A variety of museum and dance practitioners met at M Shed for a productive day on September 15 to examine how the two were already working together on creative projects, and explore exciting opportunities for collaboration in the future. The result was a lively exchange of information and feeling of optimism that supporting each other could help both areas thrive in difficult times.
The delegates were welcomed to M Shed by Laura Pye, Head of Culture for Bristol City Council on behalf of Ruth Hecht, Senior Officer Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives and Zannah Doan, Regional Producer at Pavilion Dance South West (PDSW) who had jointly organised the event.
The group were first addressed by Deryck Newland, Artistic Director at PDSW who gave an overview of the dance perspective, and from the museum world, John Orna-Ornstein, Director of Museums, Arts Council England (ACE). Deryck outlined sector participatory programmes and existing collaborations organised around the resource themes of Bounce (work with children and young people), Grow (artistic development), Shift & Share (creation & distribution), and Breathe (health and wellbeing). He said the human body could be viewed as a special type of object or installation itself, with the potential to provide a shortcut for new audiences to connect with a museum collection. It was no longer enough just to show people things, but imaginative dance and museum collaborations could take the audience beyond the everyday experience. John Orna-Ornstein also emphasised collections as the essential ‘detail of who we are’ but said time was needed to build relationships and in-depth conversations possibly by developing a shared language, but certainly by both sectors learning about each other’s aims and values.
We then heard from some enthusiastic speakers with collaboration case studies giving an overview of work currently going on and ideas for creative projects. This included Kate Coyne (Siobhan Davies Dance) with some international collaborations, Veronica Jobbins (Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance) on a collaboration with the Horniman Museum, Katie Green (Made by Katie Green) on a variety of museum work including that with the Russell Cotes Museum and Creswell Crags; and Judith Robinson, Exhibitions Officer, Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery and June Gamble, Co-ordinating Producer at Plymouth Dance on the New Expressions programme.
A networking lunch with the opportunity to meet colleagues informally, was followed by an open space afternoon session where questions which had arisen from the morning were discussed in small groups. Zannah Doan then brought the discussions to a close concluding that dance colleagues were delighted to discover that museums were as interested in working with dancers as they were to work with museum colleagues. The cultural exchange that had taken place at this event resulted in a celebration of both media but it was recognised that here was an opportunity to get the ongoing relationship right. Further sessions would be able to focus on more specific areas, ensure career & professional development for those involved, explore shared funding options and build a confident and supportive network.
If you are interested in finding out more about the dance and museum network or contributing to future sessions please see the following links/resources.
Henley review of Cultural Education in England (DCMS 2012)
Sally Lewis 21/09/2015