As a network of independent producers and artists, IDMN has been very disheartened by Arts Council England's (ACE's) decision to remove three regional dance agencies - Greenwich Dance, MDI and Dance Manchester - from their portfolio of regularly-funded organisations. We are concerned about the impact that this decision will have on audiences, participants and professional dance artists alike, especially considering Nicholas Serota's statement in The Stage of 12 July 2017 that "our 2018-22 investment will not lead to a reduction in ... opportunities for artists and audiences"; despite these stated intentions, a reduction in opportunities is exactly what we are seeing across London's capital and the North West, the heart of the Northern Powerhouse.
We struggle in particular to come to terms with ACE's decision to withdraw Greenwich Dance's £320k/year grant; as IDMN member Lise Smith says, "I believe gDA provides one of the best examples of a fully joined-up dance agency: working in the community with people who otherwise have little access to dance and performing arts; providing regular recreational classes; creating opportunities for people in SE London to watch professional performances; and offering professional class and artist support to emerging, mid-career and established artists. Other dance agencies undeniably exist, but in my view, few combine these strands of work as effectively and holistically as gDA. I am genuinely very upset by this decision, as I know many others are."
Reflecting on Greenwich Dance's legacy over its 24 years of existence since it was founded in 1993 "to provide a meeting place for professional dance artists and the local community", Greenwich Dance has been at the forefront of supporting independent artists and their work, as well as genuinely working for and with the local community and audiences. It has provided an invaluable basis for many artists' careers, as dancers and as choreographers, and fostered the development of many managers and producers. It is a key part of the dance community: always nurturing, welcoming, non-pretentious and genuinely believing in the power of dance for all.
Natalie Richardson has worked with a number of Greenwich Dance-supported artists and provides an overview of the essential support offered by Greenwich Dance towards professional artists: "Without a doubt, the independent UK dance artists I work with have all benefitted greatly from the essential advice, support, guidance, free space and classes offered by gDA over the last 15 years. GDA has been instrumental in helping their dance careers flourish in the UK and to be the successful artists and companies that they are now."
Chantal Guevara has strong ties with the North West and has been particularly dismayed by ACE's choice not to continue supporting essential parts of the dance industry's infrastructure. She feels it is increasingly difficult not to see the cuts as a strategic blow to regional practice, such is the impact of these decisions: withdrawing essential support for public engagement with and enjoyment of dance in these regions, without any advertised uplifts to secure continuation of the essential work they do with children, youths, older people, marginalised communities, in supporting and developing the professional artists who carry out this work, and in developing audiences for dance. This continues a trend begun three years ago when funding for the latter two activities was withdrawn from Manchester and Liverpool in the previous NPO round.
We jointly feel that not only is this a worrying indication of ACE's shift of funding away from artist-focused organisations and towards buildings, it also demonstrates a reluctance to continue the grassroots support which has been cut by essential organisations such as MDI, Dance Manchester, Hope Street Limited, PANDA and Plymouth Dance as well as Greenwich Dance, which will not only have a significant impact on independent artists' ability to thrive and grow, without the necessary financial and in-kind support which artists rely on in order to build their careers. We are also concerned by the impact on Grants for the Arts funding this will have, if artists are now having to compete with former and would-be NPOs for their survival in an already heavily-oversubscribed funding scheme, even if an amount of ringfencing is due to be announced with ACE’s new Creative Individuals Fund.
We have seen an increasing divide develop between the regularly-funded NPOs and the project-funded independent artists, where independent practice is becoming increasingly unsustainable due to the difficulties in securing basic funding for their work, and due to the amount of unpaid work which is expected by ACE in order to even attempt to gain funding. This is why the role of these dance agencies is so necessary, and why there has been such a profound response to ACE's decision to remove them from the NPO portfolio.
We look forward to hearing and seeing how ACE intends to address this gap in dance development provision to ensure that no communities and no artists lose out as a result of their decisions, and that the loss of core funding to these three organisations will in no way impact on professional artists’ ability to secure the necessary support and match funding for their careers to continue to thrive.
Chantal Guevara, Lise Smith, Natalie Richardson and other members on behalf of
Independent Dance Management Network (IDMN)
Should you want to engage with Greenwich Dance's situation, they are holding an informal open meeting on Tuesday 18 July at 6.30pm, and the Facebook invite for the event, with a registration link is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/153508191878925
Equity has launched a petition to Arts Council England to protect gDA’s future: https://campaign.goingtowork.org.uk/petitions/protect-greenwich-dance
Dance Manchester has launched a fundraising campaign, if you'd like to contribute: https://platform.nationalfundingscheme.org/DMAN003?charity=DMAN003#.WWbH4oTyvIU
MDI is still planning their next steps, but you can subscribe to their newsletter here for updates: http://www.mdi.org.uk/about/mailing-list/