Press Release: ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF AFRICAN DANCE CANCELLED FOLLOWING FUNDING CUTS
MDI (Merseyside Dance Initiative) has been forced to cancel this year’s Bend Down Low due to a lack of funds following the announcement in June that Arts Council England would be withdrawing their financial support of MDI as a National Portfolio Organisation.
Bend Down Low is MDI’s annual showcase celebrating African People’s Dance, and is a platform for professional dance artists, community dance groups, colleges and universities to celebrate the influence and impact of the many dance styles that have developed out of the African diaspora. Started in 2010, this year would have been the eighth consecutive Bend Down Low, and was set to build on the success of last year’s event and this year’s LEAP dance festival. The event was due to take place in November at The Black-E.
The cancellation of this year’s event prevents MDI from developing access to dance for both performers and audience alike. Last year’s Bend Down Low, supported by a National Lottery Celebrate! grant, welcomed an audience of exceptional diversity, with elders and youngsters from all parts of the community coming together for a day of celebration, dance and food at the Black-E. This year’s event was also due to be held at the Black-E, a community arts centre on the south side of the city, that has always been a champion of diversity in Liverpool.
In March 2017, MDI hosted LEAP dance festival, building a 280-seat pop-up venue at Make in Liverpool’s north docks, supported by The Unity Theatre. This innovative model was a huge success and praised by members of Liverpool City Council as well as countless individuals in the arts and dance communities. This approach to creating pop-up venues to programme new and original dance works as well as to host community events and showcases, was set to continue with Bend Down Low. The importance and value of this approach is to give MDI artistic leadership over the programming of dance, as well as audience development for dance in the city. MDI has worked for 25 years to develop dance on Merseyside, from teaching classes to young children in schools and in their Hope St studio, through to bringing some of the biggest and most innovative dance productions to the city. It is this wealth of experience that MDI brings to every class, workshop, showcase, production and festival, with their stated intention being to inspire people through dance.
Maxine Brown, a Community Dance Artist with MDI, and the organiser of Bend Down Low, has made this statement:
“I am extremely saddened by the loss of this year’s Bend Down Low showcase. It was a really difficult decision to cancel this year. It has taken many years to develop and grow this event. Bend Down Low has supported and given a performance platform to professional artists, dancers in FE/HE and community groups from across Merseyside. Bend Down Low has gained a dedicated audience that has grown year on year, with an increasing number of them being from Merseyside’s BME communities.
It is a real shame as many groups, such as LJMU, and Merseyside Youth Dance Co. had started to make work for this year’s show. Bend Down Low has become a real beacon for community cohesion in the city, and demonstrates the power of dance to bring so many diverse people together.
The showcase has always offered an opportunity to make the creative case for diversity, now I worry that once again our work in this area becomes side-lined and invisible. How we will celebrate and share our black dance culture in our city without Bend Down Low.”
The decision to cancel this year’s event is a direct consequence of organisational change in the light of having ACE funding withdrawn, as of March 2018. The NPO investment MDI has received from Arts Council England represents 41% of their annual budget. In order to survive such a heavy loss of income, the charity is having to withdraw some of the activities that have now become financially unsustainable. Whilst an event like Bend Down Low might not make a financial profit, it certainly makes a cultural and community profit.
MDI has been an inspiration to many over the years: transforming lives through its work with people living with such conditions as Parkinson's and Dementia; various community events and animations of city and town centres with professional works; supporting artists locally and beyond and winning many awards along the way.
It comes as a surprise for such a major funder to withdraw support from an organisation in the light of the successes achieved over the past 25 years. The independent dance sector has begun a petition to ACE which can be found here:
MDI’s ambition for the future remains the same; the focus of Liverpool as a dance destination will continue to be instrumental in all that we do as we continue to support diverse emerging artists and disadvantaged young people.
Although we accept there may be challenging times ahead we remain resilient and optimistic for the future of the organisation and dance within the city region. Drawing on our proven track record for delivering success (MDI's long history of being core funded has generated £6 million for dance development in the region) and our strong partnerships with local and national organisations, we will continue to provide an inspiring and exciting annual programme of dance moving forward.
MDI hopes Bend Down Low will return in November 2018.
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For more information, images or interview requests please contact
Karen Gallagher MBE (Artistic Director): [email protected]
Maxine Brown (Community Dance Artist, African Peoples’ Dance): [email protected]
Adam Cooper (Finance & Communications Officer): [email protected]
Office Phone No: 0151 708 8810
Photo: Bend Down Low 2016 / Alan D Smith