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Fulbright Scholar wins Youth Engagement Award

Fulbright-Trinity Laban Scholar Garrett Snedeker has been awarded a Barzun Prize for Youth Engagement to pioneer a project in the UK.

Now in its third year, the Barzun Prize for Youth Engagement is awarded annually to American Fulbright grantees. The $10,000 Prize enables winners to run pioneering projects in their local communities whilst they study in Britain.

Fulbright-Trinity Laban Scholar Garrett Snedeker has received one of the four grants for his proposal, Intersections.

The project, run in collaboration with Trinity Laban, is a 10-year music programme for under-served teenagers in Southeast London where the students will learn to compose, play and perform original pieces that reflect their identity and creativity.

Garrett explains how the project will work – 

On receiving the prize, Garrett commented –

“This ten-year program will serve the vision that music is for everyone, music can tell the story of our identities, and creating music ourselves can help us realise new possibilities for our lives.”

Garrett was presented with his prize by former US Ambassador Matthew Barzun, who funds the award, at an event on Friday 17 January at King’s College London.

Having graduated from Washington State University, American pianist Garrett joined our Faculty of Music in September 2019. He has already made an impact at Trinity Laban, contributing to our Venus Blazing Symposium in December 2019 and leading a CoLab project this February exploring Beethoven’s use of sonata form and Identity, where he worked with a string quartet, harp, and dancers.

On 12 May, Garrett will present a lecture recital on gender connotations in Beethoven’s piano sonatas as part of our Beethoven+ Series, celebrating the 250th anniversary of the infamous composer’s birth.

This is the fourth year we have worked with the US-UK Fulbright Commission to offer the opportunity for US citizens to study at a UK Higher Education institution.

In addition, earlier this year we welcomed Illinois State University’s Associate Professor of Voice Justin Vickers, who has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, to lead workshops on modern song cycles and opera with our vocal students.

You can find out more about the Fulbright Scholarship by visiting our international pages.

Image L-R: Matthew Barzun, Garrett Snedeker

Staff and alumni honoured at The Bonnies 2020

Janine Harrington and Julie Cunningham receive accolades at the Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund’s prestigious biennial awards

Trinity Laban Alum Janine Harrington and Dance Lecturer Julie Cunningham were among the winners of The Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund’s Bonnies 2020.

Choreographer, performer and writerJanine Harrington received the New Choreography Award, which will support a bespoke programme of activities for creative development.

In celebration of the new decade, the fund has doubled the award from £10,000 to £20,000 with the ambition to support individual research that can affect a step change in the winning artist’s practice, with potential to impact nationally.

Janine graduated with a BA (Hons) in Dance Theatre in 2006. Her work draws on research into game structures, play, access, neurodiversity and the poetics of movement practices. Her kaleidoscopic piece Screensaver Series, which premiered at Dance Umbrella 2018, foregrounds these interests.

On winning, Janine comments –

“I am part of a community of artists evolving choreographic thinking and expanding notions of what dance is, can be, where and for whom. There are many of us working tenaciously and with resilience, exploring and sharing different ways of being in the world through our art form. A multiplicity of voices and actions feels urgent in our times. I feel humbled to have been acknowledged in this moment and thank the Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund for their support and trust in me to continue to develop my work and make its impact felt further.” 

Choreographer Julie Cunningham, who teaches on our dance programmes,received one of four new Choreographic Development Awards.The £2,000 prize, awarded in honour of Marion North (Principal and Chief Executive of Laban from 1973-2004), will enable Julie to engage in a non-binary practice alongside musician and artist JD Samson, working on ways that sound and music can be embedded in choreographic development and performance.

Julie launched Julie Cunningham & Company in 2017 at the Barbican, which became associate company of Rambert in 2018. The same year Julie became a New Wave Associate of Sadlers Wells, and associate artist of Dance East.

The Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund is dedicated to supporting artists’ current practice and research, supporting the development of new choreography. Since its inception in 1985, the Fund has given over 150 awards to artists in the UK and across the world. The awards are named in honour of founder Bonnie Bird, a member of Martha Graham’s original company and subsequently a pioneer in dance teaching.

The awardees were announced at an awards ceremony on 13 February 2020 at Phoenix Dance Theatre, Leeds.

Image credit Coralie Datta

Trinity Laban staff and alumni contribute to seminal dance book

The Routledge Companion to Dance Studies has been co-edited by Helen Thomas and Stacey Prickett and includes contributions by several Dance Faculty Members and former students.

Aimed at scholars and upper-level students of dance and performance studies, the newly published Routledge Companion to Dance Studies is a comprehensive guide to key features of dance studies as the field stands today, while pointing to potential future developments.

The book’s 33 chapters, arranged in seven sections, consider everything from training and engagement, to society and culture and have been co-edited by Editor in Chief for Dance Research Journal and Trinity Laban’s Professor of Dance Studies Helen Thomas, and Dr Stacey Prickett, Reader at University of Roehampton’s Centre for Dance Research and Trinity Laban alumnus. Helen studied at the Laban Art of Movement Studio, before gaining a PhD in Sociology from Goldsmiths University of London.

Amongst the diverse group of contributors are Trinity Laban’s own Head of Dance Science Professor Emma Redding (‘The Expanding Possibilities of Dance Science’), and lecturer Alison Curtis-Jones (‘Re-Imagining Laban: Tradition, Extinction, Invention. Re-Staging as Creative Contemporary Practice’).

Professor Emma Redding comments – 

I was delighted to be invited by the editors to contribute to this important book. The inclusion of a chapter on dance science within a dance studies textbook is significant. Not only does it demonstrate the extent to which the field of dance science has grown but also how it has become a recognised and permanent area of discourse for anyone studying dance.”

Former Programme Leader for the MA/MFA Creative Practice Dr Becka McFadden has submitted ‘Stacking the Spine: Interdisciplinary Reflections from Backstories’, alum Larraine Nicholas has penned ‘Female Dancers on the Variety Stage in Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain’, and Johan Stjernholm, who graduated with a Masters in European Dance Theatre Practice in 2003, has written ‘The Scenography of Choreographing the Museum’.

Alum and current Programme Leader for the MA/MFA Creative Practice Dr Naomi Lefebvre Sell has authored the chapter ‘Moving as a Thought Process: The Practice of choreography and Stillness’ with alumni Tara Silverthorn and Lucille Teppa.

Co-editors Helen Thomas and Stacey Prickett comment –

“The diversity of artist voices is unique, as performers, teachers, historians and choreographers interrogate dance and the body through a wide range of analytical discourses, including anthropology, history, psychology, cultural studies and sociology. There is a strong emphasis on challenging academic hierarchies though giving voice to those often deemed as ‘other’.”

Dean of Dance Frances Clarke comments –

“This new guide is an important addition to the divergent areas of discourse in the current field of dance studies and reflects the ever-changing facets of our art form. A number of Trinity Laban dance staff have contributed to chapters in the book and this is testimony to the wide range of research and acknowledged expertise in our Faculty of Dance.”

The launch of the book was hosted at our Faculty of Dance on Thursday 23 January.

For more info, visit the Routledge website

To find out more about studying Dance at Trinity Laban, visit


Dance lecturer named ‘Inspirational Educator’

Choreographer and teacher Lizzi Kew-Ross has been awarded the Keith Hutton Legacy Bursary Award for Theatre and Performing Arts by the Worshipful Company of Educators.

The Award is a bequest from former Company member Liveryman Keith Hutton, who had a life-long interest in theatre and performing arts. It has been presented annually at the Educators’ Trust Awards since 2016 and celebrates outstanding innovation and excellence in educational practice within the sector.

Lizzi teaches on the BA, Graduate Diploma and MA courses at Trinity Laban. She was nominated by Dean of Dance Frances Clarke for her work as an “exceptional artistic and dance educator”.

The panel of four judges concluded that Lizzie was “an excellent candidate” and that “there was much evidence of extensive and impressive achievement, which more than justifies the Award.”

As the winner, Lizzi receives £500 to support professional development enhancing the link between professional practise and teaching and learning.

On winning the award Lizzi comments –

“I am honoured to receive this award. The calibre of staff and students at Trinity Laban makes working here both stimulating and always challenging in pushing the boundaries of good creative conversations.”

Lizzi is also the Artistic Director of Lizzi Kew Ross & Co, formed in 2012. Recent projects include Reading with Bach for libraries, and a film with Roswitha Chesher & Josh Spear, Sea Change- on loss at sea, an elegy on the shipping forecast and lighthouses. She plans to use the award to help fund her next collaborative choreographic project with artist Mark Dean, Open Stations touring to cathedrals and art galleries in 2021.

Dean of Dance Frances Clarke comments –

“We are delighted that Lizzi has received this educator’s award as it reflects her enormous contribution to our creative educational work in choreography at Trinity Laban and our outstanding commissioned work for students. Her collaborative approach continues to be inspirational to students, colleagues and external partners.”

Lizzi will be presented with her Award at a black-tie dinner at the Painters Hall in the City of London on Friday 24 April 2020.

To find out more about dance at Trinity Laban, visit our study pages

Image credit: Peter Anderson




Trinity Laban Celebrates Dance Legend Lin Hwai-Min

On Thursday 20 February Trinity Laban and Ministry of Culture, Taiwan co-hosted a celebratory event for Lin Hwai-Min, Founder of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan in conversation with dance writer Judith Mackrell.

Considered one of the world’s most pre-eminent choreographers, Lin Hwai-min was first known to the Taiwan public as a fiction writer, with two books published by the time he was 22. He started his modern dance training at the age of 23, while working on his MFA degree at the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, before founding the award-winning Taiwanese dance company Cloud Gate in Taipei in 1973.

Trinity Laban and Ministry of Culture, Taiwan co-hosted a special In conversation event led by prominent dance writer Judith Mackrell at the Conservatoire’s Faculty of Dance where Lin Hwai-min reflected on his life as a maker of dance. Both Lin Hwai-min and Judith Mackrell (pictured above L-R) are Honorary Fellows of Trinity Laban.

On the stage of the Laban Theatre, he shared insights into his some of his seminal works, the history of Cloud Gate and its global impact on contemporary dance.

“It is incredible to be here as a dancer and choreographer. My life didn’t prepare me for this.” 

Speaking of his motivation to found the company, Lin Hwai-min explained that he did not set out to be an artist but was instead inspired to discover what Taiwanese modern dance could be.

“It’s not about aesthetics,” clarified Master Lin, “From day one we set out to serve the community. To do something that was our own, to form a culture, not a copy. We went wherever we wanted. We built our own theatre in gymnasiums and we attracted 6000 in one show. We wanted to give people the chance to see it who would not be able to go to the theatre in Taipei. We wanted to perform to the grassroots. To me that’s the most fantastic hours of the company.”

Lin Hwai-min also explained that creating employment opportunities for Taiwanese dancers has always been a motivator for the company and a reason why they have grown to a company of 25 –

“For a long time we were the only professional company in Taiwan to pay a salary for dancers. If we didn’t take dancers, then what did the students have to look forward to?”

Lin Hwai-Min, Founder of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan in conversation with dance writer Judith Mackrell.

Encouraged by the historic words from President John F Kennedy’s inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”, community engagement has been an intrinsic part of Cloud Gate’s identity.

“We set up Cloud Gate 2 in order to do more community outreach and engagement. We do big outdoor performances in Taiwanese cities and villages. Our shows are not just a show. It’s how you influence the fabric of a community. It’s a very rewarding journey. I feel so grateful that we could stick to this dream.” 

Speaking about how their work inspires the younger generations Li Hwai-min is positive about encouraging them to feel confidence and pride –

“Young people could and should make a difference.”

Lin Hwai-Min, Founder of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan in conversation on stage with dance writer Judith Mackrell

Founding a company wasn’t without its struggles–

“When you’re young you’re hot blooded. I started a company without having had any professional experience of dance. I made it up as we went along. We sold out more than 3000 tickets for first show of the first season. After that I almost had a nervous breakdown because I didn’t know what I was doing! I thought I’d better learn to choreograph.” 

The works that Lin Hwai-min has produced with Cloud Gate are imbued with a distinctive movement style and are routed in the landscape, language and culture of Taiwan. Early narrative works such as White Serpent (1975) are reinterpretations of traditional literature and opera a contemporary dance lens, whilst Cursive II and Wild Cursive draw inspiration from calligraphy.

“In our traditional aesthetic everything is about roundness and grounding. The company started doing calligraphy to get a sense of soft spiral movement.”

Legacy and Portrait of a Family tell sagas of our ancestors” and have played a transformative role in helping the country reclaim its identity.

“In the process of choreographing Legacy I realised it was the first theatrical work to deal with the history of Taiwan. I moved the premiere to my home town in the south to be away from censorship. It’s nothing political. It’s a family saga. It’s for my own cleansing of the heaving shadow over our childhood.”

Lin Hwai-min noted how the response to his works has changed over time –

“For the revival of Portrait of a Family I had people say ‘it’s so different’, when in fact I hadn’t changed a step. It was the society that had changed. Opening up politically creates opportunity and challenges.”

The talk was followed by a Q&A in which a Taiwanese audience member explained how intrinsically important Cloud Gate to its home country – “It’s more than just a company, it’s a culture”. This was illustrated most poignantly when over four thousand people donated to help build a new space for the company after a devastating fire destroyed their original premises in 2008. And their impact has been internationally recognised, with the company recently being awarded the Stef Stefanou Award for Outstanding Company from 2018/19 at the UK’s National Dance Awards.

Lin Hwai-min stepped down as the Artistic Director of Cloud Gate at the end of 2019 but remains committed to the continuing development of dance as an art form in contemporary culture.

When asked about the future he responded –

“I don’t want Cloud Gate to become a museum. I want new works to reflect audience experience. We have a wonderful choreographer as the new director. Everything will be the same and better.” 

Trinity Laban awarded Lin Hwai-min an Honorary Fellowship in 2018 as a tribute to his remarkable life as an artist and educator. The award was presented at a special reception at Sadler’s Wells following the UK premiere of Formosa, his final creation as Artistic Director of Cloud Gate.

The unique event was co-hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Taiwan. In his speech at the post-event reception, the Taipei Representative Ambassador in the UK David Yung-Lo Lin (pictured with Lin Hwai-Min, Judith Mackrell and Anthony Bowne L-R) said –

“Lin hwai min is a legendary choreographer who has played such an important part in elevating and promoting contemporary dance. I salute him for his life accomplishment and hope that he will continue to combine traditional form and modern dance, and unite East and West. He has done such a wonderful job to bring all of us to a wonderful world of dance.

“We are honoured to be a sponsor of this very special evening and this is a wonderful experience for all of us.”

Following the evening’s events, Associate Artistic Director of Cloud Gate Ching-Chun Lee and veteran Cloud Gate dancer Su I-ping returned to lead masterclasses with Trinity Laban dance students. Lee is an alum of Trinity Laban, having studied both her BA(hons) in Dance Theatre and MA at the Conservatoire.

“My time at Trinity Laban (then called the Laban Centre) has been an inspiration. It helped me become a better dancer and greatly expanded my understanding of the theoretical framework over and above being a practitioner. I am grateful for what I have learnt.”

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre are in London for the premiere of their new double bill at Sadler’s Wells (26 – 29 February 2020) which feature’s Lin Hwai-min’s Dust alongside 13 Tongues by Cloud Gate’s new artistic director Cheng Tsung-Lung.


Images credit: Maja Smiekowska, courtesy of Ministry of Culture, Taiwan

About Cloud Gate Dance Theatre

Cloud Gate is the name of the oldest known dance in China. In 1973, choreographer Lin Hwai-min adopted this classical name and founded the first contemporary dance company in the greater Chinese-speaking community: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, also known worldwide as Cloud Gate. From 2020, Cheng Tsung-lung succeeded Lin as the artistic director of Cloud Gate.

Cloud Gate dancers are trained in meditation, Qi Gong, internal martial arts, modern dance and ballet. Through Lin Hwai-min’s innovative choreographies, the company transforms ancient aesthetics into a thrilling modern celebration of motion.

Acclaimed as “Asia’s leading contemporary dance theater” (The Times), and “One of the finest dance companies in the world” (The Globe and Mail), Cloud Gate won the award for “Outstanding Company” in the 2018 National Dance Awards. Cloud Gate tours extensively. At home, in addition to regular seasons in theaters, Cloud Gate stages annual free outdoor performances in cities and villages of Taiwan, drawing an average of 30,000 people per performance.

About Lin Hwai-min

Lin Hwai-min was first known to the Taiwan public as a fiction writer. He started his modern dance training at the age of 23, while working on his MFA degree at the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. He founded Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan in Taipei in 1973.

A self-taught choreographer, Lin often draws from Asian cultures and aesthetics to create works with contemporary resonance. Under his direction, Cloud Gate tours extensively to international acclaims.

Among the honours Lin Hwai-min has received are the Samuel H. Scripts / American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement, the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Award, the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the Ministry of Culture of France, the Honorary Fellow Trinity Laban, London, and honorary doctorates from six universities in Taiwan and Hong Kong. He was also celebrated by the Time Magazine as one of “Asia’s Heroes.”

About Judith Mackrell

Dance writer and critic Judith Mackrell studied a degree in English Literature at university before writing for The Observer and subsequently the Guardian. She is a successful author of biographical non-fiction titles including Bloomsbury Ballerina: Lydia Lopokova, Imperial Dancer and Mrs John Maynard Keynes, which was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award, and Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation, which combines the biographies of six women whose lives together encapsulated the history of the flapper era.


January Alumni Round-up

Our round-up of some of the achievements of Trinity Laban alumni

With awards, music launches, new commissions and stellar reviews, Trinity Laban’s alumni have kicked off the new decade with a multitude of successes around the world.

Starting close to home,the Trinity Laban Gold Medal 2020 saw both alumni and current students showcase their finest work at Southbank Centre. Theo Perry, current student and overall winner, impressed the adjudicators with his striking and powerful vocal performance, while alum Olivia Fraser charmed with her expressive performances on oboe and cor anglais, winning the audience prize. Featuring alumni Christos FountosFlorence Russell, and Wilmien Janse Van Rensberg and current students Ben Leigh Grossart and Olly Chalk, this evening was a fantastic celebration of the very best of Trinity Laban talent.

Also at Southbank Centre this month was the Peter Edwards Trio. As part of the Friday Lunch series, the jazz trio performed new material blending jazz funk grooves with Afrobeat in the Royal Festival Hall bar.

Across the Thames, Resolution at The Place featured numerous performances from Trinity Laban alumni, including all-female dance collective Mass HysteriaShivaangee Agrawal, Rebeca Piersanti, Darren Payne, Jacob Elliot Roberts, Luke Birch, Bakani Pick-Up, Greta Gauhe, Dylan Poirot Canton, Matthew Harding, Petronella Weihahn, Clara Cowen, Rachel Laird, Julia Costa, Yanaëlle Thiran and Vanessa Abreu. Music alum Michaella Livadiotis also composed for Company Concentric’s Remainder and Milo McKinnon’s work will feature in Sababa Bar Company’s Aize Balagan. Take a look at our round-up of alumni in Resolution to find out when you can see upcoming performances from Jessica Walker, Marcus Alessandrini, Diamanto Hadjizacharia, Marlen Pflueger, Willa Faulkner and Vasiliki Papapostolou.

After finishing its Christmas run at The Place, Luca Silvestrini’s Protein took its production of The Little Prince to venues across the UK. With an adapted version for smaller venues, the dance company brought their critically-acclaimed production to more rural areas and wider audiences. We caught up with Luca to discuss Protein’s 21 years of dance.

We were thrilled to hear that Musical Theatre alum Jack McNeill made his West End debut, joining the ensemble of hit musical The Book of Mormon. While studying at Trinity Laban, Jack was a recipient of the Leverhulme Arts Scholarship and has since toured with theatre companies from across the UK.

Ever-emerging on the London jazz scene, Trinity Laban alumni have already delivered an array of singles, albums and concerts this new year. Moses Boyd released his new single Shades of You featuring vocalist Poppy Ajudha. From his upcoming album Dark Matter, the trackhas already had over 200,000 plays on Spotify.

Ayanna Witter-Johnson lent her cello and vocal skills to new single – Those Words from Anoushka Shankar’s upcoming EP Love Letters. Ayanna also released her own single Crossroads from her critically-acclaimed album Road Runner.

Pianist and composer Elliot Galvin released his new album Live in Paris, which was met with high praise in reviews from major papers. Take a look at this four-star review from the Guardian.

Elliot also joined fellow alumni Laura Jurd and Corrie Dick in Walls Come Tumbling Down, a night of film and music in the London Short Film Festival, the major international showcase between 10 and 19 January.

Trinity Laban dance alumni saw successes and new ventures worldwide in January. Dance alum Panayiotis Tofi’s work Through Me, THEM was selected for the first Cyprus Choreography Showcase 2020.

Brooklyn Draper was announced as one of five finalists in Repertory Dance Theatre’s (RDT) choreography competition REGALIA. With the winner decided by audience votes in a 1920s-themed gala in Salt Lake City, Brooklyn will now compete for the chance to win a commission for RDT’s 2020-2021 season.

Maltese dance company ŻfinMalta commissioned Rosemary Lee to choreograph Threaded Fine. A new work for a cross-generational cast of professional and non-professional dancers from across the Maltese islands, the piece consisted of a short solo repeated by twenty-four dancers in relay, increasing in age as the performance progressed.

Yukiko Masui was announced as the choreographer for Chester Theatre’s upcoming production of original work Blue Stockings.

As part of The Place’s Spring Season, Students from the London Contemporary Dance School performed newly created works by alum Leila McMillan, exploring themes of identity and gender.

Pina Bausch’s legendary work Bluebeard, has been revived by dance company Tanztheater Wuppertal with dance alum Christopher Tandy in the title role. After a successful run in Germany, Bluebeard comes to Sadler’s Wells in February.

Trinity Laban alumni frequented London’s jazz clubs this month, with vocalist Emilia Mårtensson and her band performing at 606 Club while East Side Jazz saw Jay Phelps in current student Xhosa Cole’s jazz quartet.  Alum and former Head of Jazz Simon Purcell appeared at East Side Jazz, debuting material from his newest release, Red Circle.

Ezra Collective’s You Can’t Steal My Joy was named Jazz Album of the Year in the Giles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards 2020. The collective joins the long list of alumni artists, including Nérija, Kokoroko, Nubya Garcia, Cassie Kinoshi and Joe Armon-Jones, who will appear in festivals around the world such as Coachella, WOMAD, We Out Here, Golden Plains, Bonnaroo and Naked City.

January saw Trinity Laban’s alumni achieve new heights in the world of opera. Vocal alum Lucy Elston was named a winner of Wilton’s Music Hall’s Music 4All competition, earning her the chance to receive mentoring from English National Opera and perform in the Music 4All festival. Read more about Lucy’s success and what she hopes to achieve from the experience.

Back at Trinity Laban, Transitions Dance Company announced the choreographers featuring in their 2020/21 programme. Alongside acclaimed choreographer Didy Veldman will be alumni Henrietta Hale and Rachel Lopez de la Nieta, co-founders of the interdisciplinary and socially interrogative Dog Kennel Hill Project. Alum Rachel Vonmoos will also bring her wealth of experience in theatre and dance to the company.

Coming Up

Our alumni dance platform, Bite Size Pieces, returns on Saturday 22 February. Head over to the Laban building to see Kate Brown, Aline Derderian, Daisy Farris and Elise Phillips perform new material and works in progress.

Nardus Williams and Keel Watson will perform in English National Opera’s production of Carmen until 27 February.

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes finished its run at Sadler’s Wells and will take to the road in February, touring the UK. Read this interview with Sir Matthew about the show and his career.

Vibraphonist Lewis Wright has kicked off his tour in London and will continue to play venues around the UK with pianist Kit Downes. Find out where you can catch Lewis and Kit at a venue near you.

Lynette King’s Spin-Off will present The Love Letter at Christchurch Mansion on 15 February. As artistic director, Lynette and her dance company work with young people with disabilities. Check out this interview with Lynette about her career and movement therapy practice.

Reuben James and the Puppini Sisters will perform at the Hastings International Piano Festival at the end of February.

Lewisham wins London Borough of Culture 2021

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, revealed Lewisham as the winner of London Borough of Culture for 2021 at an event on 11 February at City Hall.

Home to Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Dance, the borough will receive £1.35 million of funding to stage an ambitious programme of cultural events and create a legacy to inspire young people.

As winners, Lewisham plan to stage a year-long campaign called Cultural Activism which will encompass:

  • a powerful call to tackle climate change
  • a celebration of Lewisham’s status as a borough of sanctuary
  • a commitment to building an inclusive society
  • a pledge to work together to deliver lasting change

Responding to the announcement on Twitter, Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan said –

“We did it! I’m delighted we have been awarded Borough of Culture 2021! This is an incredible opportunity for Lewisham Council. Thank you Sadiq Khan and Justine Simons, we can’t wait to get started!”

Now it its second year, The London Borough of Culture forms part of Sadiq Khan’s plans to support the arts in the Capital and is open to all 32 London boroughs.

Waltham Forest was the Mayor’s first ever London Borough of Culture in 2019. Their programme carried with it a profound sense of community ownership involving all 88 schools in the borough, recruiting over 1000 volunteers and achieving challenging targets of 85% of households engaged and 500,000 additional visits to cultural activity. Brent is the London Borough of Culture for 2020 and began its year with a mass participation event with more than 300 local residents and young people performing in front of Wembley Stadium.

Lewisham previously won a £216,000 Cultural Impact Award as part of the inaugural London Borough of Culture competition, which was used to deliver Age Against the Machine in 2019.

With a programme of almost 70 events, this festival of creative aging was designed to spark debate, challenge perceptions, champion older artists and celebrate the positive impact of creativity on our lives as we age.

Trinity Laban hosted the Grand Finale of the radical new arts festival with a day of free pop-up performances, workshops and exhibitions around our award-winning Laban Building in Deptford on Silver Sunday (6 Oct) created by local groups and artists and involving over 150 local residents.

Lewisham will work with organisations in the borough, including Trinity Labanto deliver the year celebration alongside grass roots organisations, artists and local communities. 

For more info, visit Lewisham’s website

Image credit Juno Snowdon

Trinity Laban Presents Beethoven+

“Music is the most important thing in life”


On Monday 3 February, we hosted a workshop performance by 15 Yazidi women, many of whom are former prisoners of ISIS.

The trip, funded by the British Council, was organised by the AMAR Foundation. The charity provides emergency aid, education and healthcare in the Middle East and was founded by Baroness (Emma) Nicholson of Winterbourne, AMAR’s Chair and Founder, and the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Iraq.

Since 2014 Islamic State fighters have targeted Yazidi communities with devastating consequences and the majority of survivors now live in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps in Northern Iraq.  The genocide carried out by ISIS has almost destroyed the Yazidi heritage. Through British Council funding, AMAR is reviving traditions and teaching the next generation about its ancient culture.

Led by Trinity Laban violin professor Michael Bochmann MBE, this project is helping rehabilitate young women through music. As Yazidi music is an oral tradition and not written down, Michael has also led a recording project to ensure the music is preserved. These have been archived at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library.

At the performance, one of the young women explained –

“Music is the most important thing in life.”

Michael Bochmann commented –

“There’s an incredible community feeling. The project is transforming their lives, allowing them to move on from this horrific time in  history they’ve been through, to be part of their community again.”

The performance formed part of a recent visit to Britain, during which the group met with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and sang at Westminster Abbey.

Images courtesy of Amar Foundation


Talia Erdal wins Soloists’ Competition 2020

Postgraduate cellist claims the Prize after an outstanding final at Blackheath Halls

Director of Music Havilland Willshire, award-winning British composer and violist Sally Beamish, and pioneering Argentine pianist Daniel Rivera have crowned Talia Erdal the winner of Trinity Laban’s Soloists’ Competition 2020 following her breath-taking performance of Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante in E minor, accompanied by Junior Fellow Aleksandra Myslek.

As the winner, Talia will get the chance to perform the work with Trinity Laban’s Symphony Orchestra later this year.

Talia commented –

“I am extremely happy and grateful to have been chosen as the winner of the 2020 competition. I love Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante, and I look forward to playing this huge, monstrous and beautiful piece with a full-size orchestra. It is an extremely exciting opportunity.”

Jerusalem-born Talia is the former assistant principal cellist of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (2017-19), former principal cellist of the Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble (2016-17), and performs as a soloist with various ensembles in Israel including the Beer-Sheva Sinfonieta, Jerusalem Strings, and Tel-Aviv Soloists Ensemble. Talia often participates in community-oriented projects such as the Jerusalem Street Orchestra. Her playing has been broadcasted on German television, BBC Radio, and can be heard on the Israeli classical radio station Kol HaMusika.

Talia is also an active composer, arranger and singer, performing her own music in classical and non-classical venues and writing for theatre and dance. Her performance of original music in the play A Very Narrow Bridge (Chutzpah! Festival 2016, Vancouver, Canada) was nominated for a Jessie Richardson Award in the category “significant artistic achievement”.

She is currently studying with Sally Pendlebury, supported by Alan Niekirk and Trinity College London scholarships.

Competing alongside Talia in the final on 5 February were violinist Emma Arizza and percussionist Michael Blescun.

Image L-R: Sally Beamish, Daniel Rivera, Talia Erdal, and Havilland Willshire (credit Fiona Moorhead)

Blackheath Halls Community Opera shortlisted for International Opera Award 2020

Founded in 2012, the International Opera Awards is an annual celebration of excellence in opera around the world.

This year Blackheath Halls Community Opera has been shortlisted for the Education and Outreach Award, celebrating the outstanding work the company does to engage local people of all ages and backgrounds in the art form.

Run annually since 2007, the Blackheath Halls Community Opera continues to have a successful programme of ambitious and creative opera projects offering people from across the London Boroughs of Greenwich, Lewisham and beyond a unique opportunity to take part in high-quality, live music making alongside a professional cast of soloists and production teams.

This project is supported by a range of trusts and foundations including The Hearn Foundation, Arts Council England, and a number of generous individuals. Its patrons are celebrated English conductor Edward Gardner OBE and leading Scottish tenor Nicky Spence.

In summer 2019 Blackheath Halls Opera presented La belle Hélène marking the 200th anniversary of Jacques Offenbach’s birth, a production described by The Observer as “heart-warming” and “outstanding”.

Directed by James Hurley this was the first production to be performed on the newly levelled stage after the £3m redevelopment of the Great Hall last year, with the audience on raked seating.

The production starred a community chorus and orchestra led by Musical Director Christopher Stark, two youth choruses made up of children from 30 Lewisham and Greenwich schools, participants from two local special schools and a cast of professional soloists and Trinity Laban vocal students.

With support from National Lottery Project Grants, Blackheath Halls Community Opera was able to focus on developing diverse youth opera companies by working with the refugee charity Fairbeats!, running taster sessions in local schools, encouraging children to apply for the company, and supporting their attendance at rehearsals.

58 children – 40% of whom are BAME – took part in the company, alongside nine young people from special schools Charlton Park Academy and Greenvale School. The company also included talented singers from the Royal Greenwich and Blackheath Halls Youth Choir, whose founding patron is British Bass Matthew Rose.

Blackheath Halls Community Opera has been shortlisted for the prestigious award alongside eminent international companies including Opera North, La Fenice in Italy and Theater an der Wien in Austria.

Rose Ballantyne, Community Engagement Manager at Blackheath Halls says –

“Our community opera has grown in both scale and ambition over the last 13 years.  We never cease to be amazed and inspired by the commitment and enthusiasm of the teams involved, which bring together casts of local amateur musicians working alongside professionals and students.”

Gemma Okell, Director of Blackheath Halls comments –

“The community opera production at Blackheath Halls is always a highlight of our season. We are so proud that the work of such a large group of dedicated and talented individuals has been recognised with this nomination. We are already looking forward to this year’s autumn production of Verdi’s Macbeth.”

Judging of the International Opera Awards is carried out by a jury of industry professionals headed by Opera editor John Allison. Winners will be announced at the 2020 International Opera Awards on Monday 4th May at Sadler’s Wells.

Blackheath Halls Opera 2020 production will run from 29 September to 4 October.

For more information, please contact Rose Ballantyne on

Image credit Lidia Crisafulli