Pietra Mello-PittmanPietra Mello-Pittman and Ella SpiraElla Spira, founders of the dance/theatre production company Sisters Grimm, have been awarded MBEs for services to International Trade and the Creative Industry in the 2021 New Year Honours lists. Pietra and Ella are honoured among an incredible list of recipients.
The recognition comes after an extraordinary eleven years for the dynamic and creative partnership of former Royal Ballet ballerina Pietra Mello-Pittman and Grammy-nominated composer Ella Spira, which has seen their dance musical productions of Inala and Voices of the Amazon play in the UK as well as around the world.
In 2009 they had a vision to create a theatre company that broke all the rules and Sisters Grimm was born. Founded to create shows that celebrate different cultures and are accessible whilst produced to the highest artistic standards, Sisters Grimm shows offer a unique and vibrant immersive experience, powered by an explosive fusion of live music, song, and dance.
Their ambition has seen them travelling the world and working with collaborators from Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Soweto Gospel Choir in South Africa, world-renowned percussionists Olodumin in Brazil to Samurai warriors in Japan to tell new culturally themed and socially relevant stories which promote understanding and dialogue between cultures and communities.
Whilst promoting diversity on stage is a given, the pair are also passionate about seeing diversity in their audiences, not only ethnic but also economic. Sisters Grimm run social impact and outreach programmes alongside their shows, a self-funded initiative, offering tickets, workshops and insights into the creative process, introducing new career paths and raising aspirations, with almost 6000 beneficiaries to date.
They remain committed to developing future audiences and building bridges between cultures.
Ella Spira said, “Being honoured with an MBE is a wonderful recognition of the role we play bringing talent together internationally. We feel such a passion and a drive for representing other cultures, and then seeing our shows reach audiences all over the world.
As female founders from mixed heritage backgrounds, this honour feels like a celebration of the challenges we have overcome to not only create a business model around the arts, but to be recognised as internationalists. The impact that the arts can have on society should never be undervalued – they allow people to make sense of their emotions in a space they often don’t give themselves. In these dark and difficult times for live entertainment we mustn’t lose sight of how the arts have the ability to join people together”.
Pietra Mello-Pittman said “It is an honour to be recognised not only in contributing to the creative industry but also for services to international trade. Our investors saw our passion and drive and took a leap of faith to support us, and we are thrilled to share this with them. We are driven by telling stories that unite people in ways that have not been done before, and there have been challenges in doing something that is perceived as unconventional. Neither Ella or I went to university and we worked hard to achieve what we have. We hope that this Honour will inspire others to follow their dreams and to persevere. Whatever your background or heritage, you can achieve things that may seem out of reach and overcome your struggles to make a big impact.”