IRIE! dance theatre

Cultural Impact Development Fund

The leading African & Caribbean dance theatre company is using its loan to create a modern and well-resourced centre for degree students and the local community.

IRIE! dance theatre

Region: London
Discipline: Dance
Investment Size: £100,000

IRIE! dance theatre is the UK’s leading dance theatre company delivering creative, educational and artistic activities in African and Caribbean dance. Founded in 1985, the company has worked with thousands of young people and dance artists, and created over 25 dance works for touring nationally and internationally. Based in the historic Moonshot Centre in New Cross, South London, IRIE!’s mission is to support the personal wellbeing and community cohesion of the diverse population in its local area through dance.

The organisation delivers on this mission through two distinct but interrelated strands of activities: a wide-ranging community offer across diverse dance styles for young people, adults, families, and older people; and a comprehensive education, training, and professional development offer spanning schools workshops, a degree programme, masterclasses, and residencies for emerging dance artists, supporting them to develop their creative practice and meet the needs of diverse communities.

Building Financial Resilience

Like many arts charities, IRIE! historically relied predominantly on grant funding from trusts and foundations to cover its costs. With looming cuts to these traditionally secure funding sources and a desire to adapt its business model to include more fee-based income, the organisation wanted to develop a diverse portfolio of income, particularly through growth of its BA (Hons) Degree Programme in Diverse Dance Styles and through increased room hires in the Moonshot Centre.

IRIE! approached the Cultural Impact Development Fund with a request for an unsecured loan of £100,000 to invest in equipment and technology to enhance its programmes: projectors and speakers for its dance studios, additional books for its library with an electronic security system, student lockers, an upgraded IT system, and cosmetic changes to the building.

This investment will provide a modern and well-resourced centre for degree students to pursue their studies, offering comparable resources to other nearby universities and in particular to the University of Roehampton, which validates the programme. It will also make the degree programme a more attractive offer, supporting IRIE!’s goal of increasing the number of registered students. The building improvements will also allow IRIE! to better leverage the building for room hires to local businesses and community organisations.

Ultimately, the increased income generated from the degree programme and the room hires will contribute to IRIE!’s financial health and resilience, providing subsidy for its mission-critical programmes and services, and ensuring that it can continue to serve as an anchor in its local community.

The increased income will contribute to IRIE!’s financial health and resilience, providing subsidy for its mission-critical programmes and services, and ensuring that it can continue to serve as an anchor in its local community.

Impact Capacity Development

In addition to its investment, IRIE! received one-to-one support from CIDF to better understand how its programmes make an impact, and develop tools to measure and evaluate this impact. This process began with a Theory of Change workshop, which produced a map of IRIE’s programmes showing the links and progression routes across its offerings. This Theory of Change allowed IRIE! to articulate a clearly stated mission around supporting personal wellbeing and community cohesion of diverse populations through dance, and to understand how its different programmes intersect with and build on each other to deliver on this mission.

IRIE! was also keen to strengthen its evaluation approach in a couple programme areas where they felt stronger evaluation evidence would support future sales and fundraising efforts. Its schools workshops generate earned income for the organisation, and robust evaluation evidence plays an important role in making sales to educators. Additionally, its Stage 7 Project, which targets young people involved with crime or excluded from school, has rigorous funder reporting requirements, and IRIE! is keen to obtain robust evaluation evidence to satisfy these requirements and secure continuation funding for this work.

CIDF worked with IRIE! to develop its evaluation framework for these programmes, ensuring that it is capturing the data that it needs to speak to its stakeholders’ interests, as well as for its internal monitoring and learning purposes. This included detailed review of its data collection templates to ensure that it was asking the right questions to address its evaluation needs.

As part of this process, CIDF supported IRIE! to set annual targets around the outputs and outcomes of these programmes, as well as targets around how it will embed an impact  culture across the organisations. These targets will allow IRIE! to track its impact and its progress on impact management year-on-year. Additionally, as CIDF offers a unique financial incentive for social impact, these targets will offer IRIE! the opportunity to receive annual reductions on its loan’s interest rate if it is able to evidence this impact over the lifetime of its investment.