We at IRIE! dance theatre, are thrilled to announce that we are amongst the organisations successfully joining Arts Council England’s (ACE) National Portfolio Organisations (NPO) in 2023-26. We understand that the process was highly competitive, therefore we were even more excited by the prospect. In 2004, the company took what we believed would be a 3-5 years hiatus, while my colleague, Rosie Lehan and I undertook a research project entitled Dance and Diversity to investigate barriers to training in Dance of the African Diaspora (DAD) in formal education. The estimated 3-5 years turned out to be 18 years. That is not to say we have been sitting on our laurels during this time. Aside from continuing to use DAD to create, educate and entertain thousands across the UK. We managed to stay on message (to deliver and sustain a range of creative, educational and artistic activities based on stimuli derived from Africa and the Caribbean) and connected through our meaningful work with young people, elders, and wider communities, address not just dance but using dance to address issues of health & well-being, heritage, accredited qualifications, culture, civic engagement and much more.
However, the goal was always to reintroduce IRIE! dance theatre’s performance company, and in 2014 the Re:generations International Conference ‘Rethinking the past to reimagine the future’ commissioned IRIE! to create a new work that would be premiered at the host venue Pavilion Dance South West in Bournemouth. We created RED. The work was enthusiastically received. So much so that it gave us the confidence in 2017, to create a studio piece entitled Life’s Footnote. We tested the appetite of audiences for the work, feedback again was positive, however funding to develop and tour the work was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, we have never failed to fully recognise the impact that IRIE! has and continues to have on the dance sector and the community we serve. So, it is marvellous to be seen and acknowledged in this way.
The funding will support IRIE! dance theatre as a National Touring dance theatre company. We will remount original work focusing on Folk dances of the Caribbean, linked to Traditional African Dance forms, influenced by Western contemporary dance. This fusion of styles will be reimagined to create dance works reflective of our communities’ multi-cultural experiences. The mission going forwards will be to mentor and develop emerging creatives including, performers and choreographers. The presence of the company will increase the visibility and profile of the organisation and attract creatives and students, particularly as the current focus is on employment routes and value for money from Higher Education. One of the key messages from ACE is that ‘the public want to be creative, and have the very best art and culture available to them in their neighbourhoods. As we celebrate Lewisham Mayor of London Borough of Culture, this is a wonderful outcome for the borough. This regular support will help the development of the company to keep pursuing our mission to heighten the profile of Dance of the African Diaspora in the UK’.
Beverley Glean MBE
Artistic Director and CEO