed time to come to terms with everything so we took small steps at the start. I then began looking at what our short term future might look like and worked with my Board and Arts Council Wales Officer to put a 6 month Contingency Plan in place. I thought at the start that it would just be a matter of waiting for the storm to pass but after a few weeks began to change my attitude to our situation.

I’ve always felt it important that we as artists, respond to the world around us and really, this situation is no different. There is nothing in the arts that is impossible and I have always believed this. Once I changed my way of thinking, the creative juices started to flow! I looked carefully at our programme and all our different participants and began to put plans into place of how we can keep connected to them. Our programme is very varied and we work with some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. We are now about to dive into the world of online working starting with our after school clubs for children and young people. We almost have a different plan for each one of our groups as they all have very different needs.

Did you have any particulate challenges or success that you would like to share?

As we venture into online working, the most important thing for me is that our ethos remains as strong as ever. It is crucial that we hold on to our values. I know some find out odd when I say this as a Director of a dance organisation, but dance is not the main focus of what we do. Our focus is on people, on communties, on connection, relationships and the shared experience. Dance is the medium through which we enable this to happen. I want to ensure that even though our way of working has changed, that all these important elements remain.

This will be the biggest challenge that we face, not just Dawns i Bawb but the sector as a whole. Being able to carry on with our programme has certainly challenged me to think outside the box! As we take work on line, one of the challenges has been how we keep connected to the most vulnerable people that we work with. One example is our Care Home Programme. We were working regularly with around 20 care homes before lockdown, mostly with people who are living with Dementia. We contacted staff to discuss whether online sessions might work to be told that the majority were ‘shielding’ and unable to leave their rooms or be in contact with other residents. We therefore needed another way to be able to communicate with the residents.

I successfully applied for a small grant from Community Foundation Wales and received permission to adapt a grant that we had received previously from Peoples Health Lottery to enable us to buy around 25 electronic tablets to loan to care homes that would enable people to receive 1:1 dance activity in their rooms – either live or already pre-recorded into the tablet. Tackling social isolation is a big part of our work and this is more crucial than ever. Therefore, I want to ensure that the tablets can be used for more than DiB activity – they can be used for people to keep in contact with loved ones and to receive creative activity from our partner organisations. For example, I have been talking with Conwy Culture Centre about the idea that people can access their archives through our tablets.

What are your plans for future delivery?

I think we have to face the reality that we will be working like this for a while and that online working might not just be a temporary measure. Even if we can start back some kind of activity in September, strict social distancing will still be in place so our sessions are going to look very different for quite a while. Everything is still so uncertain so every plan I make has about 3 back up plans attached to it! Dawns i Bawb does an annual Christmas production every year. It is our highlight with 100+ performers and 500+ audience. I am currently planning 3 different scenarios to enable the performance to happen in December. It might have to be a whole different experience, but it will happen.

A range of organisations have worked to continue delivery of their art form during lockdown are there any that you would like to mention that you found either professionally or personally useful?

The way that the Arts sector in Wales has responded to all of this is amazing. I would like to mention ACW for the way that they have supported and taken leadership of the situation and for the way they have supported me and Dawns i Bawb. They have tons of useful resources on their website. Also People Dancing for the support they have offered the Community Dance sector and the useful resources they have put together which are on their website.

Below is the presentation that Catherine gave to those attending the Zoom Dance Participation Meeting on Wednesday the 10th June. Thanks to Catherine for supporting us to share this.

Hello everyone. I am Catherine and I’m Artistic Director for Dawns i Bawb which is the community dance organisation for North West Wales, developing dance provision to people of all ages and abilities throughout Gwynedd, Conwy and Ynys-Môn.

We are now halfway through our 11th week of lockdown and I wanted to take this opportunity to share our experiences and responses to the situation with you.

Due to the nature of our work I think that we began to experience the effects of the situation about 3 weeks before the official lockdown. We work with some of the most vulnerable people in our communities including those living with Dementia and those that are care home residents. In early March we began to receive phone calls from our care homes stating that they were putting their home under precautionary lockdown. I remember it coming as a shock – it didn’t feel at that time that we needed to be worrying about the virus yet. Within three weeks everything had changed.

On Tuesday 17th March we lost our entire programme in one day. By Friday 20th March we had to leave our office with immediate effect. Everything had happened very brutally and very quickly.

We therefore had to put plans in place very quickly. My first response was to my staff – to support them and set them all up on a homeworking system. This was challenging in itself as we didnt have enough warning to really plan this but we found our way through it and are fortunate that we have been able to keep the Company ticking over 11 weeks on.

I also put support in place straight away for our freelance dance artists. We have a fantastic team of 6 freelancers and they all lost their work in one day. I think one of the hardest things I’ve had to do was to phone each of them to tell them that their work was stopping immidiately. Two of them as new graduates, had only been freelancing for 2 months. I am pleased that we have been able to support them. I ensured that we honoured all the contractual work that they had lost and have been fortunate to have been able to adapt a few project led grants that has enabled me to carry on giving them all paid work during the lockdown.

I also put a 6 month Contingency Plan in place to establish our financial and strategic situation. I have based this on different scenarios of when we might come out of lockdown – the impact on DiB if this happens in July, September or even January. Things are changing so quickly and on an almost daily basis that I feel that I’m updating this Contingency Plan almost every week! We have already passed scenario number 1 – which would have seen us returning to work after Easter. As we move further and further through the scenarios the situation gets more concerning. If we end up reaching our final scenario of getting to January and still not being able to deliver work, the consequences will be serious to our future.

It took around 6 weeks to establish some kind of routine and to really, accept our situation and begin dealing with the shock of it all. Within this time, it started to become clear that this was no longer a matter of waiting for the storm to pass and then getting back to normal. We were having to begin to consider new ways of working – a new way of running our Company and a new way of delivering dance activity and engaging with our participants again.

Dawns i Bawb works with a vast range of people. With all of our programme planning, it was necessary to consider each group seperately – their needs, accessibility, priorities, objectives – and the consideration of online activity was no different. It has been fantastic to see the amount of arts based activity that had gone online and I learned alot from many of our colleagues. As we began considering taking our work online, I began to support our tutors in preparing for this and created an online working policy for staff. I had very little resources to work from with this as it is of course a new way of working for us all but I have managed to create a way of working that I have confidence in and that I feel is safe and maintains our professional standards to the best of our ability.

At the start of June, we launched our online dance package for our after school clubs of children and young people. This one has been the most straightforward one to set up. We have created an online monthly dance package which people sign up to beforehand for the entire month. We have put a small cost on the package which will enable us to cover tutor costs. We have had a good response to this and have exceeded what was the minimum intake needed to be able to cover costs. The package includes a live session each week, a recorded session each week and a creative task for participants to do in their own time and then show their work in the next live session. All participants have received a safeguarding policy and disclaimer to ensure everyone’s safety. We did our first live session to around 20 participants. It was a happy and emotional experience. Our young people are so resilient – working virtually did not phase them one bit.

Just before lockdown, we were halfway through two project grants. Both were for our care home programme and for people living with Dementia. As we could no longer carry on running the projects in their usual format, we received permission to adapt the project conditions to create online sessions for the care homes. This also included creating an online version of our interactive performance ‘Dancing the Decades,’ which was created last year specifically for care homes and people living with Dementia. We were due to tour the performance around Conwy during the Easter holidays.

I knew this would be much more challenging to develop than our after school clubs online package.  We contacted care home staff about the idea and almost all told me that they wanted sessions but that all residents are sheilding and not able to leave their bedroom, let alone be able to go to their lounge and dance with others. Conversations with care staff made it clear to me just how serious the situation was in care homes and the effect this isloation could have on residents and our participants.

An important element of all our work is connecting with people and tackling social isolation and this felt more important than ever. I therefore started to explore the idea of 1:1 sessions and applied for, and got, a grant from Community Foundation Wales to enable us to buy around 20 electronic tablets that we can loan to care homes that will enable us to offer 1:1 dance sessions to those that are sheilding. While dance is an important element of this work, connection and communication with others is the most important factor. Therefore, these tablets will not just be limited to DiB activity. We will be linking up with other partners to create a kind of ‘buddy scheme’ where people can participate in a session together, can be in contact with one another even perhaps, where families of the residents can participate or just have a chat together. We will also enable our partner organisations to engage with residents through the tablets. For example, we are discussing how Conwy Culture Centre can make online versions of their achives that people can access.

Within time I will begin looking at other aspects of our work and what their near futures might look like including our fitness programmes and our schools work. I am carefully following reports by our First Minister and Education Minister everyday hoping these ongoing announcements will help me to shape this. DiB creates an annual Christmas production every year which is our biggest event of the year involving over one hundred performers and over 500 audience. I know it is an event that our participants and communities look forward to and I will ensure that the performance will happen in December. I dont know what our situation will be at that time or if our theatres will be open once again. Therefore I am creating a contingency plan for the performance with 4 sceanrios. Even if we find ourselves still in lockdown, the performance will happen!

The lockdown has been quite an astonishing time. Its caused me to question so many things from the purpose of what we do to our relationship with our freelance dance artists. What is obvious to me is that I shouldn’t be looking towards getting back to normal, but looking at our way forward. As someone said to us in one of our network meetings recently – to question what do we take with us but also what do we leave behind?

Working online has raised the question of accessibility to dance activity from both angles. On the one hand, I feel it has the potential to open dance to those that for whatever reason do not attend dance sessions – whether its because of transport issues or health issues making someone unable to leave their home including social anxiety. We all know of the health benefits for dance and therefore have this opportunity to make dance more readily acaibale and accessible. We know that there are still people in our communities that want to attend a dance class but do not believe that they can be a dancer and the idea of walking in to a dance studio is too overwhelming. Online sessions can help tackle this and with this in mind, I think that I will keep some aspects of online activity when we come out of lockdown and when we can get back together.

There is the other issue of course of the inaccessbility online working can cause. Do the more vulnerable of our communities, or those living in poverty have access to wifi and equipment? Is it safe for everyone and how do we know? What about our participants with physical or learning difficulties? Can we offer the same experience that we did before the lockdown? Are we losing some very important features of our work by not being in the same room? And how do we overcome this?

I also want to come out on the other side of this having had many conversations about our relationships with our freelancers. This isn’t a new issue and is in fact one I have been questioning since being with DiB and is one I was planning to tackle in our Investment Review application. Our freelancers are at the heart of our Company and are the ones who have professionally been hit the hardest in all of this. It has hit home just how vulnerable they are professionally but also how much we depend on them. I have noted with ACW that we as a sector need to seriously tackle this and consider setting a pay-scale and more solid working conditions.

What has become very clear over the past couple of weeks is that the biggest challenge for us is not the lockdown but the after-effect – the getting back on our feet. We can make socially-distanced dance sessions happen on a practical level but they are no way financially sustainable. Income from sessions cover the costs of those sessions including tutor fee and expenses and studio hire. Some of our sessions have up to 25 participants. If we had to create smaller groups of say, 5 participants, it means that our costs for that session will be 5 times more than usual but the income will remain the same. And thats just for one session. We can run up to 15 groups a week usually. If we had to add extra sessions on to all of those 15 groups the costs would be beyond anything we could manage. Additionally, we probably wont see our more vulnerable groups until next year which means we will be without a large chunk of our programme for quite a while. We have a lot of hurdles in front of us and at the moment, I do not know what the answers are. 

However, as we keep going through this and start planning our way forward, my biggest question to myself is how do we remain relevant? How do we develop online activity and plan for our next steps while maintaining our purpose and ethos as a community dance organisation? Everything that we do is centered around connection, bringing people together, creating together and being with one another. We know live in a time where these things, all these things that are so important to Community Dance, are no longer possible in its original form. We need to create new ways of being together and not forget what is the purpose of our art form. We still have many challenges ahead but also now have the opportunity to really look at what we do and what we want to take forward?

Creativity Rocks the Arts Factory, MaDCaff 2020 By Ann Davies

Take me back to the days when we were never alone – well, let’s see, it was the month of March when creativity rocked the Arts Factory in Ferndale and we were altogether. The scene had been set in 2019 when the forward looking company Avant Cymru introduced a MaDCaff evening event to The Factory in Porth as part of the FestYPorth celebrations. It sparked an idea for such an event to be held in the Rhondda Fach. Proposals for a venue were put forward and the nucleus began to evolve as the Arts Factory (the Trerhondda Chapel Arts Centre in Ferndale) took up the baton for it to be staged as a Community activity to raise funds for Mental Health.

A MaDCaff event is an experience which is encompassed in its very title

Music Dance and a Café

It is an open mic where people can perform or be entertained, pressure free with a quiet place to talk if required. With DAC (Disability Arts Cymru) and the Arts Factory volunteers, the evening became a cornucopia of colour as musicians assembled their electrical equipment and sound tested their instruments, dancers waited in anticipation of opening the event, whilst people bought Raffle Tickets on their arrival, sourced the Refreshment stand and marvelled at the artwork that had been kindly donated by local artist Carole Kratzke for the Art Auction.

The young dancers of Avant Cymru, coming from their recent performance at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff, blew caution to the wind with their energetic and exhilarating movements, incredibly intricate and jaw dropping showing the skills that they had been taught by Jamie Berry, a company Director of Avant Cymru, who, in January 2020 won the deserved accolade of Wales Creative Tutor of the Year bringing his distinctive talent to develop the health and wellbeing, through dance, to the Valleys.

Gaudy Orde announced their arrival with their usual toe tapping eclectic music with Jeff Japers (aka Andrew Powell) on the ukulele, keyboard and main vocals; Tall Joy (aka Joy Garfitt), Helen Spoons (aka Helen Probyn-Williams); James Parr – Superstar; Barry Sidings (aka Alex Coxhead) and Romany Bob (aka Andy Roberts) providing a surreal and distinctive experience of music, song and humour into an intoxicating mix as the evening progressed.

In turn Jeff Japers, as the evening’s Master of Ceremony, introduced the Nutz ‘n’ Bolts duo which normally consists of husband and wife team Dawn and Dave Hoban, but on this night we were invited to meet Jowan who sang with Dawn. It was an experience of emotions entwined harmonies and excellent guitar playing.

Les Allen, Linda Michele, Ann Davies and Anne Lord, who are members of the RCT Creative Writers Group, read selections from their 10th Anniversary publication “Handle with Care” ably supported by Members Jess Morgan, Gerhard Kress, Helen Probyn-Williams and Rachel Williams.  Jakey (12), our favourite therapy dog was present to ensure that everyone was feeling safe and well.

The interlude that followed included the results of the Raffle, closely followed by the Art Auction which had bids bouncing from every direction in the audience. The Open mic participation was offered to the audience as one of the young Avant Cymru dancers stepped forward to sing, closely followed by singer guitarist Lee Harvey from Aberdare. Talent can be found in quiet places as Josh and his “companion” dummy took up the Ventriloquist mantle for the night in a comedic conversation. The Bella Vista Coffee Club brought the house down with their jazz performance provided by Ann and Paul Hughes, Jim Barrett, Helen Probyn-Williams and Sally Churchill.

TimeLine a trio of local singers and musicians namely Nigel, Gary and Keith, opened the second half of the evening’s entertainment. Their songs were rich and melodious and the audience were soon joining in with the verses of the songs that brought back so many treasured memories.

Tricycle, comprising of Gerhard Kress, Paul Rosser and Michael Morton brought the event to a close with the atmospheric musical sounds of a fiddle combined with guitars alongside their passionate lyrics.

Louise Gaw, Project Coordinator for Changing People Changing Lives at the Arts Factory Ferndale introduced Sara Beer, South Wales Regional Officer of DAC (Disability Arts Cymru) to bring the evening to a close. Thanking all within the Arts Factory and DAC for their hard work in organising the event.  Goody Bags were given to people as they left including items from DAC. Gifts were kindly donated by Francesca Kay the noted WordArt, Poet and Letter Press professional from Hay on Wye, who is a friend of RCT Creative Writers Group

I would like to personally extend my appreciation to all who responded to the request for participants and to RCT Creative Group Members who supported me in arranging this event giving their time and energy freely to provide a true Noson Llawen Merry Night to remember for those who attended. 

We were all left with the memories of songs, music, dance, poetry and stories echoing the creative talent that is within the community.

Times have changed and we are now finding ourselves in an unprecedented situation.

WE are all the waves on the same sea, and at this moment we send each other a virtual hug with the message to stay safe and well.

MaDCaff maintains the talent of RCT.

With thanks and appreciation to
Sara Beer and Volunteers of Disability Arts Cymru
Louise Gaw and Volunteers of Arts Factory Ferndale
RCT Creative Writers Group Members especially Anne Jess Les Gerhard Helen and Rachel not forgetting Jakey
Carole Kratze
Francesca Kay
To photographers for their kind permission

Sara Mayo Gerhard Kress Anne Lord Jess Morgan
Open Mic performers 

Jamie Berry of Avant Cymru and dancers Jeff Japers for his Master of Ceremonies Gaudy OrdeNutz ‘n’ BoltzTimeLine Tricycle
and for all who gave their support for this event to raise funds for Mental Health

Diolch yn fawr iawn