I am delighted to update you on some of the wonderful work that has been taking place behind the scenes here, and to update you specifically on Carlos Acosta’s plans for this autumn and Christmas.
Before I do however, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all our Friends and Dancers’ Circle supporters, and to everyone who has made a donation to our #BeRightBack campaign over the last few months. Our supporters have always helped us to deliver the inspiring and world-class work we do, both on and off the stage, but they could not be more important to us than right now. To find out more about our Friends or Dancers’ Circle groups or our #BeRightBack campaign – which closes next week! – please click on the links provided. Thank you again from all at Birmingham Royal Ballet for your help, support and continued interest in our work.
We are ready and excited to get back to work and to perform as soon as we can.
Our dancers officially come back to work in our Thorp Street building in Birmingham on 3 August. Carlos Acosta will be in the studio with them. We have created a 'safe back to work' plan for the dancers based on the process tested by professional sports.
2020 marks 30 years since the Company moved to Birmingham. We are determined to play an active part in Birmingham re-opening successfully and to bring some much-needed joy and live entertainment to our home city.
With so much uncertainty, it has been very difficult to confirm plans and performances, so we were thrilled when the Prime Minister announced that indoor shows for socially distanced live audiences are allowed from August. This means we can now push on with confidence to secure venues to deliver Carlos’s creative solutions for how Birmingham Royal Ballet can go out into our local community and entertain during Covid.
Carlos has been brilliant in this crisis. Despite the disappointment of not being able to present his vision for the Curated by Carlos Festival in June (don’t worry we’ve plans to present the festival next summer), he has created three flexible shows that Birmingham Royal Ballet can perform in whatever spaces we can secure – conference, sports or community centres – in different parts of Birmingham in October. Our home theatre, Birmingham Hippodrome is sadly currently closed, so our solution is to take a sprung floor out to large indoor spaces and put on free or heavily subsidised shows for socially distanced audiences.
Our dancers will also perform free outdoor ballet classes in the square in front of Birmingham Hippodrome (in the first week of September) and we are working with Birmingham City Council to secure another city centre public space to repeat the event. We’ve also been talking to our friends at the Birmingham Museums Trust about how Birmingham Royal Ballet can work with them when they reopen. Confirmed dates and times will be sent to you as soon as possible.
Our biggest job is to plan for Christmas. The Nutcracker is our largest, most popular show and essential to the Company’s financial stability. However, the numbers of people on stage, in the orchestra pit and backstage, plus the size of the set, means the show must be adapted if we are going to keep our staff, artists and audiences safe, and make the show financially viable with reduced audiences. It is our greatest ambition to be able to present The Nutcracker in December in Birmingham and London. It would be hugely symbolic as a positive sign of hope and recovery; celebrating the 30th anniversary of the production which was Birmingham Royal Ballet's gift to Birmingham in 1990.
For those of you who love contemporary ballet, Carlos Acosta has also commissioned a new socially distanced ballet, using projection mapping, which we are working to present in London at Sadler’s Wells Theatre this autumn. We’d love to perform it in Birmingham too, and are working to secure a venue. We are also planning to film the show for pay-per-view broadcast for our audiences who cannot attend a theatre event yet (more information, including the exciting choreographer, will be released very soon!).
Our Learning, Engagement, Access and Participation (LEAP) team have been working throughout lockdown to continue to deliver online classes for local young dancers with severe learning disabilities in our Freefall Dance Company, and we have recently restarted Dance Track, our free ballet training programme for talented children identified in Birmingham primary schools. We’ve had great success this year, with four of the local children we have trained going on this September to join the Royal Ballet School and Elmhurst.
Birmingham Royal Ballet's financial position – our future is tied to our venue partners’ survival
All the performing arts have been badly hit by Covid as has been reported in the media. Birmingham Royal Ballet is fortunate that we haven’t had to apply for Arts Council England (ACE) emergency funding. We are extremely grateful for the funding we receive from ACE and manage our finances very carefully. The Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme has been a lifeline for the Company as it has given us the time needed to re-plan and re-budget for our long-term survival, and protected the jobs of our 180 staff, dancers and musicians.
However, Birmingham Royal Ballet's future is under serious threat if the venues we perform at, including our home theatre Birmingham Hippodrome, go out of business or can only afford to programme big commercial shows in the future. This is why we were thrilled and grateful to government for their announcement that they will invest £1.57 billion of emergency funding for venues and hope very much that this will help Birmingham Hippodrome and all our other partner theatres in Birmingham and around England. We very much hope to be back touring soon.
It also goes without saying, that we are extremely grateful for the support we receive from our individual supporters, trusts and foundations, and corporate sponsors. As we cannot generate the box office income we would normally rely on they will play a key role in helping us fund our ambitious programme of activities for this autumn.
I very much hope that you can join us this autumn to watch an outdoor class and attend one of our socially distanced performances or, if you can't make it to a venue in Birmingham, watch us online. Thank you again for staying with us, and if you would like to find out more about how you can become involved with Birmingham Royal Ballet we would be delighted to hear from you.
With very best wishes