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Merlin Postponement

It is with regret that we announce that the world première of Merlin has been postponed due to the ongoing implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Intended to be the second full-length world première of our 50th anniversary year, Merlin will be Drew McOnie’s choreographic debut for Northern Ballet. However, due to ongoing regulations on social distancing, we have not been able to commence rehearsals or work on the creation of sets and costumes, leaving insufficient time to have the production ready for the original première date. The première is now scheduled to take place in September 2021 followed by a national tour.

Our Artistic Director, David Nixon OBE, said:

“It is with a heavy heart that we have taken the decision to postpone the world première of Merlin. Unfortunately the COVID-19 restrictions have left us without an appropriate length of time in which to create the production in time to open in October 2020, and it is unclear when our Company will be able to start rehearsing again due to social distancing restrictions.

The current situation still poses uncertainty for all arts organisations, but we are grateful that our staff remain healthy and that we are in a position to still be able to look ahead and plan to hold the première next year.”

We will also now not be able to present a new children’s ballet in Leeds in October as originally planned. Unfortunately we do also anticipate further changes or cancellations to the remainder of our autumn tour and ask audiences to see our website for updates.

Audiences with tickets to effected performances will be contacted by the venue with their options in due course.

In the first part of 2020, we were only able to give one performance before lockdown was initiated. As a registered charity, we continue to make use of all sources of funding currently available including the Government’s Job Retention Scheme which has been invaluable in offsetting some of the losses. We remain committed to ensuring that none of our staff and freelancers are financially disadvantaged by the current situation. We have launched our Bring Back the Magic Appeal to try to ensure that financial constraints do not prevent us from completing the creation of Merlin for its revised première date in 2021. Donations of any size are gratefully received and can be made online. For further information on other ways that you can support us through this challenging time, please contact our Development team by emailing

Mark Skipper DL, our Chief Executive, said:

“Alongside the entire UK arts industry, Northern Ballet still faces uncertainty as a result of the effects of COVID-19.

“Financially, the loss of £1M in box office income from the spring tour has been a challenge but the Government’s recent announcement of significant investment in the arts sector is hugely welcome and vital to the survival of many national venues and organisations, and we look forward to hearing further details soon. We remain committed to our staff, freelancers and audiences and will persevere to return to the stage as soon as safely possible.

“Whilst current social distancing measures remain in place, it is not possible for us to rehearse and prepare for performances. In addition, there are concerns over the financial viability of performing at theatres where audience numbers may be dramatically reduced in order to adhere to social distancing. However, we continue to monitor the situation and be part of the conversation about how theatre can return safely and thrive in this new reality.

“The postponements we have announced today are necessary and have been made following lengthy discussions with our theatre partners. We continue to liaise with the venues and are working hard to try and put a plan in place to return to the stage in some form before the end of the year. We will endeavour to keep audiences up to date via our website.”

Bring back the magic!