Artistic Policy

Sabar Family Ltd. Artistic Policy

Mission Statement

Sabar Family is a community of artists dedicated to promoting African arts and culture, through education, professional practice, development and creative collaborations. 

Sabar Family is driven by the vision to provide educative workshops, events and performances in traditional West African and Diasporic music, folklore, dance and storytelling to the community and the mission to support the mentorship of youth and artists of African heritage. Sabar Family leads UK-Senegal sustainable arts projects, fostering cross-cultural dialogue and providing a platform for diverse artists, creatives and students to showcase their talents. Sabar Family is an award-winning Black-led and Black-created initiative that champions authenticity and excellence in West African and diasporic arts and culture.

Background

Sabar Family Team are a professional dance company based in the UK and Senegal, founded by Artistic Director, Batch Gueye. Sabar Family was formed in 2014 by multi-instrumentalist musician, vocalist & dancer Batch Gueye, a West African Griot – storyteller through his music and dance. The company’s style is influenced by West African traditional and modern dance with contemporary influences, telling stories through movement and music. 

Since 2008, Batch Gueye worked tirelessly across community venues, education settings, national and international festivals, delivering workshops in Sabar & Djembe Dance and West African percussion and song. In addition to this, he toured with the hit dance show “Afrika!Afrika!” and performed at renowned music festivals with his own music, Batch Gueye Band.

 A key driver for the formation of Sabar Family, was to unite UK-based Senegalese artists to deliver Black art by Black artists and promote authentic and immersive West-African workshops and festivals.

As the founder and leader of Sabar Family, Batch Gueye’s vision was to address gaps in the industry and create an African-led company that:

  • Celebrates the beauty and diversity of West African and diasporic dance, music and culture;
  • Redefines excellence in the education and experience of West African dance and music by promoting holistic practice (percussion, song and dance) and always including historical context/storytelling to de-homogenise customs, dances and rhythms (e.g., Thieboudienne, Barambaye, Fasse, Kaolack, Walo Walo etc.);
  • Creates support networks and spaces for West African artists to lead, be mentored and platform excellence in folkloric work;
  • Provides meaningful employment opportunities for (marginalised) artists from West Africa, living in the UK, in their specialist art form, to boost their well-being, agency and autonomy;
  • Brings the essence or heart of West Africa to the UK by building a team that embodies and teaches by example what it means to be family and community (hence the name, Sabar Family);
  • Creates annual art festivals from the South East (London) to the South West (Bristol) to showcase and better reflect the variety of talent within the region’s cultural communities;
  • Promotes collaboration and exchange between artists of the African Diaspora in music and dance projects and performance;
  • Richens and broadens attitudes towards West African dance and music in the UK– from “energetic and fun” to a “complex, rich and respected art form”, thereby building resilience in the sector;
  • Strengthens connections between Senegal and UK, with annual festivals “Sabar Family Festival” and “Sabar Family Drum & Dance Training Holidays in Senegal” that enable greater cross-cultural understanding and employment opportunities for artists in Senegal;
  • Engages local SeneGambian communities in UK South East and South West.

From 2014 to 2021, Sabar Family developed a sustained narrative with professional and novice music and dance communities, and pioneered Sabar Family (self-funded) events across UK and internationally. 

In 2022, Sabar Family’s work was funded and supported by Arts Council UK for the first time. This allowed the organisation to curate new collaborations with artists of the Diaspora, to plan and commission on a longer-term basis and to introduce a wider programme of workshops and festivals to support the development of West African and diasporic arts across Bristol and London. Sabar Family Festival also created a platform for Black-led creatives, visuals artists, caterers and vendors to exhibit and sell their artwork. The project prioritised developing access points for underrepresented groups and engaging communities of the Global Majority in a yearlong immersive symposium to offer a clear pathway to creative agency for Black youth to connect to their artistic heritage. A new team was established in March 2022 to oversee this ambitious programme of work, including festival partners and independent members who bring a variety of business and artistic expertise. 

Sabar Family Workshop Series and Festival 2022 was subsequently awarded “outstanding contribution to the community and diverse performing arts” by One Dance UK in Black History Month 2022. Following the success of this pilot workshop series and festival, Sabar Family committed to bringing the project back with greater social impact and community engagement. 

In 2024, Sabar Family Ltd. was officially registered as a company with a representative team of seven Board of Directors to drive the Artistic programme. The original team of partners also evolved and by 2024 this had expanded to a group of three partners (Babbasa, Trinity Community Arts Centre & FUZE UK). 

With these changes, Sabar Family formed additional goals in 2024 to include:

  • Bursary spaces for 15 youth of African heritage (10 in Bristol (in partnership with Babbasa) and 5 in London (in partnership with FUZE) including free mentorship, free access to workshops, performance opportunities, support with travel expenses and free performance tickets for family members;
  • External Impact Reporting and regular Evaluation Meetings with partners Babassa & FUZE to examine outcomes for youth and families of the Global Majority taking part in Sabar Family mentorship scheme, workshops, festivals and performance teams;
  • Development of Theory of Change Frameworks, Artistic and Safeguarding Policies;
  • New digital content to encourage interregional participation and partnering with Black led PR and marketing team to ensure the production values are represented and understood;
  • Conscious discussions of how people’s experiences in the programme are impacting on their beliefs, views and life, with guest panel Q&A sessions;
  • Promotion of accessibility for Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists and students;
  • Monthly, Voluntary Creative Board meetings (third Monday of every month) to curate momentum and on-going discussion and exploration of Sabar Family’s creative process and artistic aims;
  • Development of a sustainable business and revenue generation model for Sabar Family to work all year round with annual “boosts” or highlights (e.g., “Sabar Family Festival” and “Sabar Family Drum & Dance Training Holidays in Senegal”.

To date, Sabar Family has presented 120+ performances, 50+ Tannebers (traditional Senegalese ceremonial celebrations), 600+ dance and music workshops, 8 annual Sabar Family Festivals in the UK, and 9 annual training holidays in Senegal. 

Sabar Family is proud of the achievements that this programme represents which includes work of all scales from across the range of art forms that make up West African and diasporic arts and culture including; dance, music (percussion, kora, singing and chanting), visual art installations, African vendors/caterers and film/photography. Sabar Family is committed to supporting the evolution of West African and diasporic arts, pushing the boundaries of artistic practice, taking creative risks, forming new collaborations and enabling experimentation between traditional and modern expressions of diasporic art. 

As a funded network, Sabar Family Ltd. recognises its important role in championing West African and diasporic dance and music in the UK. The Artistic Policy reflects Sabar Family’s ambition to redefine excellence in the realm of West African arts education and stand at the forefront of the West African arts sector, not just nationally but in international performance spaces. Batch Gueye spearheads the mission to elevate standards, by personally picking artists with the depth of knowledge needed to represent Africa in both its timeless traditions and its ever-evolving expressions, fostering a deeper appreciation for the cultural continuum and resilience that shapes the African Diaspora. 

The Artistic Directorate

Empowered by the Board of Directors, the Artistic Directorate is entrusted with the curation and execution of the Artistic Programme. Comprising a representative from each commissioning partner within Sabar Family Ltd., this dedicated group invests funds, expertise, in-kind support and contributes expertise to shape the programme’s development.

Key Responsibilities of the Artistic Directorate

The Artistic Directorate functions as co-curators, joint investors, and presenters of the collectively selected programme. Their mandate includes ensuring artistic ambition, financial and practical robustness, and presenting the curated works at their festivals and events. 

Programme Selection Process

Decisions regarding the programme are made collectively, with various selection methods employed. These encompass research and development (R&D) efforts,  projects nurtured over time, collaborations with organisations or associate partners, and co-commissions. Recognising the evolutionary nature of projects, the Artistic Directorate has monthly voluntary creative board meetings in order to discuss the artistic process, showcase new ideas and explore new themes (e.g., tradition and creation in the African Diaspora). 

Nature of Sabar Family Programme

It’s essential to clarify that Sabar Family Programme and Festival operates as a curated programme and event, not merely a funding scheme. As co-curators and investors, the Artistic Directorate determines seasonal themes and priorities in alignment with the Artistic Policy, selecting works that contribute to these objectives. The members also consider the social, cultural context of their events, as well as the broader political landscape and the presentation network in the UK and internationally.

Diversity in Presentation

The Artistic Directorate, with its diverse capabilities, can present works of varying scales, types, and genres, in contexts ranging from traditional street arts festivals (i.e., Senegalese “tannebers”) to those designed for different public spaces, stages and audiences. The flexibility to operate and perform in various settings is a distinctive feature of Sabar Family, benefiting artists not only through the Artistic Directorate, but the communities in which they operate.

The Artistic Policy

Sabar Family was born out of a desire to create a community passionate about learning and celebrating African arts and culture”.

Areas of work
  • Community engagement and education in West African and Diasporic arts and culture;
  • Professional artistic performance;
  • UK-Senegal sustainable development and cultural projects.
Objectives
  • To educate and promote African arts, including music, dance, singing/chanting, story-telling, history and culture – in particular West African tradition and its links with the wider African Diaspora;
  • To redefine excellence in the education and experience of West African dance and music by promoting holistic practice (percussion, song and dance) and always including historical context/storytelling;
  • To celebrate and explore both the rich heritage and the innovative creativity of the African Diaspora, fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas, art forms, and cultural practices;
  • To provide meaningful and well-paid employment opportunities for artists from West Africa, and the wider Diaspora, in their specialist art form;
  • To promote collaboration and exchange between artists of the African Diaspora in music, dance projects and performance;
  • To create support networks and spaces for West African artists to lead, be mentored and platform excellence in folkloric work;
  • To enable greater cross-cultural understanding and promote increased community cohesion and access to arts, especially with families and youth of African heritage;
  • To increase sense of connection, cultural identity and social wellbeing;
  • To facilitate sustainable cultural education and exchange as well as sustainable development and employment for artists in Senegal;
  • To empower, collaborate and employ Black African artists in the performing arts (dancers, musicians) as well as other art forms (e.g., visual artists, photography, videography, stall holders, caterers etc.);
  • To support, develop and present high quality work from a new and emerging generation of artists of the African Diaspora.
Activities
  • The provision of accessible community-based workshops in traditional West African dance, drumming, singing/chanting, and story-telling, as well as links with the wider African Diaspora;
  • Performances – solo, group, and large ensemble – the presentation of traditional West African dance and music (e.g., Sabar (Senegal), Djembe (Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Ivory Coast), links with the wider Diaspora (e.g., Brazil, Cuba), and modern fusions (e.g., Afrobeats);
  • Individual and bespoke tuition;
  • Creative projects to develop new presentations of traditional West African art forms and new compositions;
  • Recording, documenting, and disseminating artistic ventures (film, documentary, albums);
  • Hosting and touring international African artists;
  • Cultural expeditions/courses in Senegal;
  • Working in partnership with professional artists, community groups, arts organisations, statutory and third sector agencies, promoters, venues and festivals;
  • Providing free mentorship and bursary spaces for youth and families of African heritage in Bristol and London with partner organisations;
  • External Impact Reporting and Evaluation Meetings with partners to examine outcomes for youth and families of the Global Majority taking part in Sabar Family mentorship scheme, workshops, festivals and performance teams; 
  • Development of Theory of Change Frameworks, Artistic and Safeguarding Policies;
  • Promotion of accessibility for Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists and students;
  • Monthly, Voluntary Creative Board meetings (third Monday of every month) to curate momentum and on-going discussion and exploration of Sabar Family’s creative process and artistic aims.

The ambition is that each Sabar Family programme should represent the highest quality new work that the UK African arts sector has to offer, whilst remaining accessible to the community, especially the Global Majority. 

A creative oversight board of partner leads, artists & Sabar Family organisation will review progress in a Theory of Change framework. It considers the preconditions, requirements, assumptions, indicators & interventions required to accelerate the skills building, artistic outcomes & ecological visibility condition in order  to ‘improve the representation & autonomy of Black music and dance artists so that they can better serve minoritised communities in Bristol & London.

Balancing the Artistic Programme

In addition to the stated Artistic Policy, Sabar Family is committed to delivering a balanced programme that considers the scale, genre and style of the projects selected. Sabar Family is committed to ensuring that at least 50% of its programme delivers on Arts Council England’s Creative Case for Diversity, key priorities being the support of work by Global Majority artists. It is the responsibility of the Artistic Directorate to ensure that the artistic programme selected meets these targets. The Artistic Directorate monitors these targets throughout the selection meetings and monitors Sabar Family’s programme over time, to ensure that these targets are met.

Investment in R&D – Blueprint

Sabar Family recognises the importance of Research & Development (R&D) in creating high quality work. Sabar Family recognises that R&D projects will come in many formats and scales; that not all R&D projects will go on to be realised as full creations; that not all R&D projects will be developed as full commissions.

Sabar Family’s investment in R&D is guided by how the project meets the criteria of the Artistic Policy and could be used to allow:

  • the kick-starting of projects for full development in future years (recognising that successful work needs to be developed in stages and allowing Sabar Family to plan on a longer-term basis);
  • artistic experimentation without the pressure of creating a full show/performance;
  • to develop realistic presentation requirements and assess the related costs;
  • partners to review more information about projects before committing so as to ensure artistic quality and to mitigate financial risk.
Other Programme Activity

The priorities outlined in Sabar Family’s Artistic Policy extend to the full range of Sabar Family’s creative development work, including audience engagement, training and creative development, and the promotion of environmental sustainability. 

Sabar Family is committed to working all year round to support the development of high quality of work, and create opportunities for artists, directors, producers, managers and mentees to develop the skills and tools needed to create exceptional work. Sabar Family works with its partners on the delivery of these activities.

Reviewing the Artistic Policy

This Artistic Policy is reviewed by Sabar Family Board of Directors annually, to ensure that it can respond to current themes and agendas and remains dynamic and ambitious.