Dance charity offers job opportunities for people with learning disabilities

People with learning disabilities will benefit from new funding for a pioneering south London dance charity.

Bromley-based Magpie Dance runs creative dance classes for children and adults set to live music.

The charity is now offering job opportunities for its members, who will act as mentors and ambassadors in schools and deliver training for other organisations.

The scheme is being funded through a £66,000 grant from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson said:

“Charities like Magpie play a hugely important role in tackling the social isolation many people with learning disabilities experience, building their confidence and independence and helping them develop communication and life skills.

“Magpie Dance was at the cutting edge of this kind of provision when it launched and we’re delighted that our funding is helping it to continue to innovate and to offer new, potentially life-changing opportunities to its members.”

Magpie was set up by founder Avril Hitman, BEM, in 1985, originally running one class a week, at a time when no comparable provision for people with learning disabilities existed.

Since then, it has blossomed and now runs 17 classes catering for over 300 people. During lockdown it ran over 500 online sessions reaching over 1,000 people.

Classes feature styles including ballet, contemporary and dance styles from around the world.

Magpie Dance Fundraising and Development Manager David Ward said:

“People who come to our classes are often quite overwhelmed and nervous to start with, but through drawing them into the session and encouraging them to play a part in leading activities, we see their confidence and ability to communicate with others grows significantly in a short space of time.

“Our mentors and ambassadors programme enables us to put people with learning disabilities at the forefront, not just participating in classes but carrying out paid work, teaching others and acting as a role model for younger dancers.”

More information about Magpie Dance is online at www.magpiedance.org.uk

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

Case study: ‘Magpie Dance has made the biggest impact on his life’

Amanda, from Bromley, said: “Magpie Dance has been supporting my son for 16 years, playing a huge part in developing his confidence, creativity and dance skills and providing opportunities for him to help others and to make friends. I truly believe Magpie Dance has made the biggest impact on his life to become the confident young man he is.”

Picture captions

(1) Hannah, from Bromley, takes part in the Magpie Dance 30th Anniversary performance

(2) Jamie, from Bromley, learning Royal Ballet repertoire and contemporary ballet with David Pickering MBE

(3)  an open adult community class with dance facilitator Annie Waller

- City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK –  www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

The City Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge Houses Estates, a charity founded in 1097 to maintain London Bridge, and Members of its Court of Common Council form the Bridge House Estates Board.

Bridge House Estates is now responsible for maintaining Tower, London, Southwark, Millennium and Blackfriars Bridges, and its grants team, City Bridge Trust – founded in 1995 – gives out over £25 million a year to good causes across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk