DAISY FARRIS DANCE COLLECTIVE: THE PRINCESS ALICE PROJECT

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Image: Rehearsing for IN-SITE project on Sun Pier in Chatham 2015. Photograph by Maria Coombes

Daisy was a part of Transitions Dance Company, graduating in 2013 with an MA in Dance Performance. During this time, she established Daisy Farris Dance Collective and began creating work for the stage. They have recently been awarded funding to support the Research and Development of The Princess Alice project,commencing in January 2017 and will be supported by Arts Council England Grants for the Arts and the Royal Borough of Greenwich Community Art Fund.

Could you tell us about The Princess Alice project?

The vision is to create a piece of work based on the Princess Alice disaster, which was a boat accident on the Thames in 1878. The Princess Alice was a paddle steamer running day trips from London down to Kent. It was loaded with passengers when the disaster happened, which killed hundreds of people. The community of Woolwich had to pull together to support people who had lost family, and manage the aftermath of this massive disaster happening on their doorstep.

The eventual aim of the project is to create a piece with professional dancers and an inter-generational community cast. The piece will be inspired by the disaster and the funding we have received is for the research and development stage of the project. We will be running a series of workshops for families, with the idea that people can bring their aunties, uncles, children, grandparents – whatever they consider family to be – and work with us in developing a physical response to The Princess Alice disaster. We’re really interested in the idea of bringing inter-generational work into the studio by involving families in the creative process. DFDC are working in partnership with Greenwich Dance who are generously supporting this element of the project.

We will also be working closely with a group of young volunteers at the National Maritime Museum to develop a performance that will take place at the Museum and also at the Tall Ships festival. Their objective is to create performance content for the Museum in collaboration with myself and the DFDC team. For this element of the project, we are working in partnership with the National Maritime Museum. As well as working closely with Greenwich Dance and the National Maritime Museum, we will also be working with Greenwich West Community Centre and Greenwich Heritage Centre.

How did you feel when you found out your funding application was successful?

I cried! To be honest it was the relief – to plan a project like this is a lot of work. There’s so much planning that goes on; from meetings with partners and collaborators through to writing the funding bids. As this is the first project I have created from scratch, there is lot of it is learning-through-doing, but I am lucky to be surrounded by a very supportive network of friends and colleagues. When I found out the applications were successful it was such a relief that it had all been worthwhile. It feels like a step forward for the collective; I am so excited to be getting into the studio with dancers and collaborators who I admire and who inspire me every time we work together.

What inspired you to focus on the Princess Alice disaster?

It was actually my mum – she was reading a book by an author called Kate Moss which was made up of a series of short stories, and one of them was about the Princess Alice disaster. At the time I was working with a textile artist called Nicola Flower, who we’ll be working with again on this project, and my mum read this story and told me that I had to read it. She thought it would be the perfect starting point for a new project for me and Nicola. A few people know about it, perhaps it if they’re interested in maritime history, but if you just asked somebody that lives in this area they probably wouldn’t. For me it was an opportunity to take a story that seemed to have been forgotten and to bring it to life again in some way, however that manifests itself.

What were the most valuable things you learnt from Trinity Laban?

Firstly, I met the dancers that I work with now, which is amazing because we never would have come together if we didn’t train here. DFDC is made up of five Trinity Laban alumni: Glyn Egerton-Read, Hannah Cameron, Holly Preece, Laura Heywood and Sarah Gaul. Secondly, the way that David Waring (Transitions Artistic Director) works with you a dance artist is something I really appreciated. Some of the information makes sense at the time and with other information the penny’s just dropping now. I’m in certain situations and I’m thinking – ah, that’s what he meant! David really nurtures you as an artist; he looks at you as a member of the company but also as an individual and how you are going to grow. A lot of the ways that he worked with us I’ve tried to continue in my own practice. I was really grateful to have him as a mentor – he’s been a big influence on me.

Just being here at Trinity Laban and getting to know people, being in a building where there’s so much going, it’s very interesting. There are so many courses here and so many opportunities to meet different people, which is really refreshing. The staff are all practicing artists and/or academics in the field, therefore the knowledge they have to share is invaluable.

How has your career as a dance artist developed since graduating?

Daisy Farris Dance Collective sort of formed as a happy accident during my time here at Trinity Laban. I’d invited some people into the studio to explore some of the things I was looking at for my MA Thesis. Since then we’ve been doing a lot of performing in platforms. Last year (early 2015) I was commissioned as part of the INSITE project. That was where DFDC met Nicola Flower. We worked with Nicola to create a dance film which was set on Sun Pier and told the story of an estranged local character. Nicola has now become a really close friend of mine and is someone who I think will be a lifelong collaborator.

Aside from DFDC, I dance for Loop Dance Company and we have recently performed a new commission – Ports The Pass, by Sivan Rubinstein at Turner Contemporary. I also teach freelance; for Artis education, I teach a beginners adult class here at Trinity Laban, and at various dance schools. It’s only really now – 3 years out of graduating – that I feel like I’m into the swing of it. It’s been a lot of trial and error. When you graduate you realise that it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning.

What are your future career aspirations?

I feel that where I am now is how I want things to develop. It feels like I’ve realised this is what I trained to do – to be an artist involved in different projects. I’m aware that it comes in different peaks and troughs in this industry, so I think for the future I’m trying to get myself into places where I’m working as an artist more and more.

For DFDC, we will start the Princess Alice Project R&D from Jan – April and then look at applying for more funding to develop the full piece. Longer term, I hope to tour the work. I’d like to tour the work following the route that The Princess Alice boat would’ve done, visiting communities between here (London) and Kent. There are communities on the route where arts engagement is quite low so it would be great to take the project there and work with a range of different groups of people.

Follow updates on The Princess Alice project at www.dfdcollective.co.uk

Follow the company on Twitter @DFDcollective or find them on Facebook: Daisy Farris Dance Collective.

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Image: Daisy Farris Dance Collective performing at Swallowsfeet 2015. Photograph by Swallowsfeet Collective

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

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