The Work Room director Anita Clark: 'We are an instigator and connector'

The Work Room at 10

As Glasgow dance organisation The Work Room turns 10, we find out what the future holds

A vital space for dancers and choreographers, The Work Room in Glasgow's Tramway celebrates its first decade this year. We speak to director, Anita Clark about how it started, highlights from across the past ten years – and what comes next.

Why did the Work Room come into being, and how has it evolved over the past 10 years?
It was set up by a group of dance artists working in Glasgow - our current chair Kally Lloyd Jones along with Roanne Dods, Anna Krzystek and Diane Torr (who all tragically passed away during 2017), and Rosina Bonsu, Natasha Gilmore, Linda Payne and Colette Sadler.

They had been agitating about the lack of resources for dance as an art form to develop in the city, and particularly the lack of suitable space to create work in. The opportunity for The Work Room studio space came about when Scottish Ballet developed its new headquarters at Tramway, which included a vision for a resource for independent dance artists. This was encouraged by the public funders, the Scottish Arts Council and Glasgow City Council.

From the start, the purpose of The Work Room was to be a space for dance artists to work: a home to research practice and create new work. It was vital to those artists that the organisation was artist-led and that ethos continues to permeate how we operate.

The organisation has evolved over the past 10 years – our membership has increased and we now have a secure funding base which enables us to financially support artists when they are in residence and employ two members of staff to manage the organisation and programme. But fundamentally, the purpose remains the same – to be a home for experimentation in dance and a supportive community of artists.

Which dancers and companies that have passed through the Work Room doors over the past decade?
So many of Scotland's dance artists and choreographers have been connected with The Work Room, and work developed within our studio has gone on to be produced, presented and toured in Scotland, across the UK and internationally – including Natasha Gilmore (artistic director of Barrowland Ballet), Claire Cunningham, Joan Cleville, Anna Krysztek, Louise Ahl / Ultimate Dancer and Marc Brew Company.

Nine productions at the last Dance International Glasgow (DiG) in 2017 were developed through residencies at The Work Room, but not everything that takes place here leads directly to performance. We currently have 140 members, representing a multitude of artistic practices and artists at different stages of career development, and they value the safe space that is provided for artistic research, development and experimentation outwith the production process.

What are the routes to getting involved with the Work Room?
If you're an artist working in dance, movement and choreography you can apply to join our membership. Collaborating with others is key to how we work; we are an instigator and connector - both through and on behalf of our members. We want to excite and enthuse venues, festivals and presenters about dance and particularly the work being developed by our members.

We are currently involved in collaborative projects with other organisations who share these ambitions including Platform, Cove Park, Take Me Somewhere Festival, the Merchant City Festival, The Touring Network and our host venue, Tramway. And we love talking to others to think about how we could work together.

And what are your hopes for the next ten years?
The Work Room is in a really good place to be looking forward. We were successful in securing RFO funding for the next three years and with this we will be able to consolidate our programme of residencies and support, as well as taking a lead in promoting the work of Scotland's independent dance companies and artists internationally. For example, at the end of August this year, we are co-ordinating a Dance From Scotland presence at the International Tanzmesse which is the largest showcase of contemporary dance.

And the new project we're launching as part of our 10th anniversary celebrations is about inviting others to come and be part of The Work Room story with us. Beyond is a new approach to supporting and nurturing artist-led dance projects beyond our studio, that will connect more people with dance.

We're looking for people to get involved and support us in this – and they can find out more at theworkroom.org.uk/beyond.

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