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In ever loving memory of Jackie Carlton Guy MBE

Beverley Glean MBE, Founder and Artistic Director of IRIE! dance theatre remembers Jackie Carlton Guy MBE


I first met Jackie Guy in 1985 when I attended the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica, more specifically the School of Dance. As an individual that trained in contemporary dance in the UK. That encounter with Jackie Guy, through the training programme was a gift that changed my life; and since his passing, amidst all the glorious, challenging, creative and fun memories. I am left wondering. Had I not met Mr Jackie Carlton Guy those 36 years ago, whether there would be an IRIE! dance theatre as we know it? Somehow, I think not!


I was determined to stay in contact with Jackie. Excited and inspired by my time at the School of Dance. In October of that same year I invited him to create a piece of choreography. He created a suite of Jamaican folk dances as part of a season of dance entitled IRIE! Dance Festival, A Celebration of Black Dancers and Choreographers in London. That suite of dances was to become the foundation for the movement language of IRIE! dance theatre.


Unbeknown to him. I adopted Jackie as my mentor and to date he is still the most inspirational teacher and advocate of Jamaican Folk Dances I have ever met. His warmth and generosity were palpable and captivated the energy of all that came into contact with him. His creativity, expertise and knowledge, was critically needed to support the advancement of Dance of the African Diaspora (DAD) in the UK.


The dance sector was fortunate when Jackie relocated to the UK as Artistic Director of Kokuma Dance Company, based in Birmingham in 1987. During his tenure with Kokuma, we kept in contact and he went on to create two other works for IRIE! Danse Caribbean in 1987 and Hail in 1988.


The drive for the introduction of accredited training in DAD was important to Jackie. In1998 IRIE! approached Jackie to write the forward of a document and application making a case for the development of an accredited qualification in African and Caribbean dance. The application was successful and in that same year Jackie was appointed by IRIE! as Course Co-ordinator to the UK’s first Diploma in African and Caribbean dance, validated by Birkbeck, University of London from 1998 – 2000.


After leaving IRIE! he went on to create, teach, mentor, develop and support a number of individuals and initiatives in dance and movement, for example in 2006 he choreographed the hit musical The Harder They Come. He continued to create, shifting his focus on the impact of dance and movement on mental health, ageing and young people at risk of exclusion.


In 2011 Jackie received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora (ADAD). He was awarded an MBE in 2012 for outstanding contribution to dance education in the UK and in 2015 he received Order of Distinction, Commander Class (CD) by the Jamaican Government. This was the remarkable impact he had on the practice, practitioners and communities not only in Jamaica and the UK but the USA and Africa.


Jackie, has left behind an incredible legacy, that carries on in all that came in contact with him. He will be sadly missed for the enthusiasm, knowledge, guidance and pride in Caribbean culture and heritage he instilled, and that have literally changed people’s lives who have gone on to impact their communities. He was a gift. I celebrate Jackie Carlton Guy with gratitude and awe.


Jackie left us in November 2021. He is gone, but will never be forgotten.

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