Artistic Director Nikki Watson reflects on what’s in store after our first year as a new member of the Arts Council’s National Portfolio.

In November 2022, we were one of 22 dance organisations across England invited to make the transition from founder-run project-based company to become an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) for the first time. It’s a hugely exciting time and a major accolade. It feels incredible for the Arts Council to believe in and value what we do at CoDa – making high quality enriching arts activities accessible for neurodisabled communities – and to be here just over a decade since I founded the company.

Being an NPO means the Arts Council funds a big chunk of the costs of running the company, delivering projects, making touring productions, researching new models for touring dance in the UK, and sharing our expertise with the sector. We’re on a mission to create real change and we’re thrilled to finally be sharing our plans with you!

Here we are in month three of 2024 already and at the end of our first full year as an NPO – so what are our plans for the next couple of years?

First off we’ll be growing our staff team so we can achieve our ambitious goals. Over the course of the year we’ll be recruiting a General Manager, find out how to apply here; as well as a Producer, and new Artist Facilitators.

We’ll be expanding  our Dance for Neurology activity in more hospitals and community settings. Since 2013 we’ve delivered more than 1800 tailored Dance for Neurology sessions, offering dance activity to people that live with Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, acquired brain Injuries and other neurological conditions, where previously there were no such opportunities. If you live in South Essex, keep your eyes peeled as we may be delivering sessions near you later this year.

We are thrilled to be touring our new immersive dance installation, Don’t Look Down. The installation includes immersive interactive experiences and digital dance films to shed light on what it’s like to live with a neurological condition. The installation has been made for, by and with neurodisabled people and will tour to community spaces, libraries, and arts venues in Summer/Autumn 2024.

We’ll also be delivering training opportunities for artists, health and tech professionals on everything from how we co-create our work and business plans with our Lived Experience Consultants, to how to make dance using creative technologies, and how to consider accessibility in tech. We’ll be continuing to share what we learn about how creative technologies can amplify the benefits of dance on health and wellbeing at conferences, and will have elements of the installation for people to play with.

And finally, we’ll be researching a new touring dance production Our Worlds Collide that fuses live performers and immersive technologies to create an interactive audience experience. The ideas for the piece have come directly from conversations I’ve had with our Lived Experience Consultants, as well as my own personal experiences, and conversations that audiences from Don’t Look Down have had with us. 

It’s hugely important to me that our work continues to be in direct response to the communities we work with, because their voices are central to the work we make. The piece will explore what it’s like to receive care, what it’s like to want to give care, and how neurodisabled people and their families can stop trying to fix each other, accept their new realities and find joyful ways to co-exist.  I am delighted that we are able to deliver such a full programme of activities over our second year as an NPO. We can’t wait to see you along the way!