I stood in the centre of Askham Village Hall on a cold October night with a wide grin on my face. All around me, members of the community – young and old alike – were dancing. Professional dancers Jo Fong and George Orange had gently encouraged audience members to their feet at the end of their performance, and the others sat watching in astonishment. After 18 months of pandemic, of lockdowns, of social distancing, of dancing only in our own kitchens, it was a moment of connection, of community and of joy.
2022 marks Highlights’ 25th birthday. Despite the continued uncertainty, we have just launched a very busy Spring season. We very much hope that the year ahead will be filled with more moments like the one at Askham but, even if it isn’t, we will celebrate our many achievements over the years and look ahead to a brighter future again.
Over the years I’ve howled with laughter, fought back tears and been transfixed by storytelling at Highlights performances. I’ve eaten some of the best homemade cakes, bumped into old friends and made new ones and done some very questionable ceilidh dancing. In my attempt to visit as many Highlights halls as possible, I’ve got lost, I’ve turned back due to snowdrifts, and I’ve been led into a village on an autumn night by a running stag (thank you Helsington & Brigsteer).
Over the course of 2022 we’ll be talking to people who have played a vital role in shaping Highlights into the organisation it is today. We’ll be remembering the artists we’ve programmed and the venues we’ve worked with – if you have a favourite performance, exhibition or a particularly special memory then we’d love to hear about it.
But birthdays aren’t just for reflection. We’ll also be setting out some of our ambitions for the future, as we look ahead to a post-pandemic world. Like so many other organisations, we have learnt to adapt our ways of working over the past two years – offering online events, creating online training opportunities and connecting with volunteer promoters and audiences in a digital world. But we’ve also piloted our Creative Highlights arts workshops, run a surprising amount of live performances to smaller, more intimate audiences and established some wonderful work in schools. Now is our chance to build on this, connecting artists and audiences and enriching even more lives across the north of England.
Kate Lynch, Director