UK-based creative innovator Rob Jones began his new role as Associate Artistic Director at Sadler’s Wells in August 2022. Prior to this he has been Senior Festival Producer with Dance Umbrella in London. Rob Jones is a multi-artform producer and programmer who specialises in cross art form projects, festivals, participation and contemporary performance. Over the past 13 years he has worked with Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), The Albany, World Stages London, Roundhouse and Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival. He is also Creative Producer for Brownton Abbey, an Afro futurism-inspired international performance collective, which centres and elevates Queer disabled people of colour. He currently leads the programming team at Sadler’s Wells and is responsible for specific programming initiatives as the organisation prepares to open its fourth venue, Sadler’s Wells East in 2024.
How has it been so far? How do you feel about your new role and how is it different from your previous roles which might have been more multi art form focused?
So far so good – I cannot believe how quickly the time has gone and I really only feel like I am just getting started. We work so far into the future here so it takes a while to see the work you’re doing come to life but I am loving working with so many talented passionate people and being able to be a part of the next chapter for this organisation. I have been working in multi-art form settings for most of my career but in the past nine years there has been a strong leaning towards dance so it doesn’t feel particularly different for me.
Your association comes at a pivotal time when we are looking forward to the opening of the 4th Venue at Sadler’s Wells East. What are the highlights of your involvement in this formative phase of a new venue? How do you see it expanding Sadler’s Wells’ community outreach?
I can’t talk about programme publicly at the moment but you’ll see more from early next year. What I can say is we are looking forward to bringing people into dance from multiple angles and there will be a wide range of offers.
Congratulations on the launch of your new initiatives at Sadler’s Wells on 29th June- the mentoring scheme and focused programme for South Asian dance and disabled artists.
Thank you that’s very kind – yes there’s multiple programmes in this first cycle and definitely something for everyone. The programme will shift and develop with time and you’ll see a range of activity and creative responses to the dance landscape.
It is an exciting scene in the UK today for South Asian Dance practitioners and disabled artists. It has evolved over the past decades to its current place on the mainstream stage. This was made possible through some great support from organizations like Sadler’s Wells and others. I am sure our readers and artists would like to know your perspective on this evolution in recent times and future growth potential.
I think there has been some great work from a wide range of artists from marginalised backgrounds in past years, not least disabled artists and artists who practice in South Asian dance styles. I think we are still at the tip of the iceberg when we think about diversifying the pool of professionals who are platformed and there is still a very long way to go. I try to think about these things intersectional and although in this cycle there are some programs that are more targeted this could look different in future.
It would be interesting to know more about your specific plans. Could you please elaborate on these initiatives as being practice based rather than performance.
Often with artist development programmes that are focused on a performative outcome there can be a lot of pressure to focus on the making of the show/product rather than the development of an artists practice and often these spaces are very much pressured for that reason, some artists thrive in that kind of environment but many do not. I wanted us to begin this programme having a different kind of conversation avoiding that pressure in the first instance and for us on holding space.
How do artists get involved in these initiatives?
Go to the for artists page on the Sadlers wells website and click on artist development and see everting there
How are you developing the mentoring initiative and what’s the best way for emerging talents to be a part of the scheme?
Developing the initiative through drawing on the incredible network of artists we have collaborated with over the years and will be in the future. Developing choreographers can apply online – have a look at the programme on the site.
At what level in their career do artists need to be to have these opportunities open to them?
It varies depending on the programme. The majority are for developing choreographers and we let people identify what that means to them, there’s clear clarifications set out on each of the program pages so I would encourage people to look on our website.
Would you be considering a collaborative approach where UK based artists could co-create with international artists and encourage experimental work between multiple genres?
Not at present but could be in future.
How do you envision the initiatives developing and shaping up in the next 5 years. What is the road map ahead ?
There are some ideas for future cycles but I won’t be talking about them publicly just yet. The priority right now is to focus on the current programme we have just launched, connecting with a wide range of artists who are new to Sadler’s Wells and letting the responses and experiences that come out of these programmes hopefully inform the growth.
For more information visit https://www.sadlerswells.com/for-artists/artist-development/
Image by Jason Dimmock
Interview by Protima Chatterjee