Covid calls time on local dance company?
JOHN Darvell is artistic director of NOCTURN, a company that built its reputation with high-quality participatory art. “We struggled to survive when all our face-to-face public engagement activities had to cease back in April. I just thought ‘This is the end’ – 10 years of increasing achievements wiped out overnight by a bug.”
John tried everything he could think of to stay afloat: Government assistance for small businesses... not applicable; Arts Council England grant... applications overwhelmed them; local partner venues... shut up shop. He even asked Newbury MP Laura Farris for suggestions, but, he says, the belated response was costly and unrealistic. “As an artist, I felt
overlooked and that our work was unworthy.”
Then an unexpected boost came when Grant Dedden, owner of Newbury CrossFit – John’s gym – asked all his members to sign his Covid-19 response ‘I Pledge’ scheme and commit themselves to a NOCTURN dance activity in future.
John says: “It was completely unpredicted and their support gave me the drive I needed to adapt our programmes to suit the times.”
And further hope came from people who missed the joy NOCTURN’s dance gave them. First, local schools, then the whole community of dance participants told them to continue. “It’s early days, but things are starting to move again.”
Children’s creative learning is kept going by producing fun workshops and creative teaching resources online. Executive headteacher of Mortimer St John’s Infants/Mortimer St Mary’s, Nicola Sumner, said: “We’ve been fortunate to work alongside NOCTURN for many years, seeing our children become more and more inspired by dance. They uniquely nurtured our young children’s creative skills. We simply can’t lose that, especially in these challenging times.”
NOCTURN’s other regular adult participants are eagerly signing up for Dance Online, a monthly membership scheme giving access to a wide range of pre-recorded exercises and live Zoom classes. “I nearly chickened out joining,” said one participant, Gail Borrows, feeling the Covid-19 blues, “now I’m so glad I didn’t. Weekly online classes have made me feel better than I have in months. It’s brilliant compared to all the other dance on the web, a really unique mix of tough pre-recorded prep work, then sharing our results together live with John each week – just amazing.”
And NOCTURN has also made a free Dance at Home toolkit available to ensure primary aged children don’t lose out to lockdown. For parents/carers to deliver themselves, these fun online sessions see John and workshop leader Laurie-Ann Price take children on the 1969 space mission to land on the moon.
“It’s been tough, Covid-19,” says John.
“So, I’ve been touched by the encouragement from schools and our participants, both regular and new.
“The spirit and generosity of the Newbury public is vital.
“Only they can get artists like me through these dark times.”
Join an online class. Download their free ‘Dance at Home Toolkit’. Donate now. All at nocturndance.co.uk