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Loren Henry- Managing director
From a young age, growing up in Newport, I was into singing and dancing but there wasn’t much around in those days within my community that catered to my interests, so I found myself creating things to do within my own time at home. This worked for me personally as I am a part of a very big family so there were enough of us to entertain ourselves and we were then able to showcase our talents to our family members… however at the age of 14, we came to know of this place called the DEN; located in Duffryn it was a council led project whose focus was to work with young people aged 14-18, giving them advice about safe sex, drugs and alcohol.
This was the first experience of us having a safe space we could hang out, outside of our home environments, around adults who wanted to listen, support, and facilitate our talents and creativity.
By the age of 16 we had created a group called True Life – a team of young people spreading the message about the importance of safe sex; and the dangers of drugs and alcohol, through the means of music and song. This opened a door to many opportunities from residentials, showcases, performances…. Our experiences grew…. But above all, we got to perform on stage, doing what we love, all whilst spreading a positive message. Unfortunately, this all came to an abrupt end, as with many youth projects- funding ran out which meant the adults we now looked to as new family members could no longer be paid for the time they spent with us, and the building we called our own was taken away.
That was the day I decided I would run my own organisation based on the arts for young people – but also run by young people – and little did I know, that was the beginning of our journey.
In 2006, I set up Urban Circle Productions with a few of my friends. We wanted to help young people in the local community, engaging and empowering them through the arts. We started off in an internet cafe, and quickly recognised a demand for dance amongst young people in Newport, so founded G-Expressions, a dance project where young people can showcase their dance talents and even train as dance teachers.
Established 1st November 2010. G-Expressions’ objectives back then were to engage, support and empower whilst offering an open access ‘safe dance space’. Young people were able to position themselves confidently in team building and skills development processes whilst having fun in a creative and innovative environment- over the years we have grown, and seen many young people walk through our doors. The guidance and support we have received from the Sports Leaders UK team and current partners such as Urban Circle Newport and The University of South Wales, combined with receiving funding from ACW and High Sheriff has enabled us to create a programme which is empowering young people to become more optimistic about their potential, more goals- focused and more self-aware, whilst enhancing their communication and interpersonal skills. To date, G-Expressions have run four community productions, Romeo and Juliet from the Streets which took place in January 2014, Make or Break (2015), Sisters Acting Up (2017) and Hard Knock Life (2018)- whilst over 70 young people have also embarked with us on their teaching journey, and have trained and received dance leader qualifications, enabling them to now pass on their own skills and passions to their communities.
Whilst this ever-changing climate, we find ourselves in, now holds some uncertainties for opportunities that will be available to young people in the wider community; Our mission is to continue to support young people aged 10-25 to dance, develop and achieve their dreams. Through the methods of dance, theatre, and leadership activities, we give young people the confidence, tools, and skills to achieve their goals and supportive conditions in which to grow and thrive. G-Expressions gives young people a voice, skills, and progression routes to ensure they can engage with the world and have a brighter future on whichever life path they may choose.