Emerging Creative Producers Q&A

Producers of dance in the UK are in incredibly high demand, yet there is a distinct lack of producers entering the industry, particularly female producers from global majority communities. There are also very few accessible and paid training opportunities for dance producers, especially outside London. 

Thanks to funding from The Ragdoll Foundation, we were able to offer a six-month paid placement to two young people from the global majority that included two months of learning and development time, and three to four months as a producer with a dance artist, choreographer, company or arts organisation. Analeise Auguste and Makeda Whittaker were selected to take part and we spoke to them about their experience.

Analeise Auguste and Makeda Whittaker. Photo Rose Kigwana

How did you hear about the Emerging Creative Producer programme?

Analeise: I was dancing professionally but after a bad injury that I didn’t take care take of properly and some difficult dance industry experiences, I decided to take a break from dancing, both physically and mentally. Whilst pursuing other things I saw a post on Instagram from South East Dance. I didn’t really know what producing was, but I knew that I liked creating things. As well as being a dancer I'm also the visuals director and a part of the events team at my church. I thought that producing may include some of these skills and that it might be something I should try my hand at. So, I applied and got a position!

Makeda: I work for South East Dance as a Receptionist & Operations Assistant and Rose Kigwana (Former Senior Producer at South East Dance) encouraged me to go for it. I organised a couple of meetings with her to find out more about it, and to figure how it would work alongside my current role, and then made the decision to apply.

What did your role in the Emerging Creative Producer entail?

Makeda: I had a work placement at Rich Mix in Shoreditch, London one day a week for three months. 

I worked closely with the programming team and assisted them on a lot of admin jobs, such as inputting information about events, ordering technical equipment and monitoring their programming email. I also assessed production applications and helped to choose the production that was in line with the company’s ethos. 

At South East Dance I often shadowed Linzi Whitton, our Programme Producer, on live events such as, Charco, Mind the Gap and Project Female showcases. I would assist with setting up the events space and helping the artists with anything they needed. I shadowed Linzi during events and she showed me the ropes as to what an events day looks like.

I also assisted our Little Big Dance freelance producer Kirsty (Sulston). For the Little Big Dance Festival I created an information pack for delegates visiting Brighton and helped arrange refreshments.

Analeise: I got a placement with Grace Okereke’s company Uprise Rebel, which supports Black female choreographers and administrators and helps to develop inclusive audiences. They work across four main dance companies - Uchenna Dance, Alessandra Seutin, Sung Im Her and Seeta Patel. These were companies that I already knew from working in the industry. Some of the choreographers had previously taught me so I was excited to work with them.

What key projects did you work on? 

Makeda: At South East Dance Analeise and I helped out on the Mind The Gap event, we created a video with the communications team to promote it, as well as researching local schools and colleges in our area and composed an email to invite them to the event. 

On the day of the Mind The Gap I recorded some post-event interviews with the participants, asking them to evaluate their experience of it.

Analeise: As Grace was so busy with the different projects, I was asked to increase my hours to four days a week, and was given the title of Assistant Producer, which I was elated about. I was tasked with coordinating travel arrangements for various dance productions, assisting in budget creation and scheduling, and liaising with venues to ensure smooth logistics for events. I even went on tour with Seeta Patel Dance, from 11–27 November 2023 as the main point of contact on the admin side of things, which was a huge and very valuable experience.

A picture showing Analeise Auguste and Makeda Whittaker next to South East Dance membsers of staff Luan Taylor, Rose Kigwana, ad Sarah Kearney. They are stood in front of Brighton Pavilion.
L to R: Analeise, Makeda, (emerging young producers) Luan, Rose, Sarah (South East Dance Staff)

What have you learnt during your time on the programme?

Makeda: I have learned how important it is to manage your own time, and how to manage your tasks in order of importance so you can get it done as soon as you can. 

Through sitting in on meetings with artists I’ve also started to learn how to ask certain questions to make sure you are getting the right information so you can help the artist to the best of your ability.

Most importantly, I’ve learned how workloads can sometimes get overwhelming, so it’s important to know when you are at full capacity, and make sure you are looking after yourself, and feeling confident to say no when you can’t take on any more work. 

Analeise: The biggest skill I developed was taking initiative and being proactive; once I was told I was coordinating travel for Sung Im Her, for instance, I had to introduce myself to everyone via email and get the ball rolling quickly. I also learned a lot of practical skills, such as budget creation, travel coordination, and working with different personalities within the industry. Additionally, I gained insights into remaining calm in tense situations and the importance of seeking guidance when needed.

What have you enjoyed most about the work?

Makeda: I really enjoyed my time at Rich Mix and learning from the programming team. I also enjoyed shadowing Linzi on events that South East Dance hosted, and seeing how live events work from behind the scenes.

Analeise: I really enjoyed the opportunity to explore a new career avenue in a supportive environment. Being part of planning and facilitating events, especially those that welcomed both professionals and non-professionals, was particularly rewarding for me.

Analeise and Makeda, two young black women, standing in front of the Tate Modern, a red brick building with very large windows and an orange entrance.
Makeda and Analeise on a trip to Tate Modern

Did anything inspire you during the programme?

Makeda: Shadowing Linzi on the events held at South East Dance has really inspired me. I’ve always had an interest in live events management but after shadowing her it has solidified it - I love chaos and that sigh of relief when everything goes smoothly! Also, talking to the visitors after they’ve seen the show and asking their opinion on it. 

Analeise: The opportunity to work on projects like Mind The Gap and Uprise Rebel really reignited my passion for dance. Exposure to different aspects of producing events expanded my perspectives on potential career paths within the industry.

Would you recommend this opportunity to other people? Why?

Makeda: Yes, as someone who is trying to figure out what they want as a career, I think it’s really important to get all of the experience you can, so you’re better able to decide which path you want to go down, and this programme is really important for this.

At the same time. you learn a bunch of new important skills that can transferred across any job or career, and you can also create important connections with people that that you meet along the way. 

Even if you decide that producing is not for you, hopefully you have still learnt a lot on this programme.

Analeise: Coming into this programme I was looking for some direction, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was burnt out from the dance performance industry and knew nothing else since I was 16 years old. This programme allowed me the space to explore a different avenue in a safe space. Unexpectedly my experiences reignited my fire for dance again which has been invaluable, and I am extremely grateful. I came out with so much new skills and direction which is much more than I bargained for.

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