Déda’s Stephen Munn and Derby Festé

Stephen Munn

Stephen Munn - Credit: Archant

Nigel Powlson talks to Stephen Munn, director of Derby-based Déda, about the latest exciting developments and what’s in store at this year’s spectacular Festé

Elemental Force, Chatsworth House Photo: Maria Falconer

Elemental Force, Chatsworth House Photo: Maria Falconer - Credit: Archant

From Chatsworth House to London, outdoor spectaculars which amaze the public are coming with a made in Derby stamp these days.

Elemental Force, Chatsworth House Photo: Maria Falconer

Elemental Force, Chatsworth House Photo: Maria Falconer - Credit: Archant

Déda, the city’s home for dance, added an exciting new arm to its activities in 2009 which has seen it create such memorable events as Games Time, an Olympic-themed extravaganza seen in Derby last year but which also wowed audiences far and wide.

The Cascade as it will look for Luminaire at Chatsworth

The Cascade as it will look for Luminaire at Chatsworth - Credit: Archant

Déda Producing was back last year with another show, Elemental Force, which we saw in Derbyshire at Chatsworth and the Silk Mill, and now has ambitious plans for more spectaculars, including a Richard III-themed event which is planned to be seen in Leicester, York and London.

'Trolleys' by C-12 Photo: Irven Lewis

'Trolleys' by C-12 Photo: Irven Lewis - Credit: Archant

Déda has long been Derby’s home of all things dance with a reputation for excellence that extends both regionally and nationally but difficult economic times have resulted in the need to diversify and its director Stephen Munn is rising to the challenge.

Close Act's White Wings show

Close Act's White Wings show - Credit: Archant

As well as the dance house itself, with its performances, classes and artist development and the ambitions of Déda Producing, the venue is helping to secure its future with a £412,000 expansion that will see it launch a new nationally significant dance degree course starting in September 2014.

'As the World Tipped' by Wired Aerial Theatre Photo: Mark McNulty

'As the World Tipped' by Wired Aerial Theatre Photo: Mark McNulty - Credit: Archant

Stephen says: ‘As public funding decreases we are aware that we have to look at our business model. What we are trying to do is take our destiny into our own hands. Games Time was a London Festival 2012 project and involved 460 performers, massive pyrotechnics and big audiences across the East Midlands. Since then we have kicked on with Elemental Force, which was more about digital projections onto iconic buildings and was seen at Chatsworth, Nottingham Castle, Newark Castle and the Silk Mill.

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‘We now have some really exciting new projects in the pipeline. It all fits well with what we do here. It’s really important to me that there’s a thematic thread to all we take on. Déda has always been a dance organisation and the work we produce outdoors always has movement involved and performers dancing in some way. So it fits nicely into our artistic framework.’

In October, Déda Producing will return to Chatsworth for five performances of Luminaire from 26th to 30th October 2013. Luminaire will take the visitor on a magical journey in the garden through the lunar cycle, bringing to life the legend of the Goddess of the Moon and revealing Chatsworth in a new light. Lighting, projections and soundscapes created by Derbyshire based company Illuminos will transform many of the familiar landmarks in the 105-acre garden from Flora’s Temple and the Emperor Fountain to the Cascade and Rockery.

Stephen says, ‘We’re delighted to be returning to Chatsworth to create another outdoor spectacular. The team at Chatsworth really understands the value of events like this, and Luminaire will allow people to see this iconic location in a completely new way.’

Forthcoming Déda Producing projects also include a Richard III trilogy which is planned for autumn 2014. Stephen says: ‘We are looking at King Richard III’s life and death – including York, where he was brought up, his parliament in London and the battle where he was killed in Leicestershire. We are bringing that project together as we speak, working with York, London and Leicester to tell his story.’

‘We are also being asked about projects out of the region and nationally,’ says Stephen. ‘That’s great for Déda and Derby. The success of the company will reflect on the city.’

Back on Chapel Street in Derby, there are exciting plans for Déda’s development as well. Nearby Queen Street Leisure Centre is being decommissioned by 2015 and Stephen quickly saw an opportunity as Déda backs onto the complex. He says: ‘The squash courts adjoin us and would make a fantastic new dance studio, production space and meeting room, so I made some enquiries and found people were open to the idea of that building being used in a new way.’

Importantly, this would enable Déda to host a new degree for dance in the city. Déda is working with the University of Derby to create a unique course with national significance. An Arts Council application has been written and capital funding secured. The plan is to go on site in April 2014 and open the new course the following September. A total of £412,000 is needed, with more than half of this provided by the Arts Council and the rest to be gathered from Déda’s reserves, by fundraising and with the support of the University.

Stephen says: ‘It’s a great project. The city council has been working closely with us and it’s all about looking at new ways of generating income and the council supporting us in other ways than cash because, as we all know, there’s not a lot of cash around.’

It will ensure that Déda continues to be a vibrant part of Derby’s cultural offering. Stephen says ‘The building is well loved and used. People come here to have a coffee and see the exhibitions that take place in the building and to see dance performances and take part in classes. You always want more people but I’m particularly pleased about the number of families who are using the building now – with our children’s classes and summer schools. I’m really proud of that.’

Development of artists is also a key aspect of Déda’s work. Stephen says: ‘The problem of public funding being reduced is that artist development in any organisation depends on that. So we have had to look at how we keep up that high level of engagement. So we are working on how we can continue and improve our offer to artists with a fundraiser and trusts and foundations.

‘We are supporting an East Midlands based artist as part of the British Council showcase in Edinburgh this year, a choreographer called Tom Dale. Our current resident dance artist is Alice Vale and she and her company Adaire To Dance are with us for two years. It’s an investment in the future because when those artists become successful, they support you in return. It’s vital that we carry on. Even in tough economic times we have to remember that artists are the core of the business. Without them, there wouldn’t be a business.

‘When we heard about public funding being reduced the sector went into shock because we had had such good times in the arts. The last year has made me think of things in a new way, look at our business model and see how we can restructure that to be masters of our own destiny, fleet of foot. There’s a lot of risk involved but I think we are very investable. We are not putting all our eggs in one basket but there is risk involved – as well as an element of excitement in everything we do.’


Derby’s annual outdoor spectacular is back, taking place on 27th and 28th September and featuring city-wide performances, the majority of which will be free.

The headline show for the Friday evening will be ‘As The World Tipped’ by Wired Aerial Theatre, which will be on Bass Recreation Ground. This aerial show tells a powerful tale of ecological crisis in a real life disaster movie in the sky on a precariously moving screen and platform. Tickets start at £5 each or £15 for a family of four, and can be obtained via www.derbylive.co.uk and www.derbytheatre.co.uk.

All other Festé events are free and include street theatre, outdoor spectacle and music with the return of the Splash Stage, which showcases some of the best talent in Derbyshire.

Derby Live, QUAD and Déda in Derby will create the festival, this year in conjunction with renowned arts organisation Without Walls. Keith Jeffrey, director of QUAD, says: ‘The atmosphere which surrounds Festé is second-to-none and has become an eagerly anticipated fixture on the city’s cultural calendar.’

Peter Ireson, director of Derby Live, adds: ‘Once again, this September, prepare to be entertained, amazed and surprised as Derby Festé brings the best local, national and international outdoor performers and street entertainers to Derby.’ Stephen Munn, director of Déda, has seen ‘As the World Tipped’ and thinks the city is in for a treat.

He says: ‘I was amazed by it. The theme of it is the environment and what we are doing to it but it deals with the issue in a really positive way. It makes you think but still has the wow factor.’

On the Saturday, there are four Without Walls shows taking place throughout the day including acrobat dancers performing on vertical poles on Cathedral Green.

Close Acts from Holland returns to Derby with White Wings, there will be walkabout artists performing in the city centre and the local stage companies will come together to create a theatre trail with new shows.

In the evening, DJ Yoda will perform his ‘Magical Cinema Show’ on a massive outdoor screen on Cathedral Green. This music and film extravaganza is an ultra cool experience for all ages. ‘That’s really unusual and will fit in well with Festé,’ says Stephen. ‘After that we move back to The Market Place and it’s the 100th anniversary of Bollywood so that will be the theme for a big party. There will be a projection installation, a fire and pyrotechnic performance from Flame Oz and a Bollywood party until midnight.’

Importantly, Festé has also secured its future with funding now in place for three years. Stephen says: ‘The Without Walls consortium, which creates work for some of the biggest festivals in the UK, including Greenwich and Brighton, put in a bid for Arts Council cash to take its work to more festivals and Derby Festé was part of that ambition. Because of that we have a three-year investment where we can access amazing product and shows that we can bring here for half the cost. We can use that investment and develop the festival over that time with Arts Council and Derby City Council support. The city council really values Festé and we are writing a plan for festivals across the city with Festé as the backbone of that and with the other events fitting around it and the Format photography festival.

‘For the first time I can feel confident not only about saying we can deliver Festé this year, but also that there will be another one next year and the year after that.’

A full line-up of acts and events for the whole weekend can be seen at www.derbyfeste.com.