Support for struggling Sussex dancers forced out of work

Two years after the death of its artistic director and chief executive Jamie Watton, South East Dance is relaunching the fund created in his name.

Valerie Ebuwa is one of the dancers affected
Valerie Ebuwa is one of the dancers affected

This time it will support the south-east based dance artists who have, in many cases, lost almost their entire incomes overnight as a result of COVID-19.

At Jamie’s memorial service in October 2018, the arts charity launched a fund-raising campaign in his name to support the completion of the South East Dance’s new home for dance, The Dance Space.

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In light of the sudden and catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on the entire arts sector, the fund is now being refocused on south-east based dance artists who have fallen through the gaps of arts and cultural emergency funding.”

South East Dance’s artistic director Cath James says: “We believe this is a good way to honour Jamie’s memory because as the CEO and artistic director of South East Dance for almost a decade, he was a passionate supporter of the dance artists that make this region such an incredibly culturally vibrant place.

“When he died at just 51 after a short illness his wish was that we would complete the South East’s new home for dance, The Dance Space, and to continue to support the region’s independent dance artists to thrive. Now more than ever they need our help.

“We know from reports such as Louise Blackwell’s excellent This is the Time that more than 70 per cent of the creative industries is made up of self-employed people, people such as the self-employed artists who have lost 90 per cent of their income for this financial year overnight.

“Many of these people may only have been able to access small HMRC grants.

“Many will not have been successful in applying to inevitably hugely oversubscribed emergency funding packages.

“Even with the Chancellor’s welcome announcement of a record £1.57 billion package to save the arts from the brink, there is not yet any indication of how soon those funds will be open for applications, and artists are in desperate need right now.

“It is these people that we want to help, the dance artists who are facing a very real struggle to make ends meet, and whose talent – unless supported – could be lost to the dance sector.”

South East Dance’s goal is to raise at least £10,000 by the end of October 2020 to support as many artists as possible with small awards to help them plug their income gap at this difficult time.

Cath added: “South East Dance is an arts charity, challenging perceptions of what dance looks like: how it’s made, who it’s for and what it can achieve.

“We support dance artists, present bold new work, develop the infrastructure for dance and get more people across the south east involved in dance.

“In 2018-19 more than 86,756 people connected with our work – live and digitally.

““We presented 48 performances engaging live audiences of over 7,878 people; we supported the development of 663 artists from the UK and overseas; and we provided opportunities for over 14,000 individuals to participate in our dance workshops and classes.”