DU19 The Urban Playground Team, To Fly Before We Fall. Photo: Andy Day

Growing dance provision for children, young people and communities in Croydon.

Between 2018-2019 we worked in depth in the borough of Croydon (where over 25% of the population are under the age of 18) to undertake an 18-month Paul Hamlyn Foundation funded residency, to test new approaches to broadening access to dance activity for young people within the borough.

To deliver our work in Croydon, Dance Umbrella worked in partnership with Croydon Council and Croydon Music & Arts as well as working closely with local artists, arts, culture and youth organisations.

Our work aimed to:

  • give young people in Croydon opportunities to access high quality contemporary dance experiences
  • help develop and connect the dance community in Croydon
  • test ways of overcoming barriers of attendance for young people
  • build audiences for contemporary dance performance in Croydon
  • offer creative development opportunities for young people.


Girls in front

Girls In Front was a series of free, fun and energetic dance projects for girls aged 11-18 years in Croydon delivered between October 2018 – October 2019. Project delivery included term-time weekly dance classes, school holiday intensives, a dance leadership course and a performance project, the outcome of which was presented at our DU: Fairfield Takeover.

The programme offered girls the opportunity to develop their dance skills, build confidence, make friends and work with a range of professional female dance artists.

Check out the video that was made during one of our Girls In Front school holiday intensives:


Assemble was a creative development project for emerging dance and music makers in Croydon aged between 14-19. The project provided the opportunity for young artists to work collaboratively across dance and music, hone their composition and/or choreographic skills and develop a collaborative, mixed form performance piece, which they presented as a part of our DU: Fairfield Takeover.

Delivered in partnership with Dance Umbrella and Drum The Bass, Assemble participants were mentored by composer/musician Shri Sriram & choreographer/dancer Jose Agudo.

Next Level

Photo: Will Hartley

Photo: Will Hartley

Next Level was a programme for Croydon-based choreographers aged 16-24. It was delivered by Dance Umbrella in partnership with Dance Festival Croydon. Over the course of the programme the selected choreographers developed their choreographic skills through a series of workshops and mentoring and were supported to apply for a Youth Arts Fund grant from Croydon Council in order to create a new piece of dance work, the final version of which was presented as a part of our DU: Fairfield Takeover.

The first Next Level choreographers were: Aaron Baksh and Lucy Bennett.

DU: Fairfield Takeover

  • DU 19 Fairfield Takeover. Photo: Vipul Sangoi

  • DU 19 Fairfield Takeover. Photo: Vipul Sangoi

  • DU 19 Fairfield Takeover. Photo: Vipul Sangoi

  • DU 19 Fairfield Takeover. Photo: Camilla Greenwood

  • DU 19 Fairfield Takeover. Photo: Camilla Greenwood

  • DU 19 Fairfield Takeover. Photo: Camilla Greenwood

  • DU 19 Courtyard Kutcheri, Fairfield Takeover. Photo: Vipul Sangoi

  • DU 19 Courtyard Kutcheri, Fairfield Takeover. Photo: Vipul Sangoi

  • DU19 REDD, Boy Blue. Photo: Carl Fox

Our residency culminated with our weekend takeover of Fairfield Halls, which featured as part of the Dance Umbrella festival 2019.

Spilling out of Fairfield Halls’ beautifully redeveloped spaces, our weekend Takeover brought a mix of international dance, pop-up events, performance-parkour, home-grown talent, workshops and mayhem to the heart of Croydon. Companies featured included Boy Blue Entertainment, The Urban Playground Team and Mythili Prakash alongside many of the young people who took part in our various projects.

Over 1800 people saw dance performances during the DU: Fairfield Takeover and over 470 people got dancing themselves with the free workshops, dance parties and activities that were on offer.


This blog was a place for Creative Learning Producer, Bethan Peters and Evaluator, Elsa Urmston, to chart their learning and development over the course of the programme. They shared posts reflecting on what they did, what they learnt how they changed and what they plan to do next as a result.

The first phase of our work in Croydon culminated in October 2019. Please see an evaluation report about the programme below for more information.

Access Croydon: Explore and Test, Final Report, December 2019

What next

We are currently in the process of developing and expanding our London Leap programme within Croydon, Hounslow and other Greater London boroughs. Keep an eye on our website for upcoming events and projects.

For more information about Croydon Leap please email Bethan Peters at [email protected] or call 07498 232 515.