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(UK) Arts Council review of Opera and Ballet, looking at "new models"


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http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/jan/16/arts-council-opera-eno-loss

 

Bruce included a link to the above article in links. Aileen (at post #61 in the ENB Sleeping Beauty thread: http://www.balletcoforum.com/index.php?/topic/2091-enb-sleeping-beauty/page__st__60#entry31284) had queried whether the ENO deficit would affect ENB.

 

The article is primarily about the ENO loss but there is more to concern ballet (and opera) lovers contained within the body:

 

"At a time when public funding is on the wane (the Art's Council's grant was reduced by 30% at the last comprehensive spending review) there is increased pressure on the opera companies to find ways to operate more economically, including sharing resources."

 

For opera companies I think we can assume that the Arts Council means opera and ballet companies.

 

The concept of sharing resources is not new but it is hard to envisage how, for example, sharing artistic resources would work. Some years ago there was an attempt by the Arts Council of Scotland to enforce the sharing of an orchestra by Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera. How they ever thought this would work is beyond me when both companies toured at the same time.

 

What other resources are there to be shared. The obvious one, in any business not just the arts world, is "common services" such as back office resources. Within an arts organisation how would this work when the sharing organisations are not co-located?

 

Specifically in respect of ENO, I was under the impression that that organisation owned the Coliseum. Will its financial difficulties affect not only ENB but other ballet companies such as BRB that have engagements there? Are any profits from operating the Coliseum ploughed back into ENO?

 

Many questions and no answers. Another worrying few months ahead for opera and ballet lovers.

 

What does anyone else think?

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I can't easily conceive that in, say, 10 years time that ACE will be supporting 4 English ballet companies. In business things get combined and rationalised etc and in hard times its hard to say that public money should be saved everywhere else but not the arts. Chopping a company would see any money go to the others (and dance generally) and hopefully result in a bit more new work. Other then Ballet Black (which gets no ACE subsidy at all - a shameful position) the 4 ballet companies struggle to do lots of new work. They do do new work, but its not a particularly vibrant branch of the arts I think you would say. The money seems to go on keeping the institution going to do old work and nobody feels they have enough to properly drive it forward.

 

The RB and ROH are 'safe' - nobody is going to rationalise them out of existence. That leaves 3 companies - BRB, ENB and NB that should be worried. And I'm sure they have been for some time. What would be helpful would be a better charity giving environment, like they have in the USA, and for the companies to also push harder for such non public support.

 

Regardless of any long term view the thing I'd want to see immediately is that all 4 English companies loose £75k of their existing grant and the £300K is given to Ballet Black on the basis they are concentrating on the future and not the past.

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As I understand it, the costs for Opera productions are much higher than for ballet, even more so if you take "price per wear". Ballet sets and costumes are used for decades in revivals of the same productions. But I do agree that some of the main ballet companies need to co-ordinate programming better, particularly when touring so not everyone is doing Swan Lake at the same time, or Giselle etc. etc.

 

I'm afraid you will only get charity giving like in the US when our tax system is the same as the US.

 

Edited to add last sentence.

Edited by Pas de Quatre
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I don't disagree with your overall assessment but I don't see why ROH organisations should be ring fenced (me living up North and having limited opportunities to go to ROH).

 

I'm not saying ROH should be 'ringfenced' - I'm sure they will see cutbacks in ACE subsidy etc. But the ultimate cut - withdrawal of all public subsidy/effective closure/being subsumed within another company etc, is not going to happen to them. They are just such an international flagship for the nation. A bit like the big banks - hard to see them fail. This might not be fair but it's my feeling on the practical politics of it all.

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I'm not saying ROH should be 'ringfenced' - I'm sure they will see cutbacks in ACE subsidy etc. But the ultimate cut - withdrawal of all public subsidy/effective closure/being subsumed within another company etc, is not going to happen to them. They are just such an international flagship for the nation. A bit like the big banks - hard to see them fail. This might not be fair but it's my feeling on the practical politics of it all.

 

Exactly - an international flagship. Unlike the other 3 companies who give a lot of the UK an opportunity to see them without having to go to London. Surely in these straitened times we should look after our own population, why should those of us outside the South-East be deprived?

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I would certainly agree with Janet's comment re ROH. BUT

99% of my ballet watching is with BRB and I freely admit that I am defensive about my "home " company (as discussed recently on another thread) but I am sufficiently involved to know something of the efforts that have been and are being made to obtain "non public" money. Of course the old work has to be done, it puts bums on seats. However for several years, BRB have run the Directors Appeal, from which all the money goes to fund new work. Since 2009 we have had David Bintley's E=mc2 and, more recently, Faster, both funded from this scheme Two years ago we had the new Bintley full length production Cinderella totally funded with non public money and next month we will see his new Aladdin, so far only seen in Japan. Last season we also saw Jessica Lang's new short ballet Lyric pieces . That scheme is a drop in the ocean of the efforts being made to obtain "private" money. I have heard David Bintley stress more than once the importance of new work as the life blood of the company and for me, recent examples have been vibrant.

I agree with the comments about our system of taxation. And I understand the practical politics but the enormous efforts being made, out of London, should be celebrated. Rant over!

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Surely in these straitened times we should look after our own population, why should those of us outside the South-East be deprived?

 

Quite. But when you hear about poor turn-out in some of the regional theatres, cancellations of runs and so on, you can't help wondering if there isn't some better way ... Wayne Eagling was indicating a few years ago that ENB's increased number of performances in London was due to the fact that it was financially more advantageous for them.

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Cancellations of runs? Care to elucidate?

 

Don't know about cancellations, but we hear tales of ENB's marvelous production of Manon playing to less than half full houses outside London, whereas it virtually sells out at the Coliseum (and in a bigger theatre). Which gives the impression (wrongly or rightly) that people out of London are only ever going to come out and watch the old 'warhorse' ballets. Sadly, ENB's great triple bill at the Coli, had to be heavily discounted to get bums on seats - so Londoners not immune from avoiding what they don't know either. So whilst 'new work' would be great for us (who go a lot, and for the sanity of the dancers, and for the general 'health' of the artform), its not going to pay the bills, especially in these hard times. Which is a bit frustrating!

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This discussion gives me an opportunity to get back onto my old hobby-horse. I can only speak about the Coliseum and Sadler's Wells, but, in the case of the former, they have no incentive to publicise any productions other than ENO's. Leaflets advertising visiting productions are on display near the front door and the box office but nowhere else, and this week I could see nothing for BRB's Aladdin or ENB's forthcoming Ecstasy and Death programme. ENB are at fault here as well. On the way out after the (great) performance last night some people were looking for information about further productions but there was nothing for them to take away and the ushers, understandably, couldn't really help. The only thing available was an ENO booklet. What a wasted opportunity. ENB should have a table with leaflets at the Coliseum, manned by a representative of ENB BEFORE AND AFTER each performance (they could recruit volunteers for this, if necessary). I hope that someone connected with ENB will read this. Sadler's Wells are miles better at marketing their visiting productions: lots of leaflets on every floor (which people can browse during the intervals), good booklets posted out to previous customers and lots of e-mail contact.

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Dave, Manon certainly didn't sell well in Manchester so the Spring tour of same ballet did not seem to materialise. It's an egg and chicken situation. If people aren't given an opportunity to see something different then they are never going to try. But to build up an audience for something different, you have to be able to cope with less than full houses for some time. I don't know what the answer is.

 

I feel that the advertising outside London isn't always as pushy as it could be at certain theatres. Not ballet but years ago I knew something was coming to Liverpool and went to book tickets. The theatre denied all knowledge even though the leaflets had been sent to them by the company. Eventually the booking clerk made enquiries and I was able to book!

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I am on access list at Coliseum and its a source of frustration to me that I get glossy brochures for the operas but ballet is put in like an afterthought - I have to do the "leg work" to see whats on ballet wise.

 

And yes theatres can be terrible at advertising events. My son dances with Ballet Theatre UK and even on the day of performances you will be lucky to see a poster displaying the event despite a substantial amount of advertising material being sent to each venue. One theatre said "oh we don't get many Ballet Schools coming" when I enquired about their generous ballet School discount. I pointed out that none of the six local schools I'm in contact with were sent leaflets in time- 3 days notice isn't enough.

 

Its heartbreaking to think that companies are short changed by lack of service from the Theatres especially when they claim to include advertising in their fees.

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There are many ballet companies that visit from overseas without a penny of taxpayer subsidy. Perhaps they should involve those in the commercial side - UK ballet promoters etc in helping the publicly fuinded companies. Whenever taxpayer money is available the need to sell tickets is less important than seeking grants and filling in information about access etc.

 

Venue staff are paid by the local council or the venue and are all too often lazy having little interest in the visiting companies who pay the hire or indeed serving the public as hfbrew suggest above......it is down to the promoter to get the audience.

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I get quite a lot of e-mails from the Coliseum but only about ENO's productions. I occasionally get mailings about forthcoming ENB (and BRB) productions. The problem for ENB is that they do not hold details of past customers (unless they are friends) which means that they cannot market them directly and have to rely on the theatres to do it (inadequately). That is why ENB need to have a clearly identifiable representative at the theatres to hand out leaflets, talk to customers and, if possible, obtain contact details of the customers (independent shops often have a book for customers to enter their e-mail details in). If someone has already come to see a ballet and enjoyed it, it makes sense for the company to put some effort into trying to persuade him or her to come and see something else.

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I get quite a lot of e-mails from the Coliseum but only about ENO's productions. I occasionally get mailings about forthcoming ENB (and BRB) productions. The problem for ENB is that they do not hold details of past customers (unless they are friends) which means that they cannot market them directly and have to rely on the theatres to do it (inadequately). That is why ENB need to have a clearly identifiable representative at the theatres to hand out leaflets, talk to customers and, if possible, obtain contact details of the customers (independent shops often have a book for customers to enter their e-mail details in). If someone has already come to see a ballet and enjoyed it, it makes sense for the company to put some effort into trying to persuade him or her to come and see something else.

 

If they had to sell the tickets because the subsidy was less perhaps they would make the same effort as non subsidised companies or visiting companies who have to sell tickets to survive - more sense than spending money on "rebranding"

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Companies coming from abroad may not be subsidised by the British taxpayer but they may well be subsidised by their own country's funding arrangements or sponsors.

 

When a British company tours abroad the tours have to attract sponsorship to make them viable. Tours in the past have been announced and then subsequently not happened because the required level of sponsorship has not been achieved.

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restor, you made exactly the same point on another thread a short time ago. I'll therefore repeat my response to your point here. The spokesperson for ENB said that the company did not yet know the cost of the rebrand. Again, I get your point that you believe that ENB does not spend its tax funding efficiently.

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If we are looking at "new models" it is fair to ask What is subsidy for ?

 

To support the recreational activity of the audience?

To enable the creation of artistic work that would not otherwise be made?

To support British jobs?

 

What is the demand for ENB from the taxpayer?

ENB do not frequently perform to sell out venues - is the rebrand going to change this?

 

 

I am lucky that my ballet going is supported by the taxpayer unlike people who like watching some sports example but I also see high quality work from visiting companies who are not a charge on the taxpayer at sometimes lower seat prices. Non subsidised companies seem to have far fewer admin staff. ENB productions are never broadcast or available on DVD nor is there a demand from foreign countires that they should tour.

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I've recently picked up flyers for Midnight Express, Boston Ballet and Russian Seasons from the Coliseum foyer. The ENO website contains information and online booking for all visiting companies.

You are right and I do the "legwork" and look online because as a ballet goer I know that thats where to find the information. But the mail shots I get sent are primarily for the Opera. And I am not in a position to pick up flyers- a pity because they would be great to display at the various places I teach. People who would not normally consider Ballet as a night out have often no idea about how and where to go to one.

 

Another grumble I have is how many people will go to see a touring Russian company (because they are Russian and therefore must be good) but aren't prepared to support British dance and Ballet companies. But all companies, wherever they are from deserve better service from many of the Theatres that host them.

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restor, ENB may not broadcast their productions or produce DVDs but they certainly do tour overseas and have done for many years. I can't comment on your assertion that non-subsidised companies have fewer administrative staff than subsidised ones as I have never seen any statistics about this. Have you? The ENB dancers have just completed a run of 50 performances at the Coliseum in 6 weeks, with the majority of the dancers below principal level performing at almost every single performance. That folIowed tours to Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Manchester and Southampton in the Autumn. There are further tours to Oxford and Southampton before they return to the Coliseum in April. I hope that you're not going to suggest that the the dancers are underemployed as well.

 

 

 

 

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"Russian" in itself is not a badge of high quality ..if only we had enough British dancers to have a great British company without the need for the wonderful foreigh artists - as the French do.

i agree that "Russian" is not in itself a badge of high quality, that is exactly my point- but I do know that out in the regions this perception exists. And with good reason for of course, many people who do't know about Ballet have at least heard of the Bolshoi.

 

And we do have enough British dancers to make great companies but I for one am glad we get to see so many wonderful international dancers too. When I see a company I like to know that the dancers are the best for that company and not there just on Nationaliity. But there has been plenty of discussion elsewhere about where British dancers are employed. And there are plenty of them- quite rightly employed worldwide!

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And I am not in a position to pick up flyers- a pity because they would be great to display at the various places I teach. People who would not normally consider Ballet as a night out have often no idea about how and where to go to one.

 

Have you thought about contacting the company's marketing department?  Perhaps they could send you some out?

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I do think companies could do more to contact ballet schools with information when they are on tour.  From time to time I have contacted the marketing department of companies coming to venues in the area so I could give information/fliers to pupils.  It always proved to be a one-off and the next time they came, they didn't send anything. I thought we lived in an electronic age where names and addresses would be stored.  A big poster A3 or even just A4 to put on the noticeboard would be effective, but they never seem to be available. 

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I do think companies could do more to contact ballet schools with information when they are on tour.  From time to time I have contacted the marketing department of companies coming to venues in the area so I could give information/fliers to pupils.  It always proved to be a one-off and the next time they came, they didn't send anything. I thought we lived in an electronic age where names and addresses would be stored.  A big poster A3 or even just A4 to put on the noticeboard would be effective, but they never seem to be available. 

I've done this too. But like pas de quatre I get one offs and despite repeated requests, never get flyers etc through automatically. As I've mentioned above, I seem to have to do the leg work to find out about whats on Ballet wise. And sometimes marketing departments don't even respond! 

 

But whilst us teachers may be trying to interest our pupils into actually going to see Ballet there are a good many people who aren't remotely connected to Ballet Schools who would enjoy seeing  a live dance/ballet  performance. But because of poor marketing people are unaware of  the opportunities at local Theatres.  I Iwould add that this is probably true for Theatre companies in general, not just Dance.

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sending out flyers to the local schools seems such an obvious marketing thing to do it is a surprise they are not doing it....but sadly not many ballet schools seem to do group bookings but .sr perhaps they have tried it and found it didn't generate sales ..did you see the full page ad for enb in Time Out it did not mention any of their shows or indeed their website seems like a waste of advertising budget perhaps they have a new agency which just wants to promote the name English National Ballet as though that alone will build brand awareness and sell seats.

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