Written evidence submitted by Northern
Ballet (arts 84)
I am writing on behalf of Northern Ballet in
response to the Culture Select Committee enquiry into arts funding.
Northern Ballet is a national touring
narrative ballet company based in Leeds. We are committed to creating
full-length productions that appeal to a wide audience and tour
throughout the UK and overseas, developing new audiences for dance.
We tour to more towns and cities and
give more performances than any other of England's large ballet
companies (Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Birmingham Royal
Northern Ballet gives great value for
money. We create more new full-length work than any of the other
large ballet companies and in the past 10 years we have commissioned
an unparalleled 10 new full-length ballets.
Northern Ballet achieves this on far
less public subsidy than the other major ballet companies. We
receive less than half the subsidy from Arts Council England than
the other major ballet companies receive.
Northern Ballet is a creative and high
quality company working within tight budgets. We are a shining
example of working in partnership with other organisations. We
have already had a funding cut and further funding cuts will result
in a fundamental change in who we are and what we do.
I believe Northern Ballet is a representation
of the impact the funding cuts will have on a touring company
and therefore although I am representing my company, I am sure
I am adding a voice to the many others you have already heard
1) FUNDING AND
Northern Ballet is an Arts Council England regularly
funded organisation and receives 57% of its income through public
funding. Northern Ballet is also supported by Leeds City Council
and West Yorkshire Grants. We generate the remainder through ticket
sales, from trusts and foundations, through sponsorship and individual
Although the Company receives public subsidy
it does so at a much lower level than all the other large ballet
companies in England. Despite this, in 2009-10 Northern Ballet
gave 168 performances in the UK, touring for 26 weeks in 16 different
venues (in any one year Northern Ballet may tour to Aylesbury,
Bath, Bradford, Canterbury, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull,
Leeds, Llandudno, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Nottingham,
reaching an audience of slightly less than 121,000
Northern Ballet gives great value for money.
We create more new full-length work than any of the other large
ballet companies (Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Birmingham
Royal Ballet) and in the past 10 years it has commissioned an
unparalleled 10 new full-length ballets.
Dance is the fastest growing art form in the
UK and Northern Ballet is leading this growth in the North. At
a time of uncertainty we are riding high on the success of our
move to new headquarters and the creation of a new full-length
ballet, Cleopatra (opening February 2011). We are championing
growth, ambition and innovation at a time of economic uncertainty.
Northern Ballet takes risks and gives opportunities
to young choreographers. For example, it commissioned Cathy Marston,
rising star of British dance, previous Associate Artist of the
Royal Opera House and Artistic Director of Bern Ballet, to choreograph
A Tale of Two Cities on the Company. This was an unprecedented
risk artistically and financially which other companies weren't
prepared to take.
Northern Ballet is a much-loved company with
loyal audiences stretching from one end of the country to the
other. Our audiences tell us they enjoy the emotional engagement
they get from our performances and the way in which they are made
to feel part of the Northern Ballet family.
Northern Ballet was recognised for the work
we have done to raise the profile of dance in the UK, through
our national tour, when we were awarded the Patron's Award at
the National Dance Awards in 2009. The Company has carved a unique
place in the UK's cultural landscape and was voted Britain's favourite
dance company for three consecutive years at the National Dance
Awards. This was the only award voted for by the public and is
a reflection of the impact and popularity our national tour has
on audiences around the UK and further afield.
It is widely accepted that Northern Ballet has
always been an underfunded company so the threat to funding will
hit the Company harder than many of the larger, well-supported
ballet companies. The proposed funding cuts will have a catastrophic
impact on us and our audiences. We will not be able to continue
with the level of creativity for which we have become renowned.
Northern Ballet will be unable to commission
the new productions for which it has an unrivalled reputation
and we will have to rely on old existing repertoire. With this
in mind, we would also have to cut the number of dancers in the
Company which means that we won't have enough dancers to perform
the majority of productions in our repertoire. We would also have
to cut the number of performances and the reach of our tour, which
means that towns such as Hull would be starved of high quality,
home grown, dance. The towns and cities to which we tour would
not benefit from the economic impact our touring brings through,
for example, parking and restaurant receipts.
2) A LANDMARK
The spectre of funding cuts comes at a significant
moment for Northern Ballet. We will move to new purpose-built
headquarters in central Leeds in October 2010. It is a landmark
new building which has received funding from Leeds City Council,
Yorkshire Forward, and Arts Council England, Yorkshire. It will
be the largest purpose-built space for dance outside London featuring
Europe's largest dance studio at 15m x 30m. It will be unique
in housing both a classical ballet company as well as a contemporary
dance company (Phoenix Dance Theatre) and the Northern Ballet
Academy. Leeds Metropolitan University's Higher Education performing
arts and dance courses will also take place in the building. Northern
Ballet successfully raised more than £12 million and secured
support from both the public and private sector for the new building.
The campaign allowed us to forge new links with philanthropists
in the region with whom we are building relationships for the
future. These individuals though have made it clear to us, and
in the press, that they will add to public funding but they are
not prepared to replace it.
The new building is an opportunity for the Company
to work in facilities that are fit for purpose, that allow us
to work more creatively and will allow the public to have access
to our work in ways they haven't been able to before. Our provision
for people of all ages will increase. This should be a time of
celebration and growth for Northern Ballet. It will be an outstanding
resource for the whole of the North of England.
The new building is an asset against which we
hope we will be able to generate income through space hire for
conferencing. However it will also cost us a considerable amount
to run, an additional £200,000, which we will need to generate
at a time when our funding is being cut. It is a distinct possibility
that this glorious new centre for dance might, through necessity,
become a glorified conference venue rather than a hub of creativity
and education which it ought to be. It is a dilemma facing many
arts organisations which have been fortunate to have had a capital
project and although we are grateful for the support we have received,
the challenges facing us cannot be underestimated. We want our
new building to be a vibrant beacon of success, of how the public
and private sectors can work and exist together to create a successful
enterprise. We fear the funding cuts may not allow the project
3) PEOPLE DANCING
The new building will also allow us to expand
our successful Academy. The Northern Ballet Academy is the only
Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) for classical dance in the
UK providing young people from across the North with a pathway
to a professional career in dance. We have young people who travel
to Leeds from as far afield as Hull and Blackpool several times
a week because provision does not exist in their home towns. Our
teachers have all been professional dancers and the quality of
teaching is unparalleled in the region. Our new building will
be an inspiration to these young students and indeed to the wider
community in Leeds who have themselves supported our new building.
Northern Ballet's busy and ground-breaking education
department works with schools and community groups throughout
Leeds. It tours with the Company delivering talks and workshops
for all people. We are particularly successful at delivering activity
for Visually impaired people including touch tours and audio-described
performances. The department also works internationally and has
led projects working with young learning disabled people in China
for three consecutive years.
We will be unable to deliver such outstanding
educational activities for people to participate in. This will
affect a few thousand people but multiply this by the other arts
organisations who face similar cuts and the impact will be devastating
on the people who enjoy these activities, whether for fun or for
fitness. Our commitment to ensuring our activities are as accessible
as possible will remain and our fear is that only those who can
afford to attend our performances and participatory events will
benefit from them. It would be a tragedy for all the schools and
communities we visit to lose these activities.
4) A SUCCESSFUL
Founded in 1969, Northern Ballet has grown to
become a successful business. We employ more than 80 people including
40 dancers and the threat to our funding will lead to cuts in
salary to a workforce who are employed in a sector where salaries
are not high, and it would ultimately lead to redundancies. We
would therefore not be as productive as we could be; we would
not be able to market ourselves as effectively which would lead
to a drop in ticket sales, thereby affecting our earned income.
Cuts would also affect the touring venues we perform in and again
and the venues would recoup their loss in part by increasing the
costs to touring companies.
Northern Ballet is respected internationally
and we are proud to act as cultural ambassadors for our region
and for our country. Most recently we have toured to Hong Kong,
Macau, Miami, Barcelona and Milan. Performances in Bangkok and
Beijing are planned for later this year. Our productions are also
performed by other companies around the world; for example our
production of Carmen was recently hired by the Royal New
Zealand Ballet. As such we are a successful exporting business.
We work in partnership with arts organisations
already and our shared premises with Phoenix Dance Theatre are
testament to this. We have good partnerships in education and
business but the private sector will be unable to support the
arts on the scale required to fill the proposed funding gap.
I recognise that the arts have to take their
share of cuts in public spending and we are prepared to do so.
I support the call for any cuts to be back-loaded in order for
us to try and find a resolution that would not spell the end of
a Company which has spent 40 successful years building audiences
for dance and building a successful business with a reputation
for innovation. I urge the Government to consider the positive
impact the arts have on peoples' lives, the economic rewards it
brings and the contribution it makes to the tourist and business
offer for towns and cities throughout the country. Northern Ballet
is a British success story. The proposed cuts to arts funding
will severely impact the potential achievements of our remarkable
company just as we embark on a bold new future.