Journeys Festival of Dance
Journeys Festival of Dance is a free annual event, taking place over one weekend during September. It has taken place on the Stade Open Space since 2013. Supported by Hastings Borough Council and Arts Council England, amongst others. It draws existing and new audiences of up to 2,000 people. The performances are accessible, diverse and participatory dance experiences featuring high quality local, national and international artists.
The festival focuses on raising diversity and accessibility to dance; an under-served art form in Hastings. We often mainstream work by outstanding, highly respected disabled dancers, trans dancers and dance from diverse cultural groups. Journeys nurtures new creative collaborations between artists and outreach projects to bring dance to those who may not otherwise experience it.
Cultural strategy ambition(s)
Culture for everyone - Hastings' cultural offer is inclusive and accessible - there are chances for people to take part in culture and creativity in their community.
Proud to live in Hastings - Culture builds connections between communities to improve the quality of life for local people.
Open for tourism - Cultural tourism brings people to Hastings - creating opportunities for local people to gain skills and employment.
What did you do/what happened?
Provided ten years of free outdoor dance, often accompanied by live music, and with a focus on inclusive programming at the Stade Open Space. Dance workshops in partnership with local dance organisations, regional and national dance initiatives such as Exercise Movement and Dance, Wheelchair Dance Sport Association and the public also take place.
Who was involved?
Various national and international high profile dance companies including: Compagnie Bilbobasso, Zaza Tsara Mayottian Dance Troupe (UK premiere of Mayottian dance), Southpaw Dance Company, and Sujata Banerjee Dance Company.
Why did you take this approach?
Journeys has always been free and outdoors to reach wider audiences. The festival involves local dance groups alongside and with high quality touring dance.
When did this happen, over what time period?
Ten years - the festival began with a 'tango' pilot in 2013 working with Ragroof Theatre. Thus identified that dance was unrepresented in the cultural calendar.
What was involved in terms of logistics, time or resources? (i.e. how much work did it take?)
The festival levers significant external funding for the town and develops high quality dance and cultural partnerships. The festival invites dance companies to perform across two days in Hastings and Rother. We have mapped some local dance provision, and tracked audiences from Canterbury, London, and Devon. We also know that our audiences will often visit all dance performances on the programme.
Is this a first for Hastings, regionally or even nationally?
Our research in 2020 identified Journeys to be the only entirely free outdoor dance festival in the UK.
Where did you get inspiration / the idea from for this activity?
There was interest in the pilot dance, this introduced us to local dance partnerships and we worked with RAMP events in the early years to ensure we were bringing forward inclusive dance opportunities. Journeys reaches a mainstream audience with dancers who may have a disability or be from a range ethnic backgrounds.
What difference has this made to your organisation, the people involved?
Journeys was the first festival within 18 Hours' ownership. Journeys has enabled our team to become specialists in inclusive dance, local opportunities, regional and national partnerships and tours.
What are your plans for the future?
We have recently moved Journeys into the Coastal Currents Festival period to help grow audiences. We plan to become co-commissioners of inclusive, national profile, dance.
What advice would you give another arts organisation or creative practitioner looking to do something similar / work in Hastings?
Ensure a commitment to quality in whatever you do.
How can your experience address commonly encountered challenges to help other arts organisation or creative practitioner working or based-in Hastings?
We are keen to work in partnership to learn from each other and share good practice. In 2021-2022 we delivered a training programme for local events organisers in Rother.
"It was wonderful to bring two cultures together…Particularly as the choir was doing an evening of Afro-Latin music - some of which the Mayottians knew. The thrill of them dancing whist our choir sang was something we found to be very moving."
-Juliet Russell, Vocal Explosion
"Great to see inclusive work - able and disabled - producing fantastic choreography"
-Audience member 'Elaine'