Breakthrou’ dancer interviews FRONTLINEdance Company Manager

Grace caught up with her sister Esther on webcam to ask about her time in her role so far…

Where do you live?

I grew up in Barlaston and Tittensor, but I’ve lived and worked in Manchester since 2010.

During your career, have you always been involved in creative arts?

Since going to Newcastle Art College, I have always wanted to work in the arts sector. I love being creative, but I felt my flair was for organisation rather than arts in practice. I knew that I wanted to work in the cultural or creative industry.  I did lots of volunteering and work in museums and galleries, then in 2015 started at the British Council: a global organisation with a great reputation in arts and culture, where I’ve worked on programmes that fund cultural projects in the Middle East and across Europe. Even when my income wasn’t coming from an arts sector job, I’ve maintained a connection to the arts community by being involved in the running of SHE Choir Manchester, which I love to sing in and project manage for, and I’ve volunteered in theatre productions for HOME and The Royal Exchange. I’ve always needed some sort of cultural activity to be part of my work and social life, and I love music, film and theatre.

Did you enjoy your education and University life?

Yes, going to the local Art college helped me decide to do a degree in Art &Visual Culture: History, Theory & Management at Sheffield Hallam. During my studies I worked as an after-school carer for a child with profound and multiple learning and physical disabilities. I wrote papers on arts in industrial heritage, as I have always been proud of the creativity of The Potteries, and I worked at Spode before I went to Sheffield, which has a fascinating industrial and political history too.

What experience do you have within the disability community?

Well Grace, I was 3 when you were born – so I think it’s fair to say nearly all my life! Of course, it took me a while to realise that not everyone has a family member who has Down’s Syndrome – I used to ask Mum why I didn’t have ‘special knees’ (rather than ‘special needs’!).

You went to the same primary school as me, and because you were so popular, every knew me as ‘Grace’s sister’.  I was there at your speech therapy, playgroups, playdays at Our Space. When you went to Walton Hall Special School and then Derwent College, I got to meet your friends – I really appreciate the connection I’ve had through you to the disability community. I wish everyone in the world could have the same experience and that people who are disabled were more visible in every part of everyday life.

What have been the highlights of your time with FRONTLINEdance so far?

I have learned a lot, been attached  to my laptop mostly, but the highlights have definitely been any time that I’ve been able to see FRONTLINEdancers in action – at the Residency week when Dave and Dan came in, with Rhiannon in the office, talking about the Friends of events plan with Matt, taking part in Breakthrou Dance and Moving Stories at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, and having fun on the dancefloor at the Halloween party.

Do you prioritise disabled dancers at FRONTLINEdance?

I think that we work towards disabled and non-disabled dancers both being as important as each other, FRONTLINEdance is about integration so we focus on both. We also do work specifically for older age groups and people in hospital.

Do you enjoy your job?

This is easily the most satisfying job I have ever had. To be able to work in management within the arts sector for an organisation that makes a measurable impact on the lives of people who can feel excluded from the arts and society is so important to me, especially people who have disabilities.

Thank you for the interview Esther!

No problem sis 🙂

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