Ballet, Birmingham & Me - Encouraging 80 young Brummies to Dance for the Games

Background

As part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) created a brand new production of Cinderella. Running alongside the main performance was Ballet, Birmingham & Me (BB&Me) – a two-year programme of mass participation involving 80 young people drawn from youth clubs across the city, leading to the cohort’s own performance of Cinderella at Birmingham Hippodrome for one night only on 7th December.

The project was conceived and executed along with partners Birmingham Youth Service and Birmingham Association of Youth Clubs. The participants worked with dancers from Birmingham Royal Ballet as well as professionals from other stage disciplines – such as production, set design and wardrobe – and undertook a major role in the planning, creativity and management of a large-scale dance presentation.

BB&Me was created as a Dancing for the Games project inspired by London 2012, part of the West Midlands’ Culture Programme for London 2012 – a three year programme funded by Legacy Trust UK, Arts Council England West Midlands and Advantage West Midlands which aims to get as many people as possible across the West Midlands.

Objectives

*Generate regional publicity and awareness during the final six months of the project
*Facilitate communication amongst all internal and external stakeholders including project partners and funder stakeholders
*Showcase BRB’s work to local authorities, educators and funding providers
*Provide a media spotlight for the participants to tell their own story

The participants were encouraged to tell the tale in their own words to keep a feeling of youthful honesty and offer genuine personal insight to journalists. A number of the cast were given media training by former ITV Central Tonight newsreader Llewella Bailey so they could act as project spokespeople.

The Comprehensive Spending Review and Arts Council funding cuts were used as an opportunity to talk about elements the project. BRB’s chief exec Christopher Barron, members of the project team and the cast themselves took part in a number of television and radio interviews about the significance of arts outreach projects and legacy benefits of projects such as BB&Me.

Participant Ian Bradbury spoke about how he had first taken part in a BRB youth project six years ago, and had since stayed actively enthused about ballet and even taught it to his friends at his local youth club. Maximising links to the Olympics, a media tour of the London 2012 Olympics Park was hosted by Jonathan Edwards CBE and provided a chance for 16-year old BB&Me participant Luke Green to explain how he swapped rugby practice for ballet lessons in order to keep fit following a knee injury. This helped communicate the Dancing for the Games link to the Olympics and the fitness benefits of dance to a regional audience.

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