Mandy and Chris organised the first Jewel of Yorkshire Festival back in 2004. Their aim was to provide a weekend of workshops, with high-quality teachers, from around the world, at a reasonable price. Bellydance, as a style of dance, had really taken off in the 1990’s and there was a great hunger for more knowledge from students. But most events were down south. So, using Victoria Hall, a grade II listed building in a World Heritage Site, Saltaire, they started what would become a very successful festival.
The format quickly established itself. Workshops in the rooms at Victoria Hall on Saturday and Sunday, with a souk and café in the Main Hall to ensure that students had somewhere comfortable between sessions. A Teachers Show on the Saturday evening and a Student Showcase on the Friday night to complete the experience.
In the early years there were two festivals a year. Nowadays the demand has reduced and this has changed to one, in October. Up to 2019 Chris and Mandy have run 26 JoY’s (as the events have come to be known) and have kept going through thick and thin. Even the eruption, in 2010, of a volcano in Iceland that grounded European flights didn’t stop the event – thanks to the teachers who managed to make it to the UK, or lived here, stepping up and stepping in to ensure that the students were not disappointed.
Only Covid-19 has managed to stop the event. As big events were banned we put the Festival on hold; happy to do our bit to help prevent the spread of the virus. We have missed two years now but hope to be able to restart in 2022, all being well.