Our Gateshead Young Writers programme aims to introduce young people from all backgrounds to creative writing, and we were interested in collaborating with other arts organisations to see how different forms might work together. So we were delighted when the opportunity came along to partner with the fabulous Gateway Studio!

Gateway selected eight of their talented young dancers, who worked with spoken word poet Tahmina Ali and dancer Carlos J Martínez over a series of ten sessions on Zoom. Beginning with some writing exercises, the young people began to explore the relationship between words and movement and discussed their experience of lockdown, which through peer editing developed into their collaborative piece I Welcome The Hurdles.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I agreed to take part in facilitating this project. The pandemic hasn’t made workshop delivery easy, creatives like myself have had to adapt in ways we’d never imagined before COVID-19, however the Gateway group were an absolute pleasure to work with. They were engaged and brought a huge amount of talent to our zoom space. It was fascinating for me to see the group develop their writing skills and fuse them with contemporary dance.” – Tahmina Ali

“I’m really enjoying these creative sessions, they are nothing like what I have done before and I really like how insightful they are. I really like how the poem is coming together” – Participant

It was exciting to explore the relationship between poetry and dance, as the choreography was developed hand in hand with the writing. The young people explored how the poetry affected their body and interpreted that through dance, developing solos in response as well as working on some big phrases all together.

“I enjoyed being able to relate to others through our lockdown experiences through both dance and poetry.” – Participant

“The narrative side helped me to build my performance skills.” – Participant

We were all finally able to meet in person in April – this was a chance for the participants to rehearse their dance with Carlos, and to audio record their poetry with Tahmina. They gave some fantastic spoken word performances and we were all excited to get to filming day.

Unfortunately, when the day of filming finally came the weather was terrible – we somehow managed to pick the rainiest day of the year! We had originally planned to film the dancing on Gateshead Quayside but this no longer felt safe and so we reimagined the day, using all the different spaces within Gateway’s fabulous space in the Trinity Centre on Gateshead High Street. In the end this came together really beautifully, the inventive locations and the young people’s creative performances and improvisations really echoed the resilience within their words.

“It was a really great opportunity to try filming as I am used to performing live.” – Participant

“I was really impressed with the young people, how natural they were in front of the camera. They were empowered by being able to embrace themselves through dance, adding another dimension of poetry. It was distinctive, strong and inspiring. A real pleasure to be a small part in capturing such a talented group of people.” – Ismail Ali, filmmaker

We are so proud of the finished film and hugely impressed by the talented young people we worked with! A massive well done to Delphine, Grace, Isabella, Lenja, Lola, Louis, Jess and Robyn, and a huge thank you to Martin at Gateway as well as our fabulous artists Tahmina and Carlos. We are also deeply grateful to the Kavli Trust for their support of this project as part of the Gateshead Young Writers programme, and to Arts Council England for their ongoing support.

“For us a dance organisation, it’s been fantastic to work with New Writing North. Introducing the young people to writing has helped to develop them as artists and they’ve grown so much! Supporting our young people to engage with a variety of art forms is exactly what Gateway is about and it’s been an honour and a pleasure working on this project.” – Martin Hylton, Gateway

“It was so fun. I found that it really boosted my confidence as a dancer.” – Participant

You can watch the finished film here.

Image credits: Pete Huggins