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Camden Spotlight

Black Victorians

Meet Jeanefer Jean-Charles MBE, Creative Producer of one of our top picks from Black History Season: Black Victorians
A headshot of a woman with dark bobbed hair wearing a black top on a white background

Image credit: Glodi Miessi

Jeanefer Jean-Charles MBE is a globally respected Creative Director and Producer with over 20 years’ experience, specialising in small and large-scale performances, opening ceremonies, stadium events, outdoor spectacles, carnivals, and parades.

Her work has taken her to over 21 countries and has gone down in the Guinness Book of Records. Her unique creative process brings to life the talents, strengths, and shared stories of local communities and artists in inspiring and unforgettable ways.

As a leading authority in mass movement and public engagement, Jeanefer creatively harnesses dance and movement for the empowerment of individuals and is passionate about ensuring overlooked communities are made visible.

Jeanefer’s company Jeanefer Jean-Charles & Associates are industry leaders in developing, directing, and delivering creative responses for large-scale events.

For over 20 years they have designed and delivered artistic solutions for some of the world’s most iconic events including a section for the Queens Platinum Jubilee Pageant, the Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace, all four of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, The F.A. Cup Final 2016 Opening Ceremony at Wembley, and the first-ever Big Dance – which broke a world record.

Jeanefer’s career began working across theatre, dance, television, and film, including as Co-Artistic Director of her company Bullies Ballerinas Jazz Productions, touring nationally and internationally.

Today Jeanefer is the Creative Director of Jeanefer Jean-Charles & Associates, with over 20 years’ experience devising, creating, facilitating, and directing dance and movement for performance.

We asked Jeanefer all about Black Victorians and how it was created.
Six people in black victorian outfits smile and pose for the camera in front of a grand old building

Image credit: Glodi Miessi

How were you involved in Black Victorians?

I am the Artistic Director of Black Victorians.

Where did the idea for Black Victorians come from?

The words ‘Victorian’ and ‘Black’ do not often sit side by side. That’s what caught my attention when I first read about the Black Chronicles II – The Missing Chapter exhibition at the Autograph Gallery in 2016. The exhibition was curated by Renée Musai and it explored Black presences in 19th and early 20th-century Britain, through the prism of studio portraiture.

What were you hoping for from Black Victorians and how did you achieve this?

I think that everyone, no matter their skin colour, has the right to know their history. I hoped to raise awareness of Black British history, the history that was airbrushed from society for over 100 years.

I achieved this through touring the piece all over the UK for 3 years and in the 3rd year Black Victorians attracted an international audience in Portugal and Antwerp.

Why did you want to bring it to Camden as part of the Black History Season?

Camden Council funded many of the arts facilities I attended as a youth and in my early career directly funded several of my own projects. I can’t thank the council enough for always supporting the arts.

What was it like staging Black Victorians at the British Museum?

It was incredible to present my work on such an important global stage. The British Museum attracts visitors from all over the world. And knowing that my show, Black Victorians, has resonated with so many – from local visitors to audiences as from afar as China and the USA is amazing.

What do you want audiences to take away from Black Victorians?

The Victorian Era is an era commonly associated with figures such as Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens and all the exciting discoveries, inventions and exploration following the Industrial Revolution. What’s little known and not as widely discussed are the various stories and contributions from the black community within that time period, a presence often forgotten. I hope that this show leaves the audience feeling curious and wanting more and wishing they had told all their friends about it!

What have you learned from the experience or what unexpected outcomes did you find?

I’ve been delighted and overwhelmed by the positivity towards the piece and the curiosity it has raised amongst not only the black community but to a wide range of diverse audiences.

What's next?

I’m looking to tour Black Victorians for a 4th year in 2024. I’m also developing a new show ‘Patois’, which looks at lost languages and identities as communities leave their homes and start life in a new country.

Image credit: Crispian Blaize

Black Victorians credits

Artistic Director and Choreographer: Jeanefer Jean-Charles

Creative Dance Artists: Melissa Bravo, Dani Harris-Walter, Oluwaseun Olayiwola, Nosiphiwo Samente, Duja Sinada

Producer: Alison Holder

Production by Jeanefer Jean-Charles and

Designer: Marsha Roddy

Composer: Danilo DJ Walde

Poet: Anthony Anaxagorou

Writer/ Dramaturg: Hassan Mahamdallie

Creative Consultant: Martha Stylianou

Stage Manager: Cynthia Chika Franklin

Rehearsal Director: Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster, Cherilyn Albert