CDS Artist Community: where artists have the autonomy to make things happen, together.

The CDS Artist Community is a place for 200 independent artists to build community, develop practice, invest in peer-to-peer learning, and form the collective artistic leadership of Chisenhale Dance Space.

Read all about it in our PDF invitation pack and Application Guidance documents below. 

We recently recruited 200 new artists to join the community in October 2023, who will be announced soon. We don’t know when we will next open applications to join and will be using the next few months to focus on trialling this new model with artists who are selected. If you want to be the first to know when more opportunities to join arise, please sign up to our mailing list.

 

 

 

How to Apply...

Applications to join the CDS Artist Community are now closed.

For those who have applied, we recommend that first you read the application guidance below. This expands on the information in the invitation above, and lays out what you can expect in the first few months after you join.

We offer access support with the application process and alternate submission methods, more details in the documents below.

Application Guidance Word DocApplication Guidance PDF

Audio Recording Version | Easy Read Version

 

About the CDS Artist Community

The CDS Artist Community is made up of independent artists and arts workers, and together we form the artistic leadership of Chisenhale Dance Space. We are performers, dancers, artists, choreographers, teachers, curators, producers, facilitators and peers.

We explore our artistic practices together at CDS, through collectively developing programmes & community events. We guide the organisation’s direction, and understand CDS as a hub and a model to advocate for change we want to see in the sector.

Our practices exist on the margins of form, process, and discipline, and many of us are at points in our careers where we have less institutional support. Many of us are marginalised in society, and our community prioritises those who have previously been excluded, including black and brown artists, and disabled and neurodivergent artists. Watch below for a glimpse into what it’s like to be in the community.

 

FAQs

These questions will be continually updated. If you are still unsure, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: frances@chisenhaledancespace.co.uk


Who can join?

Artists and other arts workers in dance, performance, live art, or any other related discipline. No formal training or degree is required. If you are currently studying a BA, we encourage you to finish it before you join.


What is an Activator and what is a Collaborator?

Activators are artists who choose to engage regularly with CDS’ activity for a period of up to two years. They are invited to join 4-6 gatherings per year where they work with staff to collectively design and activate CDS’ activity.

Collaborators are artists who feel connected to CDS but may have less regular time to participate. They receive many of the benefits of being part of the community, but are in a supporting – rather than leading – role.


Why have you chosen these names? 

We believe these ‘doing’ words offer an acknowledgement that the community is powered by artists making things happen. The differentiation between Activators and Collaborators acknowledges that if you are taking on more of the responsibility of community-building, you should be supported to do so by others in our ecosystem.

By describing ourselves using a verb, we hope to share the understanding that all of our roles are active in some way and can shift over time. 


Why 200 artists? Isn’t that a lot?

Over the years we have learned that many artists are very busy and only engage occasionally with the community – and that is ok! That’s why we created the two different roles (Activator and Collaborator), to allow artists to choose how involved they want to be. 50 is the upper limit for Activators, which we think makes sense given that not everyone will be able to take part in everything.


Can you join if you do not live in London?

Activators should live in or plan to be in London regularly so that they can engage with the community and make best use of the benefits. 

The Collaborator role has been specifically designed for artists living anywhere in the UK. But if you feel you can get something out of the community and you live elsewhere, we are happy for you to join.


How are artists selected if lots of people apply?

No application will be judged on artistic merit, profile or quality. You will be asked a simple series of questions to check eligibility and your interest in joining. Artists will be selected using a lottery process that ensures participation of marginalised artists.

You can read more about this in the Application Guidance document further up this page.

What are the community’s values?

The CDS Artist Community works in ways that are respectful, transparent, ethical, anti-racist, environmentally-conscious, and non-discriminatory. We explore positive change through the lens of the following ideas: collectivity, autonomy, process, generosity, equity, accountability, and accessibility. 

You can read more about our community culture here.


What programmes will you be running?

We intend to announce two launch programmes when applications open in September. These have been designed by our artist committee and staff team in response to needs from the current community. 

We will then work with artists in October to decide on the next batch of projects, based on their needs and continue to develop programmes on a rolling, responsive basis. 


What are the benefits?


We offer discounted and occasional free space, training, advice, opportunities for community-building, marketing support, discounted support services and help hosting classes and events. Activators can also participate in focussed support programmes, which are designed in response to their needs.

We’ve also identified some initial artist-led companies who want to invest in the community by providing support and ongoing benefits: BAP! Organises, Chewboy Productions, Dance Art Journal, Diagonal Dance and Lab 13.

In the same way as the programmes will be responsive to the communities needs, we hope the benefits will too and we’ll work with partners and the community to keep responding as artists’ needs evolve. 


Will I get access to free rehearsal space?

We are not a regularly funded organisation and rely heavily on our earned income from studio hire. Therefore we cannot regularly offer free rehearsal space / residencies to artists, except when we have specific project funding to support this.

We offer last-minute unsold space for free, plus 15% off all bookings for artists in the community. We also offer free space on Thursday evenings for community-building events (WTF Thursdays). We’re committed to being one of the most affordable studio spaces in London.  


How much time do Activators need to put in?

We appreciate that everyone has very different circumstances, so individuals self-define what this commitment looks like to them when they join. We host 4-6 Activator gatherings per year, which are the best opportunities to contribute. These events have the vibrant energy of a social gathering and we provide free food to say thank you for your time.


How much does it cost? Where does the money go?

Joining is £3 per month or £30 per year, but please speak to us if cost is a barrier. This money is used to leverage more funding from funders, such as Arts Council England, to enable us to support the Artist Community’s projects.


Is your building accessible?

Our imperfect home for the past 40 years has been on the second floor of a warehouse building, accessed by a staircase only. We regret that we cannot currently adequately support wheelchair users and those for whom stairs are a barrier. We are fighting for a redevelopment on our site that would create lift-access, but we are currently at the early stages of a several-years-long process. 

You can read more about the access specifications of our building here. Read more about our commitments to anti-ableism here.


So, how can disabled artists get involved?


The majority of our activity will continue to be on-site. Therefore if our building is inaccessible to you, we regret that we do not currently have the resources to support you to be an Activator. We are committed to removing other barriers to access, and we encourage any disabled artist considering joining us to get in touch to talk about your needs: frances@chisenhaledancespace.co.uk.

We’re working in partnership with Poplar Union, Ugly Duck, Lab13 and Old Diorama Arts Centre to open up more of the community’s activity to physically disabled participants, collaborators and audiences.


How do you practically support black and brown artists?

You can see our practical commitments to antiracist and anti-ableist practice, as well as more about our Artist Community’s values on our policies page.

This includes: a requirement for Activators to complete antiracism training, a ‘more than one’ anti-tokenism rule, creating specific spaces for black/brown and disabled/neurodivergent artists, and investing in leadership from marginalised people through our paid Artists Committee.


What is the Artist Committee?

The Artist Committee is a paid steering group that meets for one day per month, working with staff and trustees to lead the direction of CDS. It is made up of five black, brown, disabled, and neurodivergent artists, selected using a randomised lottery, and rotating every 12-18 months. 

Learn more here.


What is an Advocate?

Alongside the launch of this new Community, we’ve also started to ask ourselves deeper questions around CDS’ purpose and place in the sector. We think CDS can play a role in trying to shift things for the better.  

If you like the sound of what we do, but do not want to join the community as an Activator or Collaborator, you can become an Advocate – and support our community and work! You might be an artist who has benefited from CDS in the past and who wants to invest in us today; or someone who has never engaged with us before but who shares our ambitions. 

Learn more here.

 


Credits:
Invitation design by Lan Le Huong

Video by Chewboy Productions

 

With thanks to our funders: 

The CDS Artist Community is supported by Garrick Charitable Trust, Abderrahim Crickmay Charitable Settlement, Fenton Arts Trust and The Leche Trust. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

The sense of community and inclusivity is really crucial. I believe CDS offers an island of open creative possibilities amongst the often competitive, capitalistic and exclusive context that the London scene offers.

Marie Chabert, CDS Artist Community