Community Beacons of Brighton – Sue

Tantrum and Mini-Tantrum are a community dance group for young women in the Queen’s Park and Craven Vale area. The group performs full-length dances in a range of styles – from contemporary to hip hop and they practice at The Edge Community Centre every week.

Our Community Development workers Amy and Claire put forward Tantrum project leader Sue Mechen as one of our Community Beacons of Brighton for the wonderful work she does making the group happen. Sue facilitates Tantrum and set it up 4 years ago after recognising a need in the area. “I decided to do it at a point in my life when I needed a focus and wanted to do something for local kids.” She told us. “The boys had a football team and there was nothing for the girls to do, so one day when I was volunteering up at the food bank I told people about this idea I’d had. One of the people there was a professional dance teacher who said it would be impossible. That just made me want to do it even more so I told myself ‘yep, I’m going to do this’.”

Tantrum's Sue Mechen showing off some of the dance outfits.
Tantrum’s Sue Mechen showing off some of the dance outfits.

Four years on the project is a great success, with both groups performing regularly at community events across the city. Tantrum started out as one group then split into two when the project leaders recognised the need for different age groups to represent the different capabilities.

A key difference between Tantrum and other dance groups in the city is that all the sessions are led and all the decisions are made by the children themselves – with the adults helping them out when needed. And the cost. Members are asked to pay £1 a session if they can afford it and the subs collected are saved up and used to cover the costs of trips in the school holidays – this summer Mini-Tantrum have decided to go to the cinema and then Mcdonalds afterwards and the older girls will take a trip to the funfair on Brighton Pier.

Sue is proud of the impact the club has had on the members “We wanted to get the kids together to do something in the community and parents around here can’t afford £5/6 for a dance session. We didn’t think that was fair so we keep the subs low so that anyone can join. Tantrum might not be performing at a professional level but it gives everyone the chance to dance and perform on the stage. It might not be an even playing field but we want to show that we’re just as good as anybody else.”

There are currently 11 members of mini-Tantrum and 9 members of Tantrum but with some members leaving to concentrate on their GCSE’s next September there will be space for new members. Sue says “We try to keep it to a maximum of 12 otherwise it can get a bit messy – so sometimes there’s a bit of a wait to get in. The kids come mostly from Queen’s Park, Craven Vale, Moulsecoomb, Whitehawk and Coldean with a few from a bit further afield. People find us through word of mouth – and we won’t say no to anyone who would like to join”.  

Project leader Sue also fulfils the role of treasurer and works in collaboration with Secretary Emma and Chairperson Kerry. They are a constituted group and make any necessary decisions together. The grown-ups are adamant that the children make all the important decisions though, from the music and routines through to the costumes they wear.  “I let the kids run the club themselves. The adults initially came up with the rules and we oversee everything, but apart from that we just let them get on with it. That’s why it works –and it’s still going strong 4 years later.”

She does however sometimes have to step in “I do always keep an ear out for risqué lyrics – I have to make sure the words are suitable for 10 year olds. Recently we had to swap an Ed Sheeran number for an instrumental version as we thought the lyrics were a bit inappropriate” Sue told us. 

Sue is grateful for the support she receives from TDC Community Development workers Claire Burchell and Amy Allison. “If it wasn’t for Claire and Amy Tantrum wouldn’t exist. They helped me find ways to do it, starting with an initial meeting to talk about what we needed to do. They’ve done so much and if I get in a bit of a pickle they always help. They’ve sent me on courses, helped with funding and any worries I have I’ve gone to them and they’ve been great. They’re the most amazing people – both of them, and they’re always there when we need them.” Claire and Amy have helped Tantrum secure funding from organisations such as the Healthy Neighbourhood Fund and The East Brighton Trust which has helped towards new uniforms, an iPod and a new amplifier. Next thing on the list is a computer for the group.

Tantrum performing at The Bevy in March
Tantrum performing at The Bevy in March

Tantrum have performed at events all over the city – they’ve danced at the Brighton Centre in December for the annual Dance Active event since it started and always get involved in the Take Part festival at The Level and the Due East Festival in Whitehawk. They recently performed at community pub The Bevy at a party to celebrate East Brighton Trust awarding half a million pounds to community groups in the area. Sue tells us “We’re very active in performing in the community and this is great for the kids. One girl was so shy before, and now has so much confidence – her mum told me it’s all down to the dance group.”

She adds “We never get paid for what we do and are always happy to perform for community events so it’s always nice when we are treated to refreshments – it makes the kids feel valued.” And making sure the members feel looked after is key to how Tantrum works – “It’s important to make all the members feel special. Everyone gets a cake on their birthday and I give them a choice of two – either a strawberry and cream Victoria sponge or a chocolate sponge. And a card is presented to them by the rest of the group. It makes everyone feel special. We’ve been running for 4 years now – so I’ve made a lot of cakes!”

When asked about their hopes for the future, the group have their hearts’ set on one particular event. They are keen to perform at the Let’s Dance show at Brighton Dome next year – a prestigious annual dance show organised and managed by Dorothy Stringer School which sees young people from all over the city perform to a huge audience. “The girls love performing and to be on stage at the Dome would be a dream come true.”

Tantrum is for young people aged 11 – 16 and takes place on Tuesdays 5-7pm at The Edge Community Centre. Mini-Tantrum is for ages 6-10 and is on a Wednesday 5-6.15pm. There are spaces for girls and boys to join both Tantrum and Mini-Tantrum from September, so if you know someone in the area, do get in touch.

In the meantime, check out the group on facebook where you can see a collection of videos of past routines and head to the Tantrum website to find out where they’re performing next.