Tucked away in an office in the Churchill Theatre is a cultural gem; a resident charity which makes a profound difference to the lives of those it touches, Magpie Dance. Magpie Dance has been offering dance workshops and classes to people with learning disabilities in Bromley since 1985 and last year 400 people participated. We talk to Thalie Martini, Magpie Dance’s new CEO, to find out more about the charity and its work.
What brought you to Magpie Dance?
I’ve always been motivated to work with organisations which make a difference to the lives of people who need it most. Before Magpie Dance I worked mainly in state government agencies, large charities, museums and local authority projects in Australia and the UK. Whilst we achieved a lot of good things, the chance to work with the team here at Magpie Dance to make a real, tangible difference to people’s lives at a grassroots level was something I jumped at.
What has surprised you most since joining Magpie Dance?
I was expecting passion and commitment, but the levels I have found here are extraordinary.
I have spent a lot of time since I joined listening to the stories of the participants and their families, and what has struck me most is the way Magpie Dance goes far beyond being a dance class for all of them. Even amongst parents and carers, there can be low expectations of people with learning disabilities. Magpie Dance challenges that and I have talked to parents who have seen withdrawn, socially isolated young people who rarely speak, transform into confident individuals, full of ideas and chatter, surrounded by friends. The physical and artistic achievements of the participants blow me away every time I watch them.
The huge dedication, skill and loyalty of the Magpie Dance team and the phenomenal creative talent of the two new Co-Artistic Directors Natasha Britton and Alison Ferrao, has also exceeded my expectations. They excel at bringing the best out of everybody they work with both artistically and personally.
If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would like to change about Magpie Dance?
We’re facing the same challenges as every other small charity with cuts in public funding and increased competition for other funding. The lives of the people we work with are also getting much harder with reductions in personal budgets and support services. They need Magpie Dance more than ever. One of my priorities is to raise the profile of the work we do and inspire more local businesses to support us, building on the kind support we receive from the Churchill Theatre, the Glades, FLR spectrum and Metro Bank. I also want to encourage more people to think of us in their wills or to give a monthly donation. If I had a magic wand, I’d make all that happen so we can plan for a sustainable future.
You’re new to dance, what is your advice to others who are nervous about joining a dance class or seeing a show?
Do it! I’ve seen some companies recently which have transformed the way I think about dance. Dance performance can tell a story and take you on a journey which not only makes you think about things differently, but energises and invigorates you. And who doesn’t need that!
Thalie Martini – Chief Executive of Magpie Dance
Written by Emma McFarland