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News: Birmingham Royal Ballet awarded major Weston Culture Fund Grant

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Birmingham Royal Ballet is incredibly grateful to be awarded £600,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation which will support the Company to adapt its business to secure its long-term survival and recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The grant will specifically support Birmingham Royal Ballet to increase the Company’s infrastructure, capacity and expertise to create high-quality digital content. This follows an exceptional year when Birmingham Royal Ballet’s free online videos have been watched by over 13.5 million people worldwide between March and November 2020, compared to two million in the previous year. It will also build on Birmingham Royal Ballet success in 2020 presenting its first streamed and live-streamed shows, which sold over 11,000 online tickets. This grant will help embed online ticket sales as a permanent new income stream for Birmingham Royal Ballet.


The Weston Culture Fund grant will also support Birmingham Royal Ballet to invest in a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient lighting rig, in order to utilise the latest technology to adapt the Company’s spectacular productions for post-pandemic touring. This is critical for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s long-term survival because its touring shows will have to run more efficiently, with fewer crew back-stage to manage social distancing, as well as reducing touring costs to manage predicted reduced ticket sales income because of ongoing socially distanced audiences, and audiences being nervous to return to theatres over the coming year.


This grant will benefit Birmingham Royal Ballet’s theatre partners and their audiences from Plymouth to Sunderland, Birmingham to Belfast, because Birmingham Royal Ballet will be ready with safe, adapted shows available for touring when theatres can finally re-open.


With increased digital content skills in house, Birmingham Royal Ballet can benefit more children and young people through our education work. We expect Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Learning, Engagement, Access and Participation programmes (known as LEAP) will have to deliver its work throughout much of 2021 via online classes, activities and creative opportunities. For example, Dance Track, which provides free ballet classes for primary school children from disadvantaged areas of Birmingham has been delivered online since June last year. In spring 2021 after discussion with school teachers the LEAP team will deliver its annual audition workshops for 2,500 local Birmingham primary school children online.


Freefall, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s second company is for dancers with severe learning disabilities who are all at the highest risk of Covid, particularly the participants with Down’s Syndrome. Throughout the pandemic Birmingham Royal Ballet has delivered weekly Freefall classes online, and at Christmas the company created an animated version of Nutcracker starring the Freefall dancers. The film was launched on Disability Awareness Day and viewed 11,000 times.  We do not expect that Freefall will be able to return to “live” training and performances in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s building for some time, but we will continue to provide Freefall with exciting online creative opportunities.


 Caroline Miller, CEO of Birmingham Royal Ballet says:

'This generous Weston Culture Fund Award is brilliant news for Birmingham Royal Ballet, and for the other West Midlands organizations who have also received grants. The Office of National Statistics recently reported that the West Midlands was the worst hit part of the UK economy in the first wave of COVID, so this support from the Garfield Weston Foundation is hugely appreciated and needed in the region. The Birmingham Royal Ballet team, led by Carlos Acosta, have proved we can find creative solutions and ways of performing, even in these difficult times, but this grant has given us a much needed boost of hope for the future that we can deliver our plans and navigate the pandemic for the next phase.'


Philippa Charles, Director of Garfield Weston Foundation says:

'Our cultural sector is at the heart of our local communities providing not only entertainment but education and inspiration for many. Our Trustees were impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit shown across the arts in response to COVID-19 and it was a privilege to hear what organisations had been doing to not only survive but also to reinvent the way they reach audiences. What really stood out was the level of collaboration and support they had for each other and the determination to keep going, despite the increasingly difficult situation.


'We all want and need our cultural sector to thrive and, if anything, our time away from the arts has shown just how important they are to us – bringing much needed pleasure and enrichment to our lives. Arts organisations are desperate to re-open and get back to what they do best, and we hope that this new funding will help many of them do exactly that.'

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16 minutes ago, bridiem said:

Excellent news! (Though I really hope that social distancing isn't in fact going to become a permanent feature in theatres.)


I hope that too Bridie.  I don't see how the theatres could continue to operate with social distancing in the auditorium for too long.

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