A look back at this year

A look back at this year

What are the right words to use for 2020? We don’t even know where to start. While it’s been a hard year for everyone, our hearts especially go out to the artists and creatives in the live performance world who have been hit hard, as well as all the families we work with in Hackney.
While most of our original plans for the year fell apart, we still thought it worth looking back on what we did manage to achieve in response to the constantly changing situation and to the needs of the communities around us.

The Sofa Dance, To Untouch, All-Women Acrolab, The Sofa Dance, Mimbre Youth, In the Park. credits: Lina Johansson, Emily Nicholl. Anna Strickland / HeardInLondon

Time to reflect

The change of focus this year has also meant us taking time to listen and reflect. The Black Lives Matter campaign in the summer rightly shook us all to the core and made us take a longer-term look at how we can make both our company and our industry more inclusive and representative. Thank you to all the organisations and individuals that have worked hard to pull training, actions and working groups together across a range of subjects, including Upswing, Crying Out Loud, Daryl Beeton Productions and the Freelance Task Force. They have all helped us with our journey, which is ongoing and will not stop here.

The pandemic and lockdown really laid bare the inequalities and cracks both in our society and in the performing arts world, and showed yet again how important it is to reach out and support each other. A massive thank you to all the artists, families, young people, funders, collaborators and neighbours who have come together with us in small and big actions to help to carry each other through this challenging year! 

Mimbre 2020 Highlights

+ All-Women Acrolab* – In January, when touch was still a thing we took for granted, we hosted an All-Women Acrolab together with 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space in Newbury, where 24 women acrobats came together for a week of skill shares, acrobalance training and creative play. It was wonderful! They even featured us on their podcast series.
+ Volunteering – If we can’t carry circus equipment we will still carry food… Since March we have used the Mimbre van to collect over 2.5 tonnes of food donations for Hackney Food Bank (providing over 5500 meals), as well as helping The Feel Good Community volunteers to deliver food packages to vulnerable people unable to go out.
+ The Sofa Dance – During the spring lockdown Mimbre was commissioned with filmmaker Arthur Le Fol to create The Sofa Dance: a moving and fun portrait of 30 acrobats stuck at home on their sofas, in a short film of frustration, absurdity and beauty. The project was streamed by the BBC as part of Culture in Quarantine and went viral on social media. It was commissioned by Arts Council England, BBC Arts and The Space and supported by Sadler’s Wells.
+ Live Performance – Despite our main tour being cancelled this summer, we were grateful to fit a couple of performances in: In The Park – a site-specific performance commissioned by Newham Unlocked, and To Untouch for Greenwich + Docklands International Festival. Our base, Freya was even interviewed about GDIF by Time Out.
+ Mimbre Youth – we went online, we went into the parks, we went on the streets! Mimbre Youth brought us a lot of joy during these times with their willingness to adapt to whatever setting was possible according to the restrictions; whether it was doing handstands at home, boogeying in their living room with us or Double Dutch skipping in the rain!
Two of our young acrobats even helped to secure funding for an additional creative summer project, Hackney Flipped, supported by Young Hackney. Hackney Flipped used local outdoor locations as a creative canvas to learn new tricks and moves alongside filming and editing skills.
+ Written – We are super pleased to have been able to support Mimbre’s Associate Performer Alison Halstead in her first research and development stages towards a solo show and are very excited about where these ideas might lead in 2021!

Mimbre Youth, Written by Alison Halstead, Hackney Foodbank deliveries. credits: Anna Strickland / HeardInLondon, Lina Johansson

Sector Support

To support our performers’ (and our own!) physical and mental health through the lockdown, in March we created Mimbre Virtual Fitness – a platform to support each other through online classes and skillshares. Demand kept growing and we ended up running over 125 virtual events, with over 80 performers taking part.

We also had the opportunity to hold a series of socially distanced acrobatics and movement masterclasses at Tripspace.

We provided signposting and mentoring for funding and financial support, and gave seedfunding to four of Mimbre’s freelance performers to further develop ideas for their own work. Our Associate Performers Rosy Roberts and Freya Stoka represented Mimbre on the Freelance Task Force, a cross-company programme supporting freelancers through the summer which led to a variety of useful outputs for the arts sector.

We joined Circus Change Up to be part of shaping a stronger and more united circus sector and finally started to look ahead. How can we move forward and build better out of the storm that we have weathered?

Thank you!

Finally, thank you to everyone who has helped us throughout this year. Our funders, especially Arts Council England and Hackney Council, for continuing to support us. Those that have donated to us. Our amazing board for helping us navigate the situation. Industry bodies OutdoorArtsUK, ITC, UK Theatre and SOLT for all their advocacy for the sector. We’re so grateful.

From all of us here at Mimbre, we wish you peaceful holidays.

*Note 2022: we entitled the ‘All-Women Acrolab’ video ‘all-womxn’ when we first created it, believing that this was an inclusive term including all women, trans and cis. We now realise that this wasn’t the case, so have changed the description but cannot change the text in the video. Apologies.

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