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Dr. Smita Tripathi

Dr. Smita Tripathi is a lecturer in Leadership and Human Resource Studies, Academic Lead of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Plymouth Business School and long standing Trustee of the South Asian Society of Devon and Cornwall and Member of the PTFA at DHSB.

Dr. Smita Tripathi is a lecturer in Leadership and Human Resource Studies, Academic Lead of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Plymouth Business School and long standing Trustee of the South Asian Society of Devon and Cornwall and Member of the PTFA at DHSB. She has been teaching and conducting research in this field for over 20 years. Her background includes collaboration on research projects related to leadership, governance, and organizational change, as well as involvement in various charitable organizations in the South West. Bracken Jelier went to meet her ahead of the Where Dance Meets Diversity event in Plymouth – something that Smita hopes will become an annual festival in the city.

What have you been working on most recently?

Apart from my teaching, I also have programme responsibilities for the MBA at the Plymouth Business School. In the light of the current challenges in the Post Graduate and Higher Education Sector due to policy changes, I am focussing on ensuring we meet our target student numbers through marketing and other engagement. I am presently working on my research project on retention of employees with Derriford Hospital. Additionally, I hold the role of lead organizer/coordinator for the event “Live, love, dance: where dance meets diversity

Diversity through Dance is a celebration of cultural diversity and unity through the universal language of dance. It serves as a platform to showcase various dance styles and traditions from different cultures, promoting cross-cultural understanding and appreciation of collaboration, hope and wellbeing. Dance transcends language barriers and fosters connections between people within different age groups and ethnicities, making it an ideal vehicle for celebrating diversity and promoting social cohesion and a sense of community by showcasing diverse perspectives and developing relational wellbeing.

Second, we are working in partnership with key stakeholders, community partners, local people, Students and Staff in strengthening the narrative of Plymouth as a maritime, creative and diverse yet welcoming place for all. Through this performative and creative engagement, a dynamic and inspirational cultural experience is sought to be created and become an annual celebratory event in May going forwards. This celebration of hope, joy and community is especially important in the post-Covid era.

What inspired you to create this event?

Several years back I remember such an event taking place in Plymouth regularly – I watched it with my family and son and his primary school friends – the impact lingered and I wanted to recreate that visual and dramatic magic as a gift to the City of Plymouth and my EDI role and the support from the University, The Arts Institute, Plymouth Business School, and local partners like the Police, Leader of the PCC, Devon and Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, the Coop – and others made it possible…a big thank you to them. 

The Venue, the State of Art performing arts centre studio, The House, provides cutting-edge theatre in the heart of Plymouth. The studio is run by our vibrant The Arts Institute, the curated public arts programme which plays a pivotal role in building culture and art in the City. 

What will people see at the event?

    During the event, guests will experience an array of dance showcases portraying cultures and dance forms from across the globe. Featuring traditional folk dances, contemporary choreography, and more, each performance provides a distinctive insight into the diverse tapestry of global dance traditions. With over 100 performers, including representatives from local clubs, amateurs, professionals, students, and various cultural communities within the city, the event promises a vibrant celebration of cultural diversity through dance. I would not want to remove the surprise element for the audience but our gala line up consists of a lyrical piece “Waves” about youth overcoming struggles, a neo-classical ballet “Le Onde” with hypnotic patterns and currents of the ocean – so fitting for our maritime city! 

    Join the beat with a range of street dances or be carried away with the power & movement of Taiko drumming; Enjoy contemporary playful dance, honestly exploring disability and identity, and women’s empowerment. Celebrate cultural & social diversity with Chinese folk & ribbon dancing, and Myanmar Thingyan performance and transfixed by Bharatnatyam dancers.

    What would you like the legacy to be? 

      I envision that the enduring impact of this event will be a heightened recognition of cultural diversity, enhanced social cohesion, and strengthened community connections. Through the unifying medium of dance, my goal is to foster lasting change that fosters empathy and inclusivity across diverse communities. Previously, the university hosted this event annually before the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now striving to revive this tradition post-pandemic with the intention of making it an annual affair once again. We aim to expand participation and scale up the event each year, ensuring its growth and significance continues to increase over time.

      I also hope that more partners and key stakeholders like the Hospital and LiveWell, local Businesses and organisations step up and support us in this endeavour. It would not be sustainable otherwise.

      What do you generally hope to achieve through your work? Has this changed over time – and why?

      Initially, my primary objective was to create an inclusive space where individuals from diverse backgrounds could come together to celebrate cultural diversity through dance. However, as I’ve continued my work, my aspirations have evolved. I now strive not only to promote cultural understanding and acceptance but also to foster deeper social integration and community cohesion. This shift came about as I witnessed the profound impact that cultural events like “Where Dance Meets Diversity” can have on building stronger connections and breaking down barriers between communities.

      Where does your inspiration come from?

      My inspiration is drawn from various sources, ranging from personal experiences to cultural encounters and interactions with the vibrant community in Plymouth. While it’s challenging to pinpoint a single source, I find inspiration in the resilience and creativity of the individuals I encounter, as well as the diverse cultural landscape of the city. Specifically, students, local training programs and collaborations with talented individuals in Plymouth have provided invaluable inspiration and insights, shaping my approach to my work and contributing to its evolution over time.

        Dance and performance was very much a part of my childhood and growing up years in India. Most events in India are accompanied by cultural and performative elements – which emphasises the celebration of sharing through performance, music and dance, and this promotes cultural awareness, linking diverse people, building relational health and wellbeing but also adding to conversations and contemporary debates around specific themes. 

        How do you think your work impacts the community in Plymouth? What do you hope people will take away from it?

          I believe my work contributes to the intellectual and cultural enrichment of the Plymouth community by fostering dialogue, promoting social cohesion, and empowering individuals to create positive change. I hope people will take away a deeper appreciation for diversity, a sense of belonging, and a commitment to building a more inclusive society. Dance, creative performance are also closely linked with physical and mental health and wellbeing. In a time when we are facing more challenges, building up resilience through all means including dance and performance is so necessary. This cultural and diversity events add another layer to the place narrative of Plymouth as a maritime city with a vibrant and welcoming community and the University as Centre of learning, excellence and collaborative endeavours.. 

          Why Plymouth?

          Plymouth offers a vibrant, dynamic and supportive community it offers, both professionally and personally. The city’s vibrant cultural scene, along with its proximity to stunning natural landscapes, provides a conducive environment for creativity and growth. Additionally, the opportunities for collaboration and networking within Plymouth’s diverse community have been instrumental in my professional development. Overall, the sense of belonging and the enriching experiences that Plymouth offers make it an ideal place to live and work. 

            I moved here from Delhi almost 2O years back and have no hesitation in calling it HOME. 

            What career path did you take to get to this point? Were there any particular organisations that stand out to you that have been crucial on your journey?

              My career path has involved a combination of academic pursuits, research collaborations, and involvement in charitable organizations. Organizations such as Plymouth Business School and various local charities Like the Racial Equality Council (REC – past member of the Governing Body) and the South Asian Society ( of which I am a current trustee) have played a crucial role in shaping my journey and providing opportunities for professional growth.

              My teaching has been a source of strength and though my role is that of an educator, I learn from my students as well. The learning space is a dynamic interactive space for dialogues. Plymouth Business School is a very diverse part of the University and we have students from all over the world.   

              What would be your advice to other creatives starting their careers?

              My advice would be to pursue your passion, seek out opportunities for collaboration and learning, and remain open to new experiences and perspectives. Building strong networks and staying committed to your goals will help navigate the challenges of starting a creative career.

              What are your hopes for your work in the future? What do you hope to achieve?

                In the future, I hope to continue making a positive impact through teaching, research, and community engagement. I aspire to further develop innovative approaches to leadership and organizational change that contribute to sustainable social and economic development.

                What are your hopes for Plymouth? What do you think it should aspire to be? What do you hope it can become? How do you think we need to evolve or change? What does the city need to do better?

                My hopes for the event are to foster a sense of unity, appreciation for diversity, and lasting connections within the community. I aspire for it to become a platform where people from all walks of life can come together to celebrate cultural expression through dance. By promoting inclusivity, understanding, and acceptance, I believe the event can serve as a catalyst for positive change in Plymouth.

                Where do you go for a night out or a day out in Plymouth – do you have a great recommendation of a great place to eat, to listen to live music….

                  I recommend exploring Plymouth’s Barbican area for a delightful day or evening out. Another great evening out can be had at the Royal William Yard and the diverse culinary experiences to be had there. I love fish and chips at the Platters or for that matter anywhere – we have the freshest fish! I love eating at Nawroz the Kurdish place – it reminds me of the Dhabas in Delhi! Or having dosa – rice crepe with sambhar and chutney.  Another favourite is The Stable, known for its fantastic pizza and cider, or The Boathouse, offering fresh seafood with breathtaking waterfront views. 

                  What’s the one cultural venue/place/work/person you would recommend to an outsider visiting Plymouth?

                  I highly recommend visiting The Box, Plymouth’s new cultural destination, which showcases the city’s rich history, art, and heritage in a dynamic and engaging way. It offers a comprehensive overview of Plymouth’s cultural identity and is a must-visit for anyone interested in the city’s past and present.

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