The Makers is a series of short films and interviews that aim to tell the story of some of our talented members at Peckham Levels. It may not always be open to the public but Levels 1-4 is a bustle of activity, collaboration, making and creating. ‘The Makers’ is an exclusive peek behind the scenes to meet the people that make Peckham Levels and to take a look inside their units. We sat down with Leanne Pero director of The Movement Factory to talk about how dance changed her live and her mission to continue to do the same for others.
What is the Movement Factory?
There’s so many different explanations but I would say the Movement Factory is a community dance organisation that focuses on delivering dance workshops to schools, colleges and community centres.
We try and have something that young people can regularly access which is not exclusive, everybody can join. And we try to make sure that our programs cover anybody between the age of 8 to 24. But we also work with the elderly, with Age UK and we do adult classes particularly for women. They could be women that are facing exclusion, cultural exclusion, domestic abuse – all different remits.
At the moment we’re focusing on one really big project called Build Bridges not Walls to tackle some of the re-generational work that’s going on in Peckham. I’ve lived in Peckham since I was a 10 years old and the face of this high street has completely changed. It’s great because it’s bringing a new influx of people and more opportunities but some of young people and residents don’t feel included.
I wanted to bring a group of young people in here and show them that they are allowed in here and that we are putting their needs first. Now they’re dancing in professional dance studios and putting together their own production, hopefully next we’ll start a new open access session for a new group of young people.
How did it start?
I founded the Movement factory when I was 15 years old. It was something that I started to inspire young girls that had maybe gone through similar things to me.
I had gone through some tough teenage years. I was a sexual abuse victim and I moved out of my family home when I was 13. Dance was the thing that saved me. Having that regular outlet to express myself, take part in something that could take my mind off what I was going through at home. It was like my therapy, so by the time I was 14 I realised that I really liked to dance and I had a huge passion for teaching dance. My youth centre recognised that and offered me my first job teaching a Friday night class for £6 per hour. That class was so popular it turned into two classes, those two turned into four. That’s how it evolved for me and 18 years on, the ethos is still the same.
What do you enjoy about what you do?
Seeing the impact and how it changes people’s lives. I say to everybody that my work is everything but dance. It’s about dance and how dance engages people. It’s about giving them a source of inspiration, but inspiration that they can meet, real pathways that they can go, because to be honest – that’s not happening.
Why has Peckham Levels been the right place for you?
It’s been fantastic for us as a business. It’s shown that we’re back on the map. We’ve gone everywhere now, we’ve done it all. To have a base that we can call home has been really good for us. You just don’t know who you’re going to meet, I’ve met many people such as local counsellors and I don’t think that would have been possible if I was still working on my kitchen table. If you need things done there’s people here that can do them. I used to go to East London for my T-shirts. Now I go two doors down.
Do you have any tips for someone starting something creative?
You have to know that there’s gonna be tough times. Go into it with a realistic plan and don’t expect things to organically happen. It’s not always about having the money, it’s about having a plan. Lots of people have their full time jobs and a ‘side hustle’ (we call it now). For me, plan is key. Don’t give up the day job until you’ve tested the waters and can see that it’s going to work.
What are your plans for the future?
I always answer this question the same way and I’m going to answer it the same way today. Sustaining what we’ve got because sustainability for me is so rare, like, I’m good right now. Don’t get me wrong, it would be great if we were doing all these programs and all these amazing things. But I’m very, very thankful for what I’ve got. Sustainability means that we’re going to be here for another 18 years. Sustainability means that we’re going to keep growing.
Check out The Movement Factory’s Instagram to follow their journey.