Celebrating Windrush 75 through dance

24 Jul 2023

Earlier this month we presented CELEBRATE at Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds. To mark the 75th anniversary of Windrush this special performance featured 206 young people aged between 6–15 from 10 schools across Leeds.

The performance was the culmination of six-weeks of weekly workshops with Phoenix dance artists to create a celebratory dance work focusing on, and inspired by, the contribution of the Windrush generation and the rich history and culture that was consequently brought to Leeds. All participants also had a workshop with a local Caribbean artist, Cleve Freckleton, to learn about the history of Windrush and took part in a body percussion piece with him. Each group worked independently to create their dance pieces but CELEBRATE was an opportunity for all of the groups to come together and showcase their hard work and creativity on a professional stage. Tickets to both performances were free to enable as many people as possible to experience the dance works.

CELEBRATE was also compered by Cleve. The Leeds-based soul musician said he was “proud to be a part of something that celebrates the sacrifices my parents made” and to “share this with so many others”.

This was a memorable and moving experience for all involved, with one schoolteacher describing the event as “fantastic the kids absolutely loved it, as did our head teacher, head of performing arts, and parents”. This feeling was shared by parents with one saying, “watching my daughter on stage, as well as all the other performances, made me so proud of her and of Leeds”. Another parent commented on the “diversity” in the piece being an “inspiration” to their son.

The impact of CELEBRATE did not just end on the night itself, with another schoolteacher stating that following the event there was “a real buzz around the school … they have since performed it multiple times in school”, and we are delighted that they are keen to work with us again next term.

Our Learning & Development team was able to deliver this ambitious project thanks to being awarded funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) from its Windrush Day Grant Scheme 2023 to mark the 75th anniversary of the of the arrival of the MV Empire Windrush in the United Kingdom.

Vicci Hamilton, Head of Learning & Development said: “Pupils have worked alongside first class dance artists and contributed to this event in a professional theatre to celebrate Windrush and the positive contribution of the Windrush generation on Britain. Embedding the delivery of Black British history into the education system in projects like this helps demonstrate the value of the arts and how it can be used in a cross-curricular format.”

You can find out more about CELEBRATE and the individual works created for the event here.

Images: Point of View Photography