In the latest instalment of our collaboration with the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Spirit of 2012 has awarded £1 million to the Birmingham 2022 Cultural Festival to enable 300 young people from across the West Midlands to co-create a series of major dance performances and take centre stage at the Opening and Closing ceremonies. The mass participation project – entitled Critical Mass – will form a new dance company of disabled and non-disabled young people to show how genuine inclusion can be achieved in huge events such as the Commonwealth Games.

Of the 300 taking part there will be at least 100 disabled participants and 40% will come from a non-white background, reflecting the diversity of Birmingham and the West Midlands’ young population. Participants will have the opportunity to take part in approximately 400 dance and movement workshops and creative sessions across a 14-month journey.

Critical Mass will perform at the Birmingham 2022 Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as well as the opening show of the Birmingham 2022 Cultural Festival in March 2022, the Birmingham International Dance Festival in June 2022, Welcome Ceremonies for athletes arriving for the Games in July 2022, and at Live Sites around the city during the Games.

Spirit of 2012 awards £1 million to Birmingham 2022 to deliver ground-breaking mass participation dance programme with 300 young people from the West Midlands

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Collaborating with Birmingham 2022 to deliver the project will be Dance Xchange, Arts Connect and the Dance Development Leaders Group (DDLG), a dedicated network of dance organisations across the West Midlands who have a commitment to developing dance participation. Together, the partners will harness community cohesion and inclusion, and use their expertise in inclusive dance and mass choreography to build the skills and confidence of the young people as they work and play together to create lasting performance moments that will be seen locally by thousands, and broadcast globally to an audience of one billion.

The project will engage with SEN schools and colleges, community arts groups, youth clubs, job centres, care leaver referral teams and refugee and asylum seeker advice centres to ensure young people from underrepresented backgrounds are given an opportunity to take part. This will be supplemented by a public call out for participants during the summer of 2021. Critical Mass performances will be right at the heart of the Birmingham 2022 Cultural Festival, a world-class programme of art and culture running from March to September 2022. The festival will reach 2.5 million people through audiences and participants, and will include new work, installations, exhibitions, performances and major events taking place in the heart of West Midlands communities.

The Chair of Spirit’s board, Lady Jane Gibson said:

“We’re delighted to support Birmingham 2022 to make Critical Mass happen as part of its incredible Cultural Festival. This is an ambitious mass participation project and event, reaching young people through a network of passionate and dedicated dance organisations, working with them over a sustained period of time and giving them an international stage. It has the potential to transform the lives and the work of everyone involved.” “And it’s nearly 20 years since para-sport was fully integrated into the Commonwealth Games with parity for disabled and non-disabled athletes. Through this award, we build on that legacy of inclusion and diversity.”

It comes after Spirit and Birmingham 2022 collaborated on the West Midlands Challenge in September 2020, where £600,000 was awarded to three West Midlands arts organisations – Caudwell Children, Warwick Arts Centre and Creative Black Country – to create inclusive arts and cultural projects linked to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the Black Country and Coventry. With so much planned already – including the Commonwealth Games, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the 10th anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – 2022 is not only lined up to be the most exciting year for the UK yet but also a huge opportunity to encourage participation and leave a lasting social legacy.