Katie Hagan, founder of Stretch partner dance art journal, lifts the lid on the importance of Stretch, a networking event for the dance sector.
When Ines and Bernardo from diagonal dance first told me about Stretch and their motivations for creating a dance event for everyone, I remember immediately feeling how much it was needed. Whilst I’ve only worked in the dance industry for around five years – I’m always reminding myself to not let my imposter syndrome get the better of me! – I don’t think I’ve ever really come across a conference-style day of dance that brings all disciplines (artists, marketers, PRs, producers, designers, et al) together. Sure, I’d been to events catered to each of these disciplines, which are brilliant, empowering and really bring people from one specialism together. But in the absence of an event for everybody there was an opportunity for someone like diagonal to create a place for all to come together; to get out of our silos, share knowledge and experiences, and learn from one another.
Networking is key
The pressing need for an event where knowledge and experiences can be shared was highlighted in a recent survey conducted by diagonal. Dance has one of the biggest knowledge gaps out of all the performing art sectors. Over 40% of people surveyed don’t think there are sufficient networking opportunities, with many graduates not knowing where or who to turn to once they’ve completed their studies. And this obviously is a problem. It’s a problem not only for the many people already working in the industry but also for those wanting to be in it.
For those already in the industry, there is so much value in creating networking opportunities. It gives them the chance to upskill so they can perhaps work in different contexts – maybe you’re a producer and want to try more community work? – and also ensures you can keep things fresh and meet new people.
Opportunities such as Stretch are also huge for those starting out in the industry, such as graduates, and for those who have an interest in the arts but don’t necessarily have the easily accessible guidance to discover the career path they seek.
It goes without saying then that events such as Stretch are particularly important for people coming from working-class backgrounds like myself, where they find there are numerous economic and social barriers to accessing the arts across their lives. I didn’t grow up in an environment where the arts was a topic of conversation at the dinner table or where we went to galleries and performances at the weekend. Similarly I didn’t go to the type of school where there was enough resource in place for career opportunities in the arts to be clearly outlined to me. At school, and growing up in the shadow of the Recession, a career in the arts just wasn’t articulated. My way into the industry, as a graduate, was through a process of trial and error; googling ways to connect with the right people all the while working in hospitality or retail.
Stretch will, therefore, provide a core connection point for us all to learn from one another no matter where we come from. Whether you’re interested in doing some professional self-development, seeking a career change, or are just starting out in the sector, Stretch will be for you.
The programme is now live!
The Stretch programme is now live and it looks absolutely super. The diagonal team has put together a rich and inspiring programme with workshops, talks and performances led by and featuring a huge variety of voices within the arts sector including Reece McMahon, Peter Laycock and I Like Networking founder Isabel Sachs.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the programme, you head to Diagonal Dance’s designated Stretch website or join the Stretch community on Slack.
We hope to see you there!