In my first week as the fundraising fellow for Dance UK. I was asked to work on The Bloom Festival – A.D.A.D’s event showcasing dance work’s influenced by the rich history and culture of Africa. The showcase took place at the Bernie Grant centre in Tottenham on the 28th September 2013. The event is not a gala and is not targeted at high net worth individuals, but is part of ADAD’s core programme platforming dance works inspired by African Dance styles.
In collaboration with Fern Potter, Director of Development for Dance UK/A.D.A.D and Youth Dance England I was tasked with creating a donation form, to hand out to V.I.Ps and the general public at the Bloom festival. The audience and V.I.Ps have the option of giving £50, £100, £250 or £1000 or nothing at all. I’m not a pessimistic person, but can’t help but secretly assume that after paying for tickets the audience will choose the nothing at all option.
Fern is originally from New York, and like a true New Yorker has inbuilt optimism and belief in the generosity and good will of audiences in Tottenham and everywhere else in the world. Fern believes that the individuals who will donate will be motivated by the opportunity to support the good cause, as opposed to the benefits that they will receive personally. So, on the form we specify the exact programme where their money will be utilized and the benefits of those programmes to artists and the sector.
We have a small reception for around 15 VIPs before the show which includes board members, a couple of representatives from the trust and foundations that have supported us, and some key individuals from the sector. It’s fun getting to know these celebrities from the Dance world; Namron with his rich booming laugh, the academic Ramsey Burt tells me about his research in ‘How black dancers brought a new dynamism to British dance’ and the recent article about his projects which was published in the Guardian, which can be read here.
‘It’s so great to find out that people have actually read the article!’ Ramsey exclaims excitedly. I have a great conversation with a well known American dance critic about why young British people generally prefer to go to the pub than the theatre. The free drinks and nibbles are kept to the bare essentials because the limited funds we have are directed into the programme.
The showcase itself is an informal, high energy, eclectic, mixed bill, compeered by Vicki Igbokwe and it just makes me want to go somewhere private and dance. Vicki the presenter is so warm and charming that I wonder if I can’t just get her to do all the fundraising for ADAD from now on. There is a general sense that everyone in the audience knows each other and this makes me think that The Bernie Grant Centre and A.D.A.D are doing a brilliant job at fostering a community for this work. I was not previously particularly interested in Dance works influenced by African cultures, but after feeling so welcomed and entertained I feel that I will be from now on.
Ivan Blackstock’s piece Meth is my favourite, in which the performers keep their back to the audience the whole way through, this is a brave decision, but it pays off. In all the works I find the level of skill presented impressive. I just can’t comprehend the level of devotion it must take to get your body to do those amazing things. It strikes me how sad it would be, if these committed young artists, who have taken a risk in life and pursued their passion, no longer had the opportunity to do this.
Unfortunately many fully trained talented young dancers will never have the opportunity to dance professionally on stage because Festivals like Bloom are few and far between, Research carried out for Palatine in 2006 highlights the fact that the number of dance graduates in 2005 matched the total number of dancers in work at the same time, and that only a quarter of dance graduates go straight into dance-related jobs. I think if we can raise more funds for this work and put it on in affordable way we will see growing audiences for this work, because it is massively accessible, down to earth and culturally enriching.
I was so pleased to find out at the end of the evening that audiences had donated a total of £600 on top of ticket sales. This was certainly a learning curve for me and a small but important start!