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Funding help required to maintain unique series of insights events

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I mentioned in the ROH Insights thread that a programme I have been attending - Ivy House Music and Dance (which used to run in the building formerly Pavlova's home hence the name) - is no longer going to be running in its current guise. Having investigated a bit, it seems that the trust which funds the events (largely paying for talent) is almost obsolete. 


It's a unique programme and gives access to some excellent and intimate ballet focussed events which I can't bear to think would no longer continue simply because of funding. While they obviously cater to the ballet enthusiast, I have found that at their new venue, they have actually reached out to a broader audience. I've always taken ballet novices along with me and always with resounding success. 


Previous events have included tributes to John Cranko and Margot Fonteyn, with biographies provided by Gerald Dowler (Dancing Times) and then workshops run with Royal Ballet students and a coach - I've seen Brenda Last coaching a RB corps dancer and Donald MacLeary coaching a RBS student. Sir Peter Wright and Clement Crisp have also contributed to such events.  The latest event was an interview with Federico Bonelli, followed by him coaching David Donnelly who had rushed fresh from the stage at Covent Garden and then working through the Grand Pas from Nutcracker with his wife. 


Essentially, they are pretty star studded for the ballet world and are wonderfully insightful and I really believe that they pay an important part in maintaining and building a ballet audience for the future. The only challenge I see is that I am usually the youngest person there and I would love to bring in a bit of a younger audience.


That aside, my ask is this - how can I secure funding to ensure that the dance element of this programme continues? I am in conversation with the organisation who have housed Ivy House Music and Dance for the past 18 months and I plan to find out what sort of costs they are looking at to run each event. I imagine the ticket cost covers the use of the theatre but nothing else and I currently have no idea what it would cost for approx 2.5 hours of talent.


In the short term, I suppose single event sponsorship is a way forward, but it isn't future proof.  Short of trying to make contact with the sponsors listed in the back of RB and ENB programmes I am at a bit of a loss...


Finally, most organisations strive not just to entertain, but to bring in some cash to support talent - for example the wonderful work the London Ballet Circle does. I imagine a challenge in getting funding could be the limitations of the current objectives of the programme which inspires and excites but doesn't specifically raise money for the arts.


Any thoughts greatly appreciated.


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i have myself in the past gone to several Ivy House programmes ... and certainly enjoyed aspects of them.  Perhaps the market for this kind of endeavour has simply been - or is becoming - saturated in London.  The Ivy House programmes were I think over priced of late - especially without being directly related to any dance-specific organisation - who now (understandably) seem to employ such events as fundraisers for themselves.  


Bless the BA and LBC for still keeping ballet related discussions relatively affordable.  That said it will be interesting in the long term to see whether or not such organisations as those noted in the previous sentence actually survive.  Looking around recently at both the BA and LBC constituencies it appears - at least from my observation - that the majority of - or certainly many from - the dedicated congregations of these two organisations will sadly not be with us in, say, a quarter century.  I would put myself on the outer edge of that remit - certainly if the government longevity tables are to be taken as a trusted source.  


Time - like its world - does change.  I keep telling myself that - in many ways - this is a good thing.  It's not better or worse; it's just different :)


Perhaps Ivy House is just marking/preparing for that difference.  That surely cannot be a bad thing.  We all - like the world we live in - have to move on.  Perhaps they will have new sessions on hip-hop and street dance.  Discussions on that history - on the care and development of that craft - would - in the eyes of many - be 'cool'.   :)  indeed I can see myself in a bit going ... in the 'if you can't beat them, join them' spirit.  That is, of course, if the price is right.  Fiscal life for seniors is, as I understand it from the media - a less and less trustworthy source I'm told -  to become more strained.  It is always, of course, the agenda of the market that rules ... in the end.  


I have to laugh though.  In my now distant youth - well, relatively speaking - and at the time far away from these shores - I was involved with the development of something called 'dig pointes'.  They were pointe shoes with taps on the end.  A niche market of course.  Didn't fly.  .....  Maybe their time too will come?  Won't be here to see it ... but, hey, - as Shaw would have it - 'you never can tell, sir.  You NEVER can tell'.  


That at least keeps ME smiling. 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Thank you for taking the initiative, Blossom.


Do you know why the funding for the Ivy House events has dried up?


Have you any idea of the costs involved?

This from the CEO of the programme's new home -  the simple fact is that for the past 8 or 9 years, this series was sponsored by a small foundation that covered the biggest cost of each event, i.e. the performers’ fees. And we were informed only a few months ago that this foundation has been spending down its money, and will have nothing left from early 2017.

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Perhaps I have not been looking in the right places but I am not aware of an oversupply of events in London which would suggest to me that "the market for this kind of endeavour has been-or is becoming -saturated in London." As there don't seem to be that many events which are both accessible and affordable.Tickets for insight events held in the Clore Studio are virtually unobtainable, and not all are of equal quality, while the few events held at the RBS tend to be pretty expensive. May be things will resolve themselves, as far as access to insight events is concerned when the Linbury becomes available again but I would not put money on it.


Ballet Association is to all intents and purposes the RB's supporter's club, limiting its guest speakers to those connected with the Royal Ballet companies and the Royal Ballet School. London Ballet Circle invites guest speakers from a wider range  of companies and occasionally has a professional  critic as its interviewee.The meetings of both organisations are extremely variable in content and quality because they depend so much on the the interviewer's willingness to prepare,and his/her ability to construct and conduct an interview and the interviewee's ability to recall events and  their skills as raconteurs.Not everyone involved with these events is equally endowed with the necessary skills and I sometimes think that the BA's events would benefit from more preparatory planning as many of its interviewees would clearly benefit from knowing beforehand which aspect of their career they will be expected to talk about. Both organisations have managed some embarrassingly bad interviews over the years.


As far as demonstration events are concerned the weakest link always,seems to me, to be the supporting speakers.Such events depend as much on the quality of the speakers engaged for the event as talks and interviews do.It is the willingness and ability of the guest speakers to deliver a talk on the advertised subject rather than their standard all purpose talk on something connected to the subject matter, if not actually about it, which is the problem. Too often what the audience is given at such an event is an entertaining, somewhat ingratiating talk which is rather light on information, and is,for the main part, taken from material which is readily accessible to anyone who can read.



I think that anyone considering the possibility of rescuing these events needs to think very seriously about their personal contacts within the dance world, the sort of events they would wish to run, their form, content and the personnel likely to be involved as well as the issues of cost,accessibility,the age profile of the potential audience they wish to attract and what will get them to come to meetings.They also need to consider whether the RB is likely to make more of their events available on the internet.


As far as the age of the audience for such events is concerned. I have the impression that the "Ivy House" events have the audience with the oldest age profile, LBC is not that much better and the BA has a scattering of younger faces at its meetings.Their meetings all seem to be full of people who are old enough to remember Margot, Bobby Michael and Beryl and the first visit of the Bolshoi. This is almost certainly an impression rather than the reality of the situation but it must be off putting for younger people who might be  thinking of joining.


None of the organisations mentioned really seems to have cracked the problem of recruiting younger people to their membership. The first question that has to be asked is whether there are young people who might want to join one of these organisations and if there are what is holding them back? Is it the aged membership, or other factors such the style of dance in which they are interested  which is holding them back? What would you do that is sufficiently different to encourage younger people to join the sort of organisation you choose to run?

Edited by FLOSS
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Floss, a lot to think about.


I think one of the things I would do, if I was coming up with an 'original' programme,  would be to look at how to differently engage with younger ballet fans, or even bringing in families and nurturing a programme from there. There's a huge opportunity for what my children's school calls 'cultural enrichment' (which is a whole other project I hope to get involved in), even for teens who take ballet classes but might prefer a cosier, more intimate environment.   It's worth bearing in mind that to maintain funding for ballet at large, the donors of the future need to have that personal connection.


Selfishly, I am just greedy for more Ivy House events and I do think more 'young' people (I am in my mid 30s and have taken people around the same age) could be engaged with the right marketing/targeting, of course if funding could be sourced.

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I'm not trying to discourage you, far from it. But I think that if someone wants to try to run events like this they need to think about whether more of the same is the answer,and, if it's not, what needs to be changed in order to give it a future. You don't want to abandon the old audience but you need to attract and retain a younger audience to give the enterprise long term viability. You also need to get a good idea of the likely costs, how much people might be prepared to pay and the likely size of your regular audience at each meeting. I do know that both BA and LBC held their meetings at all sorts of places before they found their current venues.Ideally you need to find somewhere which is not going to be opening up a building for you because that is really costly.


Think very hard about what drew you into going to the events held at Ivy House. What appealed to you about them and what,if anything, you think could have been done to improve them? Do you think that what appealed to you would appeal to other ballet goers particularly those of your own age? Remember that targeting and marketing may get people through the door but it is the content and its presentation which will get them to come back. If what you promise the audience is not what they feel you have given them they won't return. What sort of events would you want run? Events about individual dancers like the ones about Markova and Fonteyn,about choreographers, individual ballets, classical technique or other ballet related topics? I would suggest that unless you have a unique approach to them, meet the dancer events are best avoided at least initially, as they are undertaken by BA and LBC with varying degrees of success.


Remember  that the circumstances in which communication takes place is just as important as the message itself. One of the things that I think jars at some of the events run by the organisations mentioned above is that they can, on occasion, appear very amateurish and somewhat disorganised and I am not sure that people are so forgiving of amateurishness and disorganisation as they may once have been. I am thinking of microphones and sound systems which have clearly not been tested before the event takes place and incompetent interviewers.Have a look at some of the events which turn up on the internet particularly some of the American outreach events run by various ballet companies and cultural institutions as well as the RB's insight events. Ask yourself what really works? What needs improvement? This will help help focus your ideas.Do you have any contacts in the world of ballet or the theatre who you could call on? The idea of cultural enrichment sounds very promising but I suspect that it would not be advisable to undertake such a project other than by stealth.

Edited by FLOSS
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Thanks Floss for all your thoughts. Not been to a Ballet Association event before but as I can see the venue from my office i will definitely investigate to see how the events compare to the others I have attended - but not just in the name of research!

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