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Around the world in 1,460 days
Date posted: 05 October 2018
It’s exactly four years since People Dancing commissioned photographer Sean Goldthorpe to work on its 11 Million Reasons to Dance exhibition and campaign. Our Director of Engagement Louise Wildish reflects... and looks ahead

Sitting in our office in October 2014, talking about the ethos of 11 Million Reasons to Dance (11MRTD), about changing perceptions of dance and disability, the artistic vision and going through concepts for shoots seems like a distant memory. Four years on, it feels like a good time to reflect on the exhibition and its journey… so far. 
In May 2015, we went on to launch our first version at a participant celebration event, in Leicester (for all those featured in the images) – that version then toured for a good two years in the UK and abroad until we sadly couldn’t pump any more foamboard around its body and it went to the cupboard in the sky. We replaced, or rather cloned it and that version is still very much alive and touring today! 

Quite soon after, we had a booking for Bounce festival in Northern Ireland. They wanted a bespoke version, so we granted permission and an aluminium version was created by them and at the end of the run returned to us. It’s very heavy to transport – expensive to courier – so unfortunately doesn’t go out very often. It is a beautiful version and, more importantly, made us realise that by giving permission for organisations to print their own versions (with stipulations to maintain continuity, quality and artistic integrity) it allowed for flexibility and wider audience development, both beyond the dance sector and outside of the UK.  



This then got us thinking about creating a version that would be more accessible in every way; so an online, or digital, version was created. This digital version is now used more than any other hard copy and has been exhibited more than 40 times (most likely a lot more than this by the nature of online content being harder to monitor).  
Later in 2015, as part of a successful strategic touring application to Arts Council England to tour the exhibition alongside a participation programme to six low arts engagement locations in the Midlands and North of England, we made our most glamourous version to date. Framed and large scale, it was rather beautiful. This did the strategic tour, helped by Graeme and his van from the North East – lifesavers both! This version is now permanently on show  at Dance City, Newcastle for anyone who would like to see it. 



In total, there are 10 versions, or copies, of the exhibition across the globe, including the newest print in Tasmania. Some are touring and others in storage, some on walls and some given to charity or community organisations as a donated gift. It’s quite something to have 10 versions.

The work has, in the main, been shown in art galleries, expos, theatres and dance venues; it has also been hung in offices, on the streets, restaurants, at a City merchant bank, in city centres and train stations. I think my personal favourite has been the enlarged Black Swan image put up across a building in Singapore, in 2017.

I love seeing how people curate and present the work, both in terms of the locations and also alongside other art work, exhibitions or performances. Having worked on the exhibition for so long, it is still humbling to see how it inspires other art or ideas, how it still stands proud but, mostly, how it still supports a change in perceptions around dance and disability.

In Hong Kong, a tasting menu was created to celebrate the images; in Valencia it appeared at the train station for daily commuters; and in Perth and Kinross,  it was digitally shown in the city on a big screen for people passing by. The quality of the exhibition was always fundamental to its creation and it’s that quality, I believe, that has kept the work current for all this time. What’s changing is the way the images are presented. 



To sum up the last four years, I don’t think Sean or I could ever have imagined the scope of the 11MRTD campaign and the locations and venues where the work has been displayed across the world. It’s amazing to think that it has been at more than 38 venues, in 10 international countries and has engaged well over 250,000 people worldwide (and I suspect more).

In our evaluation of the strategic touring project, 90% of people taking part said that the images had directly changed their opinion of dance and disability in a positive way. With support from Unlimited and The British Council, the exhibition has been paramount in creating international partnerships and connections – this is vital to the project’s legacy and the wider work of People Dancing. 

So what’s next? I would like to have a version in every country, with a supporting organisation touring the images so that even more people can access the work. We are also developing ideas for a tour of Wales and have had conversations around what a second version of 11MRTD could look like. So one thing is certain, the 11 MRTD images aren’t ready for the store cupboard just yet!


Louise Wildish – Director of Engagement, People Dancing and 11 Million Reasons to Dance




Photos show (from top):

Banner pic - Launch reception at the Gala Theatre, Durham

Giant exhibition poster in Seoul, South Korea

Welly O'Brien at The Brindley, Runcorn (left) and the Tees Valley Gallery

Preparations at the People Dancing office (left) and Sean Goldthorpe's Black Swan inspired image on show at South Holland Centre, Spalding

The Point, Doncaster.