It’s Social Enterprise Day and Catherine Evans, Wales Co-operative Centre Marketing Manager, is spending some time with Ffin Dance in Abertillery, South Wales.
Ffin Dance performer takes flight!
Ffin (pronounced Feen) Dance is a social enterprise which was founded in 2003 by charismatic Artistic Director Sue Lewis. Sue spent many years developing dance in the South Wales Valleys, first as Head of the Dance Department at Ebbw Vale Comprehensive School and subsequently as Director of Blaenau Gwent’s flagship Youth Dance Company, The Move.
The South Wales Valleys is one of the poorest areas in the UK with disproportionately high unemployment and many families living just below the poverty line. Whilst many urged Sue to set up a dance company in the more cosmopolitan environment of Cardiff, she was clear that everyone should have access to high quality, contemporary art, and so decided to base herself and her company in Abertillery.
Traditionally, arts companies have tended to rely on grants to survive, but since Sue found that many grants came with strings attached, she decided to follow a social enterprise model and rely on income earned from classes, ticket sales and commercial opportunities. This has given the company the freedom to pursue its own strategic goals, and forced them to become more entrepreneurial, ambitious and pro-active as a result. The company also has some high profile supporters as a result of its social enterprise status. Internationally renowned performance architect Sheron Wray made a new piece for the company in 2009, and Gary Lambert, a critically acclaimed performer and choreographer, is now the company’s Associate Director. These high profile connections have enabled Ffin Dance to extend its touring programme and it now regularly performs at international festivals across the globe.
Bending over backwards to make things work!
Today will be a very busy day for the company as it prepares for its Winter Dance Faktry Festival. This is a two-day event which pulls together performances by a number of local community dance groups as well as two fledgling professional companies, who are being given a public platform for the first time to showcase their work. The shows are on at The Met in Abertillery (more details at http://www.the-met.co.uk/events).
The main job for today is to get everything ready for the performances. This means working with the technical team to plan for the final rehearsals, rigging the theatre lighting, making decisions about how to photograph and film the show and making sure all the dressing rooms are ready for when the performers arrive.
Its going to be a busy and exciting day!