Birmingham buckles up for tap dancing and storytelling bonanza as part of 2022 Festival

·3 min read
Part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, the ‘Tappin’ In’ project staged the city’s biggest outdoor tap lesson on 18 June and brought Brindley Place alive to the sound of music
Part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, the ‘Tappin’ In’ project staged the city’s biggest outdoor tap lesson on 18 June and brought Brindley Place alive to the sound of music

By Tom Harle

The West Midlands buckled up and enjoyed a mass participation tap dancing and storytelling extravaganza, with its aim to combat loneliness in the region.

Part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, the ‘Tappin’ In’ project staged the city’s biggest outdoor tap lesson on 18 June and brought Brindley Place alive to the sound of music.

130 local people, many of whom have never tried tap before, got their dancing shoes on during workshops in places such as Coventry, Rugby, Cannock and Chelmsley Wood.

Tapping and chatting are the two guiding principles of the project which helps address widespread issues of isolation in the West Midlands and aims to boost the region’s mental health.

“When you’re doing tap, there’s no room in your head for anything else,” said Tappin’ In creative director Stephanie Ridings.

“Tap is very joyous. At first people think it’s hard but you can quickly be making a rhythm and then your confidence grows as well.

“The guardedness gives way to laughing, maybe through hysteria, and people can start to see their way through.

“We’re not saying tap can solve all the world’s problems, but it can help. It’s escapism for an hour and an invitation to reconnect after being isolated.”

Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England, the Birmingham 2022 Festival has been one of the largest ever Commonwealth Games cultural programmes and runs until September.

The National Lottery is investing over £40million to support the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and its legacy in a variety of ways. This includes investing in everything from infrastructure, the home nation teams and grassroots sport programmes to employment, training, and volunteering opportunities, as well as the vibrant Birmingham 2022 Festival.

At Tappin’ In workshops, groups spent an hour dancing with their dance captain, before settling down for an hour of creative activity along with a good chat over tea and biscuits.

Stephanie has lived through periods of isolation herself and sees first-hand the impact that the social aspect of the project has on its participants.

“Before the pandemic, I wanted to bring people together, people who didn’t get out that much,” she said. “As a writer working from home, I didn’t get out that much.

“If you ask people whether they’re isolated, they will say no, but then they tell you a story about being isolated.

“We wanted to make a safe space for people to come together. People don’t like to talk about loneliness and there is a shame in it, which there shouldn’t be.”

Birmingham 2022 Festival is a six-month long celebration of culture and creativity, funded by The National Lottery to the tune of £3million from Arts Council England and £3million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The National Lottery Community Fund have also invested in the events programme.

Tappin’ In will continue after the 18 June with weeks of legacy work and the special premiere screening of a documentary charting the process.

“The festival is huge,” Stephanie said. “The investment in the artists, producers, marketing, all those skills, means there will be a huge legacy to the region.

“It’s an amazing platform to do something special and the scale of it is massive. We want to keep going bigger.”

National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into the arts, culture, and heritage sectors. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk. Find out more about the National Lottery supported Birmingham 2022 Festival by using the hashtag #B2022Festival

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