Artistic director - Gemma Wright

A COMMUNITY organisation is dancing with delight after scooping a "lifeline" grant of more than £66,000.

The Dance Network Association, based in Colchester at the Mercury Theatre, delivers workshops to schoolchildren, families and adults, including those with physical restrictions.

It runs high-quality sessions across Essex, including putting on contemporary dance classes for elderly people and those living with dementia and Parkinson's Disease.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the community interest company hard, forcing it to suspend face-to-face activity and furlough members of staff.

However, now there is light at the end of the tunnel thanks to a £66,050 grant from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF).

Artistic director Gemma Wright said: "I'm absolutely delighted and overwhelmed.

"It means so much to us and our community of dancers across Essex.

"Now we can get back to doing what we do best - using dance activity to increase people’s mental and physical well-being, reducing social isolation and loneliness.

"The past few months on furlough have been extremely bleak, with no light at the end of this never-ending Covid tunnel.

"Overnight we lost 30,000 connected community dancers, a team of over 20 freelance artists and, along with our partners, financial losses on projects of over £40,000.

"So this is our lifeline.

"We're so grateful as we can now get back out there, re-employ our dedicated team and continue to bring joy to people’s lives."

The Dance Network Association works with people both young and old and more vulnerable members of society.

It has many aims and one of them has been more pertinent than ever during lockdown - helping those who suffer from social isolation.

In 2019, the organisation effectively reached 30,000 people, from a combination of classes, online viewing figures, mass dance programmes and audiences at events at Colchester United's JobServe Community Stadium.

Mrs Wright added: "We celebrate our five-year anniversary in the coming year and would urge anyone to come and have a dance with us, to celebrate what's been a tough but amazing five years for both DNA, the dance landscape and over 100,000 people that we have touched the lives of."

The Culture Recovery Fund is a pot of £1.57bn, distributed to community groups to help them face the challenges of the pandemic and ensure the cultural industry has a sustainable future.

The Dance Network Association is one of 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the country receiving support and £257 million of investment has been announced this week as part of the first round of Culture Recovery Fund grants being administered by Arts Council England.

Further rounds of funding in the cultural and heritage sector are due to be announced over the coming weeks.