Northern Ballet | Buy Back A Dancer Campaign

Northern Ballet to launch Buy Back A Dancer

For Northern Ballet, the substantial 15% cut to core funding from Arts Council England is very bad news.  Added to other pots of funding that have been withdrawn (for example, the Sustain Fund was worth £735,000 during the period 2009-11 – Sustain is Arts Council England’s response to the impact of the recession on arts organisations whose sustainability is important in delivering their mission of great art for everyone), the actual cuts are a whopping 25% and that means that the company has to manage with £800,000 less in 2012/13 than it took to run the company in 2010/11. That’s why, for Northern Ballet, the lack of funding could mean taking drastic measures.

ballet dancer jumps high in the air

Toby Batley Photograph : Bill Cooper

The company has 39 dancers and these dancers give more performances, to more people in more places than any other dance company. For example, in the last 4 years the company has given 650 performances in the UK with approximately 100 weeks of touring to 17 venues and to more than half a million people. 

To make these savings, and with a heavy heart, the company feels is has no other option than to cut the number of dancers – potentially up to 10. This would severly impact on the type of productions they could perform, on new works, as well has the amount of touring they could undertake. Additionally, Northern Ballet has a programme of participatory activity that is also under threat.

ballet dancer stands on pointe

Hannah Bateman Photograph : Bill Cooper

Northern Ballet has created 10 full length ballets in 10 years, including the very successful Cleopatra starring Martha Leebolt and Toby Batley.  57% of their income is derived from public funds, and the consistently high level of audience support and engagement is now more vital than ever and will need to rise.

In order to help to secure the future of the company and avoid the loss of dancers, Northern Ballet is working on a new campaign, to launch in October, called Buy Back A Dancer. The company are aiming to raise £250,000 per year to buy back 10 dancers.

The company is hoping for donations (follow the link above to make one) and is also very willing to work with you in any way they can to organise your own fundraising events.  

Now, it seems to me that this opportunity is a perfect recipe for us! I wonder whether all of you wonderful Ballet News readers can be as imaginative & resourceful as ever – and make a difference by building up a head of steam before the campaign is even launched. We’ve already helped one dancer’s dream come true (more on Heather McGowan next week) so it can be done!

Please do get in touch with me if you have any ideas that you would like to implement to raise funds for Northern Ballet and need any help in making them happen. Together we could safeguard the future of the dancers of Northern Ballet and I think that’s worth doing, don’t you ?

Martha Leebolt ballet dancer on pointe

Martha Leebolt Photograph : Bill Cooper

9 Responses to Northern Ballet | Buy Back A Dancer Campaign

  1. Elizabeth Stagg June 29, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    So sad to hear this, if I ever win the lottery I’ll be straight there with some funds. Good luck…

  2. May June 29, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    I think the “Buy Back a Dancer” scheme is good – in America, you can even sponsor individual dancers, from the star principals to corps members, and the sponsor gets their name acknowledged in the programme and website (or anonymously, if they prefer that). If people can contribute to their favourite dancers (even if that dancer doesn’t need buying back, so to speak, but the money goes into the same kitty) I think many would take part.
    Another thing I’ve wondered is why dance companies don’t do a gift voucher/gift card scheme like you can do for department stores – I know many families and friends would like to buy a treat at the theatre as a gift (eg Nutcracker for children or a night at any ballet for a couple or a girl friend) but find it too awkward looking out for a suitable date, then suitable programme, then asking if their friends want to go, etc etc, do they accompany them or not, and so on. If you can buy a gift voucher, the recipient chooses when they want to go, and they can be encouraged to think of the ballet if they won’t normally think of it. How many families brave a tiring, hot day at a theme park (with screaming crowds and long queues) and how many adults endure another “samey” night out at a pub or town centre because they’ve run out of ideas? Also if you give even a small amount as a gift voucher, eg for a child, the family member taking them don’t mind buying another ticket for themselves, whereas spending on two or more good seats may seem expensive (but actually probably not more so than many other live events).
    Of course, it means working out how you would get a theatre to accept company vouchers and rule out fraud/copies, etc etc, but I think it is a scheme worth trying out at a company’s home theatre. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Dance company finance departments need to start being able to think outside the box – not just NB, but all of them, incl RB, ENB, SB, etc

  3. Ballet News June 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    Good points May. How about a loyalty card (like a plastic credit card) so that when you do buy tickets, you get points that go towards something that you might want (also sold by the ballet company). Boots have, I think, the best and most rewarding scheme and I can’t see why something similar wouldn’t work for ballet companies. But not, of course, for donations. They should be seperate and your reward there is that you’ve helped the company/dancers. Northern Ballet really does need to safeguard their dancers – they just don’t have as much room for manoevre as some other companies – so please keep the donations and the ideas coming !

  4. Jennifer Rowe June 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    As the permanently commenting BRB fan, I would like to say that, whilst I don’t have a clue about the development teams of the other ballet companies in the UK, I do think our development team have had a brilliant strategy over recent years. We have three different schemes which run simultaneously: Friends, the Directors’ appeal and Dancers’ Circle. The Friends is a smallish annual fee which gives you priority booking at the Birmingham Hippodrome and other venues, discounts on tickets and then for additional fees you can go and see classes, studio rehearsals and pre-performance talks. Directors’ appeal is anywhere from £150 upwards a year (there is an additional tier of membership at £400) and that gives access to 5 stage rehearsals a year which may be full dress and orchestral rehearsals or stage rehearsals with a piano accompaniment. In 4 years, this appeal alone has raised £400,000.
    There is also the Dancers’ Circle for donations of £1,000 upwards which gives much more access to the company. Benefits include receptions where you can meet some of the dancers and talk to David Bintley, talks from key members of staff such as the company manager and director of the centre for prevention and treatment of dance injuries.
    It is probably obvious that this is my company, it is the company I watch and follow keenly but I have been very impressed with their fundraising efforts in recent years. It says a lot about the company that when the Big Give occurred BRB was the first Arts organisation to meet their target funding and I think the fact that those among us who aren’t simply casual ballet goers can meet the dancers and see the backstage work does have a lot to do with the amount the company is able to raise from other sources.
    I do agree that more needs to be done to increase access and therefore boost attendance to ballets- I’m not sure a loyalty card is necessarily the right programme, purely because of the administration of it and set up costs. You can buy ballet tickets by internet, post, over the phone or in person at the box office so administering such a scheme could get a bit complicated.
    Northern Ballet is the first company I can remember seeing and I admire them greatly because they do have a very broad rep and are not afraid to push boundaries and produce new ballets, even though this is an expensive thing to do. Not all of them will work, of course they won’t but that is the nature of the audience. And whilst I think their “Buy back a dancer” is a great idea, they need to be sure that they are offering donors something in return. Whether that is meeting the dancer in question, watching one of their rehearsals in the studio, a signed pair of shoes, I can’t say but I do think that there needs to be an incentive.

  5. Trudi June 29, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    I saw that a choreographer from the RB had taken a couple of dancers and improvised in a vacant shop in London somewhere. Could other (admitedlly very busy) dancers go out into local shopping areas and give a brief intro into ballet as a whole including demonstrations? I know ballet can be done to slightly more ‘modern’ music as well could that be a way forward in the demmos? Perhaps use the less experienced dancers as very few of the regular public will be ballet critics.

  6. Couture Carrie June 29, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    What a bummer!


  7. May June 29, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    @Jennifer- yes, thought you’d be beating the drum for BRB, excellent. You know, about 20 years ago my friends prob thought I had a cult obsession with BRB or something….but they do inspire that kind of loyalty. Sadly they don’t visit the south as much as they used to, but if that means they are covering other regions, that’s a good thing. I digress – what would be interesting to know is how they funded some recent productions like their Cinderella (apart from a little thing they had with Sky Arts and the usual listed sponsors on the programme. Bintley mentioned in his interview on Sky that they managed to get money to put on Cinderella by fundraising – it would be helpful to know they did anything additional from what you’ve listed which the other mainstream companies already do (ENB does a lot of the backstage stuff, RB has those different circles of sponsoring) to reach the target budget they needed.

  8. May June 29, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    @BN – just to answer your question, I’d be very interested if a loyalty card for an individual organisation would work. Am prob being super conservative here, but I am guessing it might not be of much help to NB, as it’s not a massive company. This has already been tried in the past I think – Beneficial Bank (I am about 95% certain they were the ones that did it) had an Arts Card, which donated to arts organisations with various points you accrued, but I think we worked out that the amount was so little that when the credit cards with cashback rewards came out it was better to obtain the cash and give a Gift Aid donation (extra 30% off for taxpayers!) to the organisation. But if NB could link themselves with an existing scheme like Nectar, that would work. As Jennifer says, the admin costs would soon eat away what donations you receive.

    At present the only “gift voucher” scheme is theatre tokens, but what we need are ballet tokens or dance tokens to stipulate it must be used for ballet and that only the ballet companies in the scheme benefit from this, or that they are issued by an individual company. I am guessing at present not many dance tickets are bought with theatre tokens.

    The only thing to add from my comments on FB was, how about a Northern Ballet gala down south (and up north) for their fans in the south……….we’d love to see their narrative ballet and other snippets (eg Cleopatra) again.

  9. Ballet News June 29, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    Thanks everyone. All great suggestions.

    I’d like, though, to focus on what you could do to fund raise for Northern Ballet, rather than what they can do for themselves.

    Who has some innovative ideas ?

    @May – the gala is a great idea but who is going to organise it? NB are looking for people to get involved with their own events etc.