Commemorative Book & Virtual Gallery Launch

7 Feb 2023

In a special double-launch event on Friday 27 January at our headquarters in Leeds city centre, we officially launched two special commemorative projects celebrating the company. Experience highlights of the event yourself with our video below courtesy of Dan Waters, Adarak, which features some familiar faces from Phoenix’s past.

The Phoenix Virtual Gallery and 40 Years of Phoenix: A Photographic Journey are the result of an intensive period of archival research and collation commenced during our 40th anniversary year. The aim was to create two very different ways of presenting a portion of Phoenix’s vast archive enabling it to be shared with Phoenix and dance fans around the world.

We were delighted that our Founder, David Hamilton MBE, was among those speaking at the event. He was joined by Delia Barker, Chair of the Phoenix Board of Trustees, and former Artistic Director and Guest Choreographer of the upcoming Requiem, Dane Hurst, whose idea it was to create these lasting resources for the company.

Dane Hurst: “My vision as the incoming artistic director in Phoenix’s 40th anniversary year was to commission a series of works to honour and celebrate the incredible work of all the artists and leaders who have contributed to the company’s illustrious history. The aim was to make the rich and colourful archive of photographs and works available to the public in a more accessible and creatively informative way.”

His vision developed into the creation of a commemorative book of photographs and the commissioning of a virtual gallery. Both are tangible artistic and historical records which capture the presence and exuberance of company members and guest artists who have created and sustained the legacy of Phoenix.

Event guests were treated to a presentation of a state-of-the-art virtual gallery by Judi Alston, CEO/Creative Director, and Andy Campbell, Digital Director, of award-winning One to One Development Trust who designed and created the gallery. The Phoenix Virtual Gallery is an imaginative and immersive online space to explore the company’s rich history, made possible by funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Containing more than 250 artefacts, the virtual gallery can be accessed here.

Judi Alston CEO/Creative Director One to One Development Trust: “It is a privilege to have worked with Phoenix on this celebratory project marking their significant anniversary. Looking back over 40 years there is so much fascinating content to explore, and the gallery offers an innovative way to show it. Some of the content has come from private collections as well as from the University of Leeds Special Collections archives and will not have been seen by the public before, so visitors are in for a real treat. We want people to get immersed in the gallery and would encourage people to visit several times and enjoy making new discoveries.”

At the launch event our current company dancers had the incredible opportunity to meet inspiring key individuals from Phoenix’s early days, including founding member Vilmore James and early company member Edward Lynch MBE. They were joined by three of the first four women dancers who joined the company in 1989 – Pam Johnson, Head of Culture Programmes at Leeds City Council, Dawn Holgate, Dance Lecturer, Cultural Leader and Freelance Dance Artist, and Sharon Watson MBE DL, CEO and Principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and former Phoenix artistic director.

Also among the guests were Dr Laura Griffiths from Leeds Beckett University who contributed to both projects; Khadijah Ibrahiim, poet and artistic director of Leeds Young Authors who has collaborated with Phoenix in recent years; Joe Williams, founder of Heritage Corner Leeds and Researcher on our Black Waters Heritage Project; and Northern Ballet’s Artistic Director, Federico Bonelli. Also joining us was journalist Stephanie Ferguson who has covered the company over the last four decades, including accompanying Phoenix to the Cultural Olympiad in Atlanta in 1996; Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council Deputy Leader of Council and Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education; and we were delighted that a number of photographers and archive curators who generously permitted Phoenix to reproduce their works in these projects could also attend.

These commemorative resources give everyone the opportunity to own a lasting piece of Phoenix or to explore its rich history from the comfort of your own home, honouring the first four decades as the company looks to the next steps in its story.

Jennifer Coleman-Peers, CEO: “As we look to the future so we also must look to the past. This incredible book and innovative virtual gallery offer an insight into the journey Phoenix has been on across its first forty years and provides inspiration for the company as we set out on our next exciting chapter. It feels fitting to be launching this celebration of Phoenix’s heritage and rich archive now as we will shortly be announcing our new strategy and the company’s heritage has been central to our thinking. We look forward to sharing more details of our future plans very soon.”

Visit the Phoenix Virtual Gallery here.

40 Years of Phoenix: A Photographic Journey is available to buy now here.

Photos Point of View Photography

MAIN IMAGE: Back row, l-r: Dane Hurst (Guest Choreographer (Requiem) and former Artistic Director); Company Dancers Hannah Mcglashon, Yasmina Patel & Shawn Willis; David Hamilton MBE (Phoenix Founder); Company Dancers Dylan Springer, Teige Bisnought, Carina Howard; and Mbulelo Ndabeni (Rehearsal Director).

Middle row l-r: Three of the first four women to join the hitherto all-male Phoenix in 1989: Pam Johnson, Head of Culture Programmes at Leeds City Council, Dawn Holgate, Dance Lecturer, Cultural Leader and Freelance Dance Artist, and Sharon Watson MBE DL, CEO and Principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and former Phoenix Artistic Director; Dorna Ashory (Company Dancer); and Vilmore James (Phoenix Founding Member).

Front row l-r: Edward Lynch MBE (Early Company Member) and Aaron Chaplin (Company Dancer and Requiem Assistant Rehearsal Director).

(1) David Hamilton MBE & Khadijah Ibrahiim; (2) Delia Barker, Vilmore James, Judi Alston; (3) David Hamilton MBE; (4) Mbulelo Ndabeni & Jennifer Coleman-Peers; (5) Sharon Watson MBE DL; (6) Edward Lynch MBE & Federico Bonelli; (7) Natalie Alleston, Antonio Borriello, Niamh Bell & Vicci Hamilton; (8) Dan Waters, Adarak, filming Dr Laura Griffiths; (9) Dawn Holgate & Stephanie Ferguson; (10) Rachel Poole interviewing Pam Johnson; (11) Melanie Paris; (12) Charis Osborne & Delia Barker; (13) Company Dancers (Requiem); (14) Dane Hurst; (15) Sandrine Monin & Simon Kamstra; (16) see Main Image caption above.