Global Grooves

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After a devastating fire in 2018, this long-established arts organisation came back stronger than ever to establish the Northern Carnival Centre of Excellence.


​“We wanted to help build the profile of carnival arts as well as diverse art forms in music, dance and visual arts,” says Leon Patel, CEO of Global Grooves, who founded the artist-led arts organisation and community benefit society in 2003. “Our ethos has been in place from the start: developing new and emerging artists, opening up opportunities for young people, communities and artists, to enable growth and the gaining of experience.”

Based in Mossley, a town and civil parish in Tameside, Greater Manchester, Patel wanted to provide meaningful and varied cultural engagement for the local area. “We wanted to develop the cultural sector in Tameside,” he says. “To act as a catalyst to develop culture locally – and to give as many people an opportunity to take part in a creative activity as possible.” This has been done through a vast array of artistic activities over the last nearly 20 years, spanning workshops, courses, classes, festivals, youth programs, advocacy and consultancy.

The core team that makes up Global Grooves stems from community members who got involved locally and decided to take things further. “Global Grooves feels like a family,” says Patel. “Because nearly everybody that’s involved as an artist, project manager or professional, has also been involved in some way as a volunteer, course participant or as a trainee on a project.” This means that the opportunity for growth is baked in from the earliest point of access. “Everything we do has some sort of development strand within it,” says Patel. “That ethos of carnival and sharing is embedded in all the work we create.”

One of the most successful programme’s Global Grooves operates is Future Leaders, a training programme in music, dance, and visual arts for emerging artists aged 12-25. 120 young people have been through this programme – and this will reach 200 by 2022 – including Freya Bennett-Nielsen, who is now the events administrator and office manager, as well as being a dance artist for Global Grooves. “I was 15 when I started Future Leaders,” she says. “I always danced but I wanted to learn some different styles of dance and to explore new things and meet new people. I also wanted to explore the leadership side of stuff more.” Having a locally based arts organisation on her doorstep that operated on a national and international level was also key. “It just blew up the picture that I had in my mind of what was actually possible,” she says. “That was so exciting.”

Not only does Global Grooves create culture and art for the local community, from drumming academies to workshops in schools, but its physical location has become a key community hub. Based in The Vale, an old converted mill, since 2012, it was here they opened up a mixed-use studio that also doubled up as a space for artists for rehearse and community gigs and events. After a devastating fire in 2018 they were awarded funding to take the venue to the next level – including making it fully accessible – and develop it into a state-of-the-art performance space called the Northern Carnival Centre of Excellence.

The venue is also a shared space for other community groups to use and connect together. “It’s really nice to see because quite a few of the groups that are now self-sustaining community projects have been born from projects that we’ve run,” Patel says. “We’ve got a youth music group that rehearses here that we originally set up in response to helping support the brass band sector. That is now The Incredible Plastic Street Band and they are very, very active in the community around music making but also with a focus on environmental issues.”

For Patel, Global Grooves has such a closely-knit working relationship with the community it serves because they are one and the same. “An important thing is that nearly everybody involved in the leadership and direction of Global Grooves is from the local area,” he says. “So there’s a really good connection and understanding between the people that run the organisation and the service users that enjoy what we do. I think that’s crucial. Rather than an organisation flying into an area, doing some culture and flying out again, we are, by our very nature, embedded within the community.”

What was achieved?

Over 160

Future Leaders


artists supported into paid employment


the Northern Carnival Centre Of Excellence
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