A charity which touches every corner of Bradford’s excluded, vulnerable and isolated communities has been backed by the new president of Bradford Chamber of Commerce.
Suzanne Watson, managing director of Ilkley-based Approach PR and who took up office as Bradford Chamber president last month, has selected radical dance intervention specialists, Dance United Yorkshire as Bradford Chamber’s charity of the year.
Based at Kala Sangam Arts Centre in Bradford, Dance United Yorkshire works with schools, youth offending teams and pupil referral units, delivering intensive contemporary dance courses for 13 to 19-year-olds which build trust, self-esteem and culminate in a performance at a professional venue. The charity’s outreach also extends to young people and adults experiencing poor mental health, domestic abuse victims and those living in poverty.
From August 2019 until 2020, Dance United Yorkshire will receive funds raised from Bradford Chamber’s annual dinner in November, donations from the Chamber’s weekly dress down days, volunteer support from the Little Germany-based Bradford Chamber team and quarterly profiling in the West and North Yorkshire Chamber’s quarterly members magazine.
Suzanne said: “I hadn’t heard of Dance United Yorkshire until I was invited to their celebration of becoming a charity back in March. The evening involved dance performances by children, young people and adults who’d had some unthinkable experiences in life. I was moved to tears watching them perform and support each other in front of an audience.”
“I saw some of our district’s most vulnerable and isolated people come to life on that stage following months of hard work and commitment and I immediately knew this was the charity I wanted to back in my first year as Chamber president.”
In the last 12 months, Dance United Yorkshire has worked with 1193 children, young people and adults in the Bradford district and statistics show that over 80 per cent of young people felt that taking part in a Dance United Yorkshire project had improved their mental health and wellbeing. Established in 2011 initially as a Community Interest Company, today the charity is led by artistic director Helen Linsell, who has worked globally delivering dance to a range of communities.
Helen said: “We are delighted to be recognised by Bradford Chamber for the work we do across the district. We’re a unique organisation which uses high quality arts interventions to develop discipline, motivation, teamwork and confidence as well as fitness and wellbeing with vulnerable and disengaged individuals and those who are socially isolated. But we can be overlooked or misunderstood when there are better known local and national charities.
“Funds raised through Bradford Chamber in the next 12 months will go directly into continuing our projects for people here in Bradford from the ages of three to 80. Our experience shows that through dance, it’s never too late to turn lives around.”
Suzanne added: “At a time when Bradford is bidding to become City of Culture 2025, we’re increasingly aware of how culture can bring personal transformation and I can’t think of a more fitting charity for Bradford Chamber to showcase and support than one which uses dance to support, connect, engage and become a catalyst for positive change.”