Portsmouth dancers set to wow crowds at International Women’s Day festival in London

South Coast Collabo dancers rehearsing for Women of the World Festival. Picture credit: @truefittphotography
South Coast Collabo dancers rehearsing for Women of the World Festival. Picture credit: @truefittphotography
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TALENTED dancers from Portsmouth will today perform at an event geared at celebrating some the world's most inspirational women.

Scores of people are expected to attend the Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre in London and 10 artists from South Coast Collabo will be there to wow the crowds. 

A still image of Doaa Al Zamel, who now lives in Sweden, taken from her Facetime call with the dance group. Picture: South Coast Collabo

A still image of Doaa Al Zamel, who now lives in Sweden, taken from her Facetime call with the dance group. Picture: South Coast Collabo

For five weeks the Portsmouth-based group have endured a series of four-hour rehearsals to perfect a routine they hope will open arts-lovers’ eyes to the reality of the refugee crisis. 

Rachel Stella-Layton, one of its two founders, said the idea arose from the ‘powerful’ story of Doaa Al Zamel.

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The Syrian teen was one of 11 survivors who were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea after a fishing boat crammed with 500 refugees capsized in a bid to get to Europe in 2015. 

‘Our hearts and souls have gone into this,’ said Rachel, who is 26. 

‘We’ve actually managed to Facetime Doaa and we are so inspired by her story – we want to be a voice for her and others like her.

‘We are the only performance act at the whole ceremony and, out of anyone, it’s an honour the organisers chose us.’ 

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Co-founder Grace Hall, 24, added: ‘We want people people in the audience to take away a different opinion of what the refugee crisis is. 

‘It’s about showing how strong refugees are, as well as the fact that during this crisis they don’t want to have to be taken away from their country, it's what they are forced to do.’ 

Performers aged 14 to 26 will take part in the dance, which coincides with International Women’s Day. 

Their names are: Rachel Stella Layton, Grace Hall, Jimmy Allan, Ross Robertson, Lola Rees-Whelan, Elios Khumbeni, Emmanuelle Fausti, Rochelle Jack, Jon Dasilva and Rebecca Webb. 

Other guests set to appear at the festival, which will run on Friday and Saturday, include Annie Lennox, Maisie Williams and Sandi Toksvig.