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  • Celebrating-Somersets-Creative-And-Cultural-Practitioner-James-Bamford

Celebrating Somerset’s creative & cultural practitioner - James Bamford

posted 11 Jan 2024
Celebrating Somerset’s creative & cultural practitioner - James Bamford

In the first of a series of monthly blogs celebrating Somerset’s creative & cultural practitioners, our Arts Engagement & Outreach Officer Nick White meets…

James Bamford

The first time I met Somerset-born award-winning dancer and international movie star James Bamford is in the Lounge Bar at Westlands Entertainment Venue in Yeovil. I’ve heard a lot about him from colleagues and I’m more nervous than I expect.

undefinedImage Credit: Len Copland

It’s a Wednesday morning; he’s early for panto rehearsals and quickly gets caught in a three-way conversation about who’s buying him a cup of tea. As his would-be tea-suitors gather, James remains stock still, holding the space.

When we sit down to chat proper a few weeks later, I’m surprised to find we’re talking about James’ transformation from football to dance captain. As we segue from Arsenal Academy, the benefits of the Central Defensive Midfielder & Declan Rice into how discovering dance at Westfield Academy started a chain of events that have defined his early career, I learn this is someone who knows how to stand up for himself.

Like a good Central Defensive Midfielder, James can see the full picture. Quietly surveying what lies ahead, weighing up the challenges and opportunities, sticking a toe in and going for it, leading from the middle. He rides the tackles and stays en pointe without breaking sweat.

His maturity, his self-awareness, his quiet humble nature, belies his youth. As he talks, I can’t help be inspired by his entrepreneurial spirit, his determination for self-sufficiency, his reluctance to rely on public funding.

He buzzes about his recent work the way only 20-year-olds do; he’s joyriding a rollercoaster and loving every minute. He’s been part of the Ensemble for Westlands’ Cinderella (also Associate Choreographer, Dance Captain and played an Ugly Sister for the last few shows – I wish I’d seen that – he says it was a belter and that he enjoyed himself a little too much). Plus he was in Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster movie Barbie alongside Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling et al. Come on folks, Barbie!!

But Project Dance, which James founded, is where his fire burns.

undefinedImage Credit: Project Dance

What started as a laugh with his mates has become an international company of professional & young dancers, touring original work nationally alongside a substantial programme of youth & community development. James has received guidance, encouragement, and a place to call home from The Octagon & Westlands, and our Arts & Entertainment Venues Manager, Adam Burgan. He’s used these moments of mentorship wisely.

The south west’s cultural community needs youthful leaders like James. Somerset & Yeovil have given him a strong foundation, but can the county, or the region, help him realise his ambition? In part, yes, absolutely. But the world’s too big to ignore.

So, for 2024? As well as building on the success of Project Dance’s flagship summer project (Growing Pains toured to three venues including a sell-out at Westlands in 2023 - this year the new show will take in four venues), overseeing projects with rural & inner-city communities and a national tour of the two-hander Fragments including Dorset (and, I hope, Somerset), there’s much to keep your eyes peeled for – and plenty of opportunity to buy him a cup of tea.

FB & Instagram @thisisprojectdance

Credit: Cover image & header image courtesy of Studio H Photography


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