Northern Ballet’s Chief Executive Mark Skipper responds to the report published yesterday that the Government spends £69 per head on arts and culture in London compared with £4.60 per person elsewhere in England.
“This disparity in the level of funding between London and the rest of the country needs to be redressed with a much fairer sharing of resources. You often hear talk about a north/south divide but actually what this report shows is that the divide is really between London and everywhere else.
In May another report by Arts & Business told us that 90% of individual and Trust/Foundation giving and 67% of corporate support goes to London-based cultural organisations. I found this quite shocking and in response Northern Ballet has decided to re-organise our fundraising activities to be more London-focused. The Company has just appointed a new Director of Development who will spend his time between London and Yorkshire. I feel it is really important, now more than ever, to ensure we have someone on the ground in London to represent the Company to potential donors. We are also looking for ways to have more of a presence in London building on the sell-out success of The Great Gatsby at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in May and the performance of The Ultimate Form, our collaboration with The Hepworth Wakefield, at John Lewis, Oxford Street in September.
There is of course the argument that London’s cultural houses receive bigger audiences and regional theatre is struggling for audiences but I beg to differ. In 2012-13 we performed to on average 65% audience capacity. Our new children’s ballets achieved an 87.5% average capacity audience attendance – we’re just coming to the end of a sell-out run of Three Little Pigs in our Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre. This to me demonstrates a real hunger for quality live performance on all scales. In 2015 we are planning on taking our performances to even more places with the introduction of a middle-scale tour.
I will also strongly defend the right for people to experience live performance in their home town or city. Yes you can watch live transmissions of ballet from Covent Garden; the Royal Ballet doesn’t tour so it’s only right people should have the opportunity to watch their performances without having to travel to London. These same audiences should however be able to watch world class live performance in their home venues – and this is where companies like Northern Ballet and our close neighbours in Leeds Opera North come in.
Rather than cutting back in this difficult time Northern Ballet has taken action to reach more people and more places. We have also responded to the Government’s call for us to raise more income from non-public sources and our sponsor a dancer campaigns and production partners campaigns have been very successful.
I feel heartened by Peter Bazalgette’s comments that ‘The trend is towards more spending in the regions and that's what we'll be doing.’ We look forward to working with Arts Council England towards and throughout the next spending round and hope to see that shift in practice.”
Read more of Mark’s comments on BBC NEWS Entertainment & Arts - Arts Funding:Should London Get Less? and Yorkshire Post - Arts Funding Goes South as London-Centric Bias Revealed
Mark also spoke to the researcher for BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz for his article on BBC NEWS Entertainment & Arts - Report Claims London Bias in Culture Funding