Our dear friend and inspiration, Roanne Dods, hugely respected and loved across the world of arts and culture in this country and beyond, died on 31st January aged 51, having been graciously cared for by staff at the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, her loving partner Mike and her much loved son Oscar.
Born on 16th September 1965 in Lima, Peru, Roanne studied French, Arabic and Moral Philosophy at St Andrew’s University and then law at Edinburgh University, specialising in urgent litigation around family violence. She then took an MA in Dance Studies at the Laban Centre in London, and always said that dance and law informed and balanced her practice.
As Founding Director of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Roanne was widely recognized as a visionary funder, distributing £14m of strategic grants across art forms to a staggering range of organisations and individuals and establishing Jerwood Visual Arts amongst many other influential initiatives. But what made Roanne special was her gift for making other people’s dreams feel real and come true: she was a gifted and passionate listener and a believer in people, turning dreamers into doers, and transforming the lives of many she met.
Roanne continued to provide inspirational leadership as co-director of Mission Models Money, Innovative Craft and The Work Room, Producer at International Futures Forum, Director of PAL Labs, Deputy Director at Dovecot Studios, Chair of Battersea Arts Centre, Vice Chair of Scottish Ballet, board member of Fuel, Sistema Scotland, Cove Park, Young Vic, and the Jerwood Space, and latterly Producer of Small is Beautiful, and Imagination: Scotland’s First Festival of Ideas. Her work was recognized by ISPA in 2004 with an Angel Award for ‘innovative and spectacular work across the artistic spectrum’.
Roanne made Fuel possible. In her role at JCF, she awarded Louise and I a grant of £25,000 a year for two years in 2004. This single act of faith, unburdened by onerous conditions and reporting requirements, meant that we could – and did – set up Fuel in July 2004 and begin working independently. Roanne hosted our launch party at the Jerwood Space later that year, went on to become our most valued ‘Catalyst’ and de facto Chair, and a huge source of support for our artists and team, advocacy for our vision, and inspiration for us both. Many people have stories like this to tell about Roanne: we are lucky to be part of an extraordinary network of people and organisations who have benefited from her passion and dedication.
Roanne was uniquely generous in giving her attention to others, deeply perceptive, fiercely intelligent, and endlessly open-hearted. She never lost her love of learning, her passion for people and her ability to create meaningful, transformative conversations. Her enthusiasm and joie de vivre were irresistible, her love of life shone brightly right to the end.
Those of us who were lucky enough to know Roanne will never forget her beautiful smile, her bright eyes and the gifts of love, hope and beauty she gave us all. She leaves behind a rich web of connections and a legacy of hundreds of people who will continue to be nourished by her inspirational, practical and systemic thinking, her spirited beauty and her love.
Image credit: Manuel Vason