Magdalen Bartlett founder of Afrocats

Afrocats, a not for profit arts organisation, established in June 2003

Magdalen studied traditional African dance since childhood and went on to study Dance and Drama at De Montfort University in Bedford. She then completed a City & Guilds teaching Qualification at City College in Manchester. She has trained and performed with a variety of dance artists including the Ghanian Dance Ensemble, Peter Badejo and Shikisha, amongst others.

Magdalen is both an accomplished teacher of dance and drama and an experienced workshop facilitator, who has managed and developed projects with excluded groups and people of all ages. She has worked with many well-known theatres and organisations in the local area and beyond, also giving regular presentations to other organisations on best practices in working with refugees in the arts.

Afrocats grew from Magdalen’s teenage experience of facing deportation from the United Kingdom back to Barbados. A long, high profile and eventually successful campaign was mounted within the Manchester community to allow the family to stay in the country. Some years later, while doing freelance work for another organisation, Magdalen was assigned to the Manchester Refugee Support Network for a dance project with young female unaccompanied refugees and asylum seekers. Finding that her own personal experiences gave her much empathy with these young adults in uncertain circumstances, she wanted to continue her work with them and others in the same situation. Afrocats was then born out of Magdalen’s desire to improve the situation of these young women, and to provide a positive outlet for them in the community that had previously helped her. Many of the girls who worked on the original project are still with the company today and have grown along with it.

Since creating Afrocats, Magdalen has seen it grow from its initial three members to acquiring over fifty, who have gained much publicity and recognition for their work and performances at festivals, conferences and cultural events in Manchester and further afield. The group has become an inspiration to other community groups in using multicultural dance and drama to develop young people’s personal and social skills. Performances and workshops involving disadvantaged young adults from a variety of nationalities and backgrounds are regularly implemented.

Afrocats was a nominated finalist in the Art Council’s prestigious Art06 awards for its production of Where Is Home?, a theatre piece which explored the issues faced by young refugees in the UK. A regional theatre tour of this production is being planned. This piece was developed in conjunction with a dramaturge and several young unaccompanied refugee and asylum seekers who are members of Afrocats. It thus grew out of real experiences and was created over many sessions where Magdalen and the young RAS shared their stories with each other and discussed their situations and how they could be improved. Where Is Home? features dance, drama and live African drumming, and has been extremely successful each time it has been performed.

Afrocats’ ethos is to create unity within diversity through integration, raising awareness using cultural arts and performance. We aim to combat negative stereotyping of Refugee and Asylum Seekers through positive use of the arts, promoting community integration and understanding both practically and creatively.

Afrocats Dance