Lewes Dance Academy was founded in 1998. By you? Yes! I founded it when I was 19, having qualified in dance with the IDTA at 18. My dad ran a successful Lewes taxi firm, and had always been self-employed, so I think I inherited that ethos. I’ve been doing this all my life. I started the Dance Academy dance classes at Malling Community Centre (I grew up in Malling; my parents live there still). Then I took a lease at St John’s Ambulance in Timberyard Lane; then North Street. Everywhere I went the building I was working in was taken over and redeveloped! So it’s wonderful to have finally found a permanent home here in Landport. Pippa from Pippa’s Nursery, the Youth Club and us have together taken on the mortgage.
Community is clearly really important to you? It is, and mine is a Community Interest Company – which means not for profit, like a charity, but with the aim of serving the community. I’ve lived in Landport for 18 years: to be able to use a building in my own community for my own community sits really nicely. We do exceptionally well at creating community in Landport, and at low cost. But we’re working very hard to do this. Last summer holiday, between us we offered two weeks of free children’s clubs for all ages, thanks to the Pells Pool Fund. There were 30 kids here a day. Our doors are open every day now, and the kids are free to join in whatever way is right for them. It’s their space. Some of them are very serious about dance – I think I’ve just got my sixth student going to do a degree in it. But people join in as much or as little as they want. We make dance affordable to many families who might not otherwise be able to access it. Two of my teachers are ex-students. And I’ve also started teaching second generations of some families now! We all support each other, and we join in as families (I’ve got four kids myself, including baby Theo). When the Pells School closed, for instance, that was tough on many children. But they have a place to come to that remains their own while other things change.
Have you lived in Lewes your whole life? All but six months, when I moved out to South Heighton. But I couldn’t settle! I just came back to Lewes every day. I love it. Because it’s my home. Because of the community, and the town’s uniqueness. It’s not too commercialised, and everyone can be themselves. And that’s what I want to build here: a community where everyone fits in. Dance was always important to me because I felt free, and free to be myself. I started dancing when I was eight, but it took a lot of commitment from my parents, and I had to travel to Newhaven five days a week. Lewes Dance Academy is everything to me. This is my passion, this is my life.