"My passion is about raising voices. By representing artists and practitioners from underrepresented communities, we are reflecting the cultural landscape of the UK"
Image credit: The Unloved
What do you do?
I am the CEO and Artistic Director of Serendipity, a diversity-led arts organisation in Leicester. We have just celebrated our tenth birthday! In terms of what we do; our main projects are Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF), an annual dance festival in Leicester and the coordination of Black History Month for the city; producing events and performances, conferences, exhibitions, workshops, film screenings, CPD courses, publishing books… We are busy people!
Much of our work is with a focus on voices coming out of the African and African Caribbean Diaspora, but everyone is welcome to be a part of the conversation.
We have just produced Alternative LDIF20, a digital dance festival that took place online to celebrate international dance day, as we had to postpone LDIF due to COVID-19. Our next event is for Windrush Day on 22 June; an online lecture with Professor Stephen Small and a screening of A Very Brit(ish) Voice that explores the stories of Caribbean people who travelled in the UK between 1948 and 1971 and settled in Leicester, alongside contemporary reflections. Then we are planning for Black History Month, with a few exciting projects up our sleeves.
How did you get to where you are?
I have had a very varied career occupying many different roles, but always in the arts.
I have been fortunate to have been a part of the development of Black arts in the UK, having worked as the Marketing Manager at the first Black arts centre, the Nia Centre (Manchester) in the 90s, then Artistic Director of Peepul Centre (Leicester), as Chief Executive of Rich Mix (London), and as an Arts Council assessor before founding Serendipity in 2010.
Throughout my different roles I’ve worn many different hats, but have always tried to ensure that I make space for the issues which I am passionate about, I hope my work speaks for itself.
Why do you love what you do?
My passion is about raising voices. By representing artists and practitioners from underrepresented communities, we are reflecting the cultural landscape of the UK.
I genuinely believe that arts are a vehicle for positive change, the work we do showcases high quality work that is engaging and much of the work we present does not shy away from cultural politics. We are motivated to showcase work that is of the highest calibre and show that work from the African and African-Caribbean Diaspora is professional and cutting-edge.
Why are you based in Leicester?
I first came to Leicester as an undergrad, and although I’ve worked in many different cities there is always something that brings me back to Leicester. I think there is something unique about the city and the cultural life in the city, there are so many fantastic artists, organisations and projects based here.
I started Let’s Dance International Frontiers having been to see a dance company in a neighbouring city, and thinking that this was something that we could do better in Leicester. Leicester used to be the home of dance and have an international festival, so I thought why don’t we reignite this passion for dance in the city? Now we’ve celebrated our tenth birthday, it has been great to look back on the impact that LDIF has had both from a local perspective and the artists and audiences who have shared in the work, but also from an international perspective, putting Leicester on the map as a place known for dance.
The step change that Black History Month in Leicester has had, through the work that both Serendipity and many other organisers across the city have made in working together to programme fantastic work throughout October. We’ve had artists and audiences tell us that this is one of the biggest UK programmes outside of London, and one of the highest quality programmes.
I think throughout Leicester’s cultural calendar, there is something for everyone. We are almost spoilt for choice for opportunities that we have to come together.
Our next event is a lecture for Windrush Day, which we are hosting online. It’s a really valuable opportunity for people to learn more about the contribution to the African Caribbean community to Leicester, and hear both Leicester voices tell their stories in their own words and have Windrush contextualised by an internationally renowned academic, Professor Stephen Small.
Everyone is welcome to join in the discussion: https://serendipity-uk.com/event/windrush-day-lecture/
Then in October we have Black History Month, and there are loads of ways to get involved, whether it’s as an artist, participant, audience. Here is an overview of ways that people can get involved:
BHM Live - a commission and mentor three emerging Black, UK based artists working across art forms to create multifaceted projects that will feature as part of a Leicester wide magazine and online digital content offering an insight into their creativity. For more information on this commission please visit the Serendipity website. Deadline for applications Thursday 25 June 2020, 5pm (BST)
30 Seconds to Treasure - A collective dance film for Black History Month, artists are invited to submit 30 seconds of movement inspired by the following provocations; What is it we want to keep hold of? What are the stories we need to tell? What is it we hold precious? Deadline for submissions Sunday 30 August 2020, 11.59pm (BST)
If you are planning an event for Black History Month Leicester 2020 (digital or physical) and would like it to be listed on the website and communication materials, or would like further information and guidance please email firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday 28 June 2020.
Further programme details will be available at: https://serendipity-uk.com/black-history-month-leicester/
Social media accounts to follow:
Twitter: @serendipityinfo | @pawletbrookes