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We’re Still Here

I am Founder and Artistic Director for Body Politic. I did psychology at university and when I graduated, I got a job in a pupil referral unit. I worked with young people who were perhaps struggling in school, so they were sent to us for a period of six weeks to give them a little bit more support and structure. It was there when I just started in the break times teaching a bit of dance. It was really evident from the young people's experience that dance was another way that they could express themselves rather than having to keep putting everything down on paper, or talking about their emotions or what they're struggling with. It gave them another outlet. I recognised that I could use my passion for working with young people and dance to make an impact. Give young people another route to challenge their own perceptions or, you know, talk without having to talk.  

As a mother of two, Body Politic is my first baby. It was formed from an idea of me wanting to create this community, this safe space, this platform and springboard for young people to grow and develop. And I remember, with my friend, just sitting on my mum's living room floor, literally looking through the thesaurus, looking for words similar to ‘community’. And that is how we came up with the name Body Politic. 

I danced from a young age, I did tap and ballet as a kid. My teacher was a lady who was ferocious but brilliant, and I admired her so much. She terrified me. I remember there was a moment where we did a tech rehearsal on stage at Pegasus Theatre. And she said afterwards that she was just a bit gobsmacked that we'd done such an appalling job. And at that point, it was like, ‘okay, I'm gonna prove you wrong’. It’s not until I'm much older that I look back and realise that those moments, being part of a group, part of an ensemble or company, were really special, and had such an impact on me as a young person.  I guess I’m still trying to prove people wrong.

I lost my dad when I was nine, and it was a really difficult time. But I think my time and my experience at Pegasus Theatre was crucial in paving that way and fuelling that passion for the future; the kind of drive, support, and infrastructure that I needed to start my company. Life isn't perfect, and there are road bumps. I wanted to start a company that supported people through those road bumps using dance and art as a vehicle for positive change. Dance really helped me navigate the grief and everything that I was going through as a young person. 

We’ve always prioritised providing classes and opportunities for young people within their local communities. The cost of dance classes is extortionate and, you know, how do you expect people to experience these things? I think there's value in bringing it to local communities so that people don't have to get the bus or train just to experience dance. We rely on funding to make sure that classes are subsidised so that they're affordable for young people.  

We need to get more young people active and looking after their wellbeing, and dance does that. You're moving your body, you’re in a space with other people, there's a sense of social connectedness, there's a bond. Yet we’re still fighting for funding. 

I think dance, especially hip-hop dance, is an underrepresented art form – it's not given as much profile in the arts sector. Yet it appeals to a wider audience, a more diverse audience, a younger audience.

We’ve evolved since 2012. We're now producing professional work for the stage, and touring, which happened in the last four or five years. And again, that was born out of this idea to find another route to allow young people to experience more, and discuss challenging topics without a classroom environment. There's something really different about how you digest information if you're watching it on a stage, seeing how people who look like you are representing those ideas and themes. That's really powerful. Our first piece of work was called Father Figurine. It was exploring men's mental health and the father-and-son relationship around that – how there are, you know, all these social taboos. That piece of work went on tour twice. It then led to my next piece of work, which is called Them, which explores themes of sexual harassment and consent. For me, it was like, ‘right, how do we get these conversations to young people?’. And it's something that still feels new, the whole creating and touring work, but we're doing it! 

There's not a lot of female-led organisations touring hip-hop theatre work, so I feel really proud that we are one of those. We’re creating a space for people to share their stories, to listen to new stories, to experience art, and to support the next generation of young artists.

I’ve had some brilliant moments with the Body Politic team and family. There's so many lessons learned along the way – I didn't start an organisation because I knew how to run an organisation. I started it because I had this burning ambition and I wanted to do something purposeful and hopefully, you know, make an impact along the way. 

I'd also like to see more of a profile given, in the arts sector, to female choreographers. We are still few and far between. I think it's really important that females are given an equal playing field to show and create art. I feel like there's this immense pressure. That whatever art you create, it always has to be good, perfect, straight out the machine. And that's often not how it happens. Art takes time and it takes development, and you need to sit with it and process it. You need other people to sit with it and process it and feed back to you. It does feel like, at times, the odds are against you. I'd really like there to be more support, and that's from within the hip-hop community, and within the sector in general, but also from those gatekeepers that are holding funding or program venues. 

An artist who was heavily involved in the organization said to me, ‘did you ever think that you would get to ten years?’, and I was like, ‘no’! COVID has come along – the arts have taken a complete bashing from COVID – and yet we’re still here talking about our work. I think that’s what makes us bloody brilliant. We’re still here, submitting funding applications, because we’re passionate about what we do, and we know that it’s needed. I’ve witnessed the impact that it’s had on so many young people, and I’m clinging onto that. After ten years of doing what I do, there’s a real drive within me of, like, I’m fighting this fight, because I know that we need it.  

We’re gonna keep going until someone tells us to stop. There are always going to be young people who are searching for a different way of accessing stories, and as long as that’s the case, I will continue to try and exist for those young people and I will continue to try and evolve myself as an artist to make sure that I’m the best I can possibly be.

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