ON THE BLOG: Joanne Lyons from Candoco Dance Company

Led by the UK’s Candoco Dance Company, Moving Beyond Inclusion received €199,920 from Creative Europe’s Cooperation Projects funding opportunity in 2016. We spoke to Candoco’s General Manager Joanne Lyons about how the support has helped them “harness new and exciting opportunities” in the world of inclusive dance.

Tell us about Moving Beyond Inclusion

"At the heart of Moving Beyond Inclusion (MBI) is the fundamental belief that working inclusively produces more exciting and more excellent artistic work for audiences to enjoy. 

"The project seeks to address the issue that the mainstream arts sector is far from truly representing the diversity in society at large, and that opportunities for disabled artists to develop and present their work – and for diverse artists to work together – remain limited. 

"MBI has three areas of focus: 

  1. Raise the level of training and ambition for: i) disabled dancers and those working inclusively; ii) choreographers wishing to expand and develop their own practice; and iii) the partners’ internal teams in terms of selling and showcasing the work 
  2. Increase the quality of artistic output through exclusive choreographic research periods with a range of choreographers and subsequent productions
  3. Grow networks and performance opportunities, showcasing the best of inclusive practice to ever-growing audiences, thereby shifting perceptions of what inclusive dance practice can be.

"The project aims to provide a ground-breaking continuum from professional training to performance to audiences." 

How was it getting and working with partners?

"The process of establishing the MBI partnership was a very organic one. Candoco Dance Company calls itself a learning organisation and, as such, is in constant discussion with other companies and organisations across the sector. As an organisation we love hearing from others and how they are developing their practice and methodologies. 

“Without the Creative Europe funding, we simply wouldn’t have been able to run the project... it would have taken many smaller-scale projects over a much longer period of time to achieve the same kind of impacts"

"We like to build and develop long-term relationships, both nationally and internationally, and the five partners working with us on MBI are some of those that we have collaborated with us on one-off projects over many years. 

"Together we are a partnership of six inclusive dance companies and presenters, who all work in the mainstream dance world and are also widely recognised for the importance and quality of their inclusive practice. 

"We came together a number of times, formally and informally, to discuss plans for our Creative Europe bid, and put in a lot of discussion time before settling on a suitable approach for the application." 

What do you think made your application successful?  

"The strength of the partnership certainly had something to do with it. We actually delayed submitting the bid by a year in the end, as the first draft did not quite serve all the partners well enough, and we realised the plans needed to be reconsidered in order to ensure the project would work for everyone. 

"Putting in a couple of years of groundwork helped clarify and cement our objectives in the application, and helped solidify the working relationships we needed in order to see the actual project through." 

What impact has Creative Europe support made on your project?

"Without the Creative Europe funding, we simply wouldn’t have been able to run the project, and it would have taken many smaller-scale projects over a much longer period of time to achieve the same kind of impacts that we’re seeing now.

"Working collaboratively on such a scale at the same time has helped the partners harness new and exciting opportunities that have arisen from the network of the partnership. For example, we are seeing a lot of new, cross-cultural collaborations and employment opportunities for our artists that wouldn’t necessarily have happened without the Creative Europe-supported MBI project." 

Has anything surprised you?

"I have been most taken aback by the mutuality of the learning from each other’s practice.

"Some partners have been operating for much longer than others, some have far more resources and capacity than others, we are all based in very differing cultural and political contexts – and yet, the level of learning from each other is significant, and what we have been able to bring back to our own organisations invaluable." 

How did you find the process of working with Creative Europe Desk UK?

"Working with Creative Europe Desk UK has been great. The team has been incredibly helpful and an essential support in navigating the complexities of Creative Europe’s bureaucracy. 

"The regular seminars and workshops hosted by Creative Europe Desk UK also offer a brilliant opportunity to meet with and hear from other Creative Europe-supported projects, to learn about the fantastic work that is going on across Europe, and to know there are many others in the same boat!" 

What advice would you give to potential applicants of Creative Europe?

"Have as many conversations as you can – asking as many questions as possible – with your potential partners, Creative Europe Desk UK, other Creative Europe funded projects and their project managers. Aim to glean as much as you can from their experience, the pitfalls they’ve encountered and the successes they have enjoyed. 

"Navigating the occasionally choppy waters of Creative Europe bureaucracy can seem daunting at times, but with a good support network it’s supremely possible and absolutely worth it!"

Visit the Moving Beyond Inclusion website

Image by Pedro Machado