A WIRRAL resident and artistic director of a Liverpool-based dance development organisation is stepping down after 24 years.

Karen Gallagher MBE joined Merseyside Dance Initiative in 1994 and produces LEAP Dance Festival, which takes place this year from November 2-12.

With the theme of suffrage, it will feature a mix of local, national and international artists, incorporating both professional touring companies and a variety of local people aged 8-88 years.

Looking ahead to the event Karen, who lives in New Brighton, told the Globe: "LEAP has been an integral part of MDI since the beginning and is still committed to moving dance forward in the region, year after year.

"There genuinely is something for everyone.

"The programme is a really strong one and features many works not seen in Liverpool before.

"This festival is very special and its one of our strongest programmes featuring major companies, a UK premier of international work from Australia and US and some amazing women, who I totally respect and am inspired by."

Alongside a dance conference, Our Dance Democracy and Culitiv8: Empowered Black Women in dance, there are a variety of dance performances featuring contemporary, African and hip-hop styles.

There will also be community showcases: Shake it Up and Vital, which aim to support local talent, and work described by Karen as 'funny, political, provocative and inspirational.' 

She added: "There is a lot of storytelling in this festival be it autobiographical, fictional or reimagining some of the greats.

"It is a programme that demonstrates new ways of presenting and focussing our dance offer over the coming years in times of change for the city region.

"The theme of this year’s LEAP is suffrage, marking 100 years since some women were first given the right to vote."

Wirral Globe:

Karen Gallagher MBE

"For the festival, we focus on women dance-makers as a chance to promote, empower and transform; inspiring people to connect through dance.

"Liverpool has some incredible dance artists and choreographers to rival any city, and throughout LEAP we will be giving a stage to numerous performers from the city, from established professional artists to our youngest and oldest community performers.

"Liverpool Hope University has gifted us the opportunity to continue to push our programming and to bring lots of events together under one roof, before the festival finale with Avant Garde Dance at the Epstein Theatre."

After training at the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance in London in the early 1980s, Karen returned to Liverpool to champion the development of dance in this region for over 30 years.

She graduated from Liverpool John Moores University in 2007 with an MA in Social Enterprise.

Her honours are many. She received a BMOBO (Music of Black Origin) award for MDI's community dance practice in 2010 and in 2011 was a runner up for Merseyside Woman of the Year.

She was awarded an MBE for services to dance in The Queen’s New Year Honours List in 2012 and was made an Honorary Fellow from Liverpool John Moores University in 2014.

This year her achievements were celebrated by The Women’s Organisation as one of 21 Women who shape the city as part of their 21-year anniversary.

Looking back on the last 24 years, Karen told the Globe: "I have had a wonderful time at MDI and it will be very difficult to leave, but it's time to move on.

"Over the years I have created and produced so many projects and programmes, far too many to list.

"But what has made it so joyous is the amount of people I have worked with in that time - staff, board, artists and participants throughout the years.

"I have spent my time really wanting to shine a light on dance, on the art form and ensure as many people appreciate it and take part as possible.

"I hope what I am leaving is an appetite for dance and that audiences become more curious about seeing work more regularly."

Liverpool ONE is the LEAP festival's principal sponsor, with HOPE a major partner, and supported by Liverpool Culture Company through a Festival Enhancement Grant, Arts Council England, The Foyle Foundation, Eleanor Rathbone Charitable Trust and the Leche Trust.

Karen's advice to our readers thinking about coming to the festival is, simple: "Take a chance on dance and let us know what you thought."

Full details on this year's festival are from www.leap2018.co.uk/