An ambitious unifying dance project is launching in Bedford today to mark International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The event, called Eyes See You, will take place over five nights at the Corn Exchange in March 2023 and has been created by the Spectacularts community arts group.
The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade was designated by the United Nations to be marked annually on 25 March.
The day honours and remembers those who suffered and died as a consequence of what has been called “the worst violation of human rights in history” in which over 400 years more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims.
Speaking about the event, organiser, Sharon de Leonardis said: “This show will be an amazing celebration of live dance, live musicians and the use of digital imagery to help explain and show the journey of slavery.
“The twist will also come in the way we tell the story to uplift and show the unity between people that tried to stop slavery or help people to escape the horrors of slavery.
“This is a time to start the conversation to change the narrative and we hope this event might just be the catalyst to get people talking and engaging.”
Taking centre stage at the event will be choreographer Michael Naylor and dancers Jaron Johnson (seen performing at the BRITS in 2019) and Kane Horn, who is currently on tour with Dua Lipa.
All three were part of 2Step Dance Crew, an organisation set up by Sharon in 2006, which ran for 12 years and paved the way for many dancers from Bedford to pursue a career in the arts.
“Many of the professional dancers have already committed to this event and some of the original 2Step Dance Crew are excited with this opportunity,” said Sharon.
Describing what it means to be part of the event, choreographer Michael Naylor said: “It’s a huge challenge to be able to express a narrative of hundreds of years of pain and struggle but we are starting with the focus of one pivotal day and celebrating the beauty and resilience of black people.
“The more I educate myself the more I realise how unsung this message is, using the medium of art we hope to have it heard as loud as possible.
“We’re at a strange time in society where it feels as if everything’s moving forward but there’s so much more to do in shedding light on our current cultural and political climate and the naivety, or often ignorance of our broken systems.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that it’s going to be a powerful and moving show and provoke thought and hopefully instigate movement. I’m very grateful to be a part of it.”
Alongside the performers, Spectacularts’ ambassadors are among those helping to plan the event.
DJ Spoony, who recently moved to Bedford, said: “I’m delighted to be an ambassador of Spectacularts and getting stuck into the amazing work they do.
“Planning for the memorial event next year is already underway and as a new resident of Bedford, I’m very proud that celebrating the diversity in our communities sit front and centre of the town’s ethos.
“I can’t wait to share ‘Eyes See You’.”