Obituary: Roanne Dods, dancer, lawyer and arts producer

Roanne Dods, dancer, lawyer and arts producer. Born: 16 September, 1965, in Lima, Peru. Died: 31 January, 2017, in Glasgow, aged 51.

Roanne Dods, dancer, lawyer and arts producer. Born: 16 September, 1965, in Lima, Peru. Died: 31 January, 2017, in Glasgow, aged 51.

It’s not that often that a lawyer will train to become dancer and then spend the rest of their career inspiring a large swathe of a country’s creative population to be true to their calling.

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But then, Roanne Dods was a very unusual person, described by many as visionary, dynamic, generous and resilient.

One of her abiding skills was being able to connect creative ideas with the resources that would bring them alive.

In her most high-profile role she was founding director of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, during which time she awarded £14 million in grants across a number of art forms, and before she died she was producer of Small is Beautiful, celebrating and inspiring microenterprises around the world, and Imagination: Scotland’s First Festival of Ideas.

Roanne Dods, the oldest of three children, was born in 1965 in Lima, Peru, where her parents were expats working in the fabric industry.

When she was about ten her family moved to Milan, and shortly after that Dods became a boarder at Wellington School in Ayr, where she did well academically.

She went on to study French, Arabic and moral philosophy at the University of St Andrews, and after falling for a boy from Canada, spent a year in his home country. On her return to Scotland she studied law at the University of Edinburgh, specialising in family matters, and after graduating specialised in urgent litigation around family violence.

Dods then succumbed to her more creative instincts and went to London to do an MA in dance studies at the Laban Dance Centre, which has since merged with the Trinity College of Music to form the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

She strongly believed that dance and law balanced her practice, and both would prove invaluable when she made her next move, becoming a founding director of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, a charity dedicated to funding the arts, with a particular focus on supporting talent. Dods was not a woman who believed in restricting herself to individual projects.

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Over the years she had dozens of roles, including being director of PAL Labs; deputy director at the Dovecot Studios; producer at the International Futures Forum and research and projects co-ordinator for the Mindful Leadership Foundation.

She was also vice chair of Scottish Ballet, chair of the Fuel theatre company, chair of the Battersea Arts Centre in London and a member of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport External Advisory Group, advising government policy for arts and culture.

On top of this she was also a founding director of Mission Models Money a network of thinkers and doers working to enhance the way people working in the cultural sector used resources to create experiences of deeper public value – as well as IC: Innovative Craft and the Work Room at the Tramway in Glasgow.

In 2004 Sir John Tusa presented Dods with an Angel Award by the International Society for the Performing arts for “innovative and spectacular work across the artistic spectrum in recent years”, and the following year she was number 34 in The Arts Power 100 list published by The Times.

As well as having an exceptional facility for being able to express the value of arts and culture in a way that would convince the holders of purse strings that they were benefiting a worthwhile cause,

Dods loved the simple pleasures of swimming, eating good food and cooking for friends, of which she made many, collected from all parts of her life.

She loved spending time in Colonsay and Spain, being close to the water.

She also had a deep fondness for colour and craftsmanship, and had a special appreciation for Vivienne Westwood fashions. She wore clothes well.

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She met Paul in Edinburgh in the late 1990s when she was living in London.

They got married in Ullapool, then moved to Glasgow, where their son, Oscar, was born.

Oscar’s early years coincided with a demanding work load for Roanne, who was then spreading her time between Jerwood in London and Glasgow.

The couple separated in 2004 and friends commended them on their shared care of and dedication to their beloved boy.

Over the past seven years, she developed a wonderful relationship with Tom, Adam and Holly, the children of her partner, Mike, and she took great comfort and affection from her adored dogs Alfie and Roly.

Roanne Dods died at the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow. She had handled her cancer with strength and humour, never allowing it to diminish her interest in her friends, their work and events unfolding in the outside world.

She is survived by her family and a vast network of people whose creative ambitions would never have been realised were it not for her.


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