Lunch with Luke
Lunch with Luke

This week Luke hosted a “Lunch with Luke” virtual roundtable session with a number of representatives of Plymouth’s excellent dance community.

Arts and culture has really taken a hit since the onset of Covid-19 and as Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dance, Luke wanted to speak to those at the forefront of the industry in Plymouth.

Luke heard from the community how programmed events, performances and classes have had to be put on hold or cancelled completely, and many dancers are struggling financially due to falling through the gaps in the Government’s financial support. In years to come, one dance company noted that the industry may well go backwards in terms of diversity, due to emerging artists with no financial support having to leave.

Luke said:

“Plymouth has an incredible dance scene, as well as an incredible dance audience. Dance is a really important part of people keeping safe, well and active. We have to value what we have now in Plymouth, as well as look forward to how we can improve things for the dance scene in Plymouth going forward. With so many livelihoods affected, as well as the cultural enrichment that dance provides, we need to support the industry and companies that are, in turn, supporting our communities.”

Dance provides so much cultural enrichment that sadly people are losing out on. The Theatre Royal discussed how international dance performances could be affected by the virus for many years noting the forward programme for companies has been considerably disrupted.

In terms of grassroots participation Luke heard that class sizes have been halved and staggered in timing for those who have their own rehearsal space, and those who don’t have their own space are struggling to find spaces to use. The prolonged closure of the Life Centre is proving an additional hurdle, as dance companies are losing out on a large sports hall and theatre space which could have been utilised.

Even those who have tried to use outdoor space have been accused of holding “mass gatherings” despite “outdoor performances” being permitted. Dance companies wanted more clarity from Government about what constitutes a mass gathering so they can adapt their offering and still play by the rules.

There was a consensus that the lack of consultation with sector bodies by the Government before making announcements, is making the situation more unclear and unstable for dance companies. People want to do the right thing, but to do that they need better information. Dance groups in Plymouth are doing their utmost to check the guidance daily and respond to questions from their members, but the lack of clarity in terms of participant numbers has been challenging.

Amidst all the struggle, dance companies have shown immense adaptability and resilience, offering several different options to people; including digital dance classes, online projects, challenges and quizzes. These have helped keep people connected both in terms of dance, but also socially. This proved vitally important to some of the older dancers, who were otherwise alone. The dance community across Plymouth have united in their fight to keep dance going.

Can you help Exim Dance?

During the call we heard from Exim Dance, an award-winning dance company in Plymouth about a fundraising project that you can help with.

Exim Dance have been put forward for the national ‘Persimmon Homes’ Building Futures Scheme’ which aims to support health, sport, education and arts for children. They are now finalists, being the only dance company to have gone this far from across the UK, and the only company at all from Plymouth. The top prize would give them £100,000 to put towards their future and the services they provide to vulnerable young people from across the city. If you would like to place your vote to help support this excellent company and in turn, young people all over Plymouth, please click here (you can place a new vote every day).

The importance of dance, and the arts in general, can often be misunderstood by Government Ministers and Luke has been working with One Dance UK about what lobbying can be done to support this vital industry that is so important to people in Plymouth, both young and old.

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