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Why being part of Europe is important to The Place

With the EU Referendum just over three weeks away, and with ever-more volatile and contentious campaigns that make it increasingly hard, even for the most discerning to distinguish between fact and fiction, I wanted to share some information with anyone interested in The Place, about how being part of the European Union impacts on our work.The Place plays a vital role nationally and internationally as a resource for contemporary dance development; we nurture future generations of dance artists and dance pioneers, from the youngest people who walk through our doors, right through to mature world-class talent.

Our 288 seat theatre is one of London’s busiest dance houses. We are also home to 11 associate artists, as well as home to the acclaimed Richard Alston Dance Company and London Contemporary Dance School – a leading conservatoire offering undergraduate and post-graduate vocational training to dancers; we also have 11 dance studios, and when they are not full of students, they are full of professional artists researching and developing new ideas, or in the evenings and at weekends they are full of adults and children taking classes and workshops. We are also home to one of nine National Centres for Advanced Training, a government funded programme that supports and nurtures young people aged 10-18 with exceptional potential in dance.In short, growing creative talent is our business. Our role is to create the environment and circumstances that allows creative talent to thrive, be ambitious, to take risks and to be brilliant.

Our role is also about growing audiences for that talent. In January this year we presented our 27th annual Resolution season, presenting 78 companies on our stage in just over 5 weeks. Many of today's biggest names in dance first presented their work on our stage.Our resident company - Richard Alston Dance Company - tours all over UK, but also abroad. In April, the Company performed at the Virginia Arts Festival as part of its 20th Anniversary celebrations; earlier this year they played four sold out nights in Aachen, Germany, in a former industrial factory. In September they will return to the US to perform in New York City Center’s prestigious Fall for Dance Festival. They are a small 10-strong company punching well above their weight – a fine example of home-grown talent flying the flag for Great Britain abroad. The freedom to move in and beyond Europe generates new audiences and new income for our resident company.

In explaining the work of The Place I often find myself saying that if we want the Chelsea Flower Show - or the dance equivalent - then we also need the potting sheds and allotments. Away from our theatre, much of what we do at The Place is hidden away from public view, in our studios. As well as showcasing our prize blooms, we are also the patient gardeners. Much of what we do to nurture artistic talent relies on partnerships, many with other dance organisations in the UK, but also further afield. As a dance organisation we benefit from strong links and well-established networks in Europe. These are central to our strategic aims and objectives that place artists and audiences at the heart of our work.

Being part of Europe is about access to talent, to finance and to markets. It’s also, most importantly, about relationships, and the mutual benefit that those relationships engender. Being part of Europe brings diversity to our student cohort, it allows exchange and dialogue and that helps broaden and enrich our students' world view. Access to Erasmus funding gives opportunity to students from other EU countries to come to study with us and to UK students to study abroad. Being part of Europe opens up markets for the professional artists we work with to showcase their work abroad and to be part of a larger community. It also adds breadth and richness to the international work we are able to present for audiences in our theatre.

What is really important to note is that our relationships to individuals and organisations across Europe involve regular exchange and dialogue. Many of these relationships are long-lasting and ongoing, and inter-dependent, and even those partnerships that exist to deliver shorter-term projects, these are often born from the trust and knowledge that are built upon existing sustained relationships. We belong to the European Dance House Network: 'A network for trust and cooperation between European Dance-houses who share a common vision regarding the development of dance across borders.' We work together to secure a sustainable future for the dance sector and to improve the relevance of all kinds of dance among society.'We are also a member of Aerowaves, a cross-border dance performance network of partners in 33 countries that enables younger choreographers to bring brand new dance to brand new audiences across Europe. Earlier this year we launched Pivot Dance - a three year project looking at the value of creating dance performances in consultation with audiences, artists and producers funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. This project is running simultaneously at The Place (UK), CSC Centro per la Scena contemporanea di Bassano del Grappa (Italy) and Nederlandse Dansdagen (The Netherlands), and will culminate in the creation of six brand new dance shows made with the help of an Audience Club in each country. The three partners represent a dynamic cross section of organisations in Europe – a producing theatre, a national platform and an international festival. There is a synchronicity in our organisational objectives towards artists and audiences that extends beyond our individual missions and embraces wider sectoral objectives around deepening artists and audience relationships. We have even more recently received further EU funding for a new project that looks at creating dance performances specifically for visually impaired audiences. 

These are just some examples of why being part of the EU is important to us here at The Place. The creative richness of so much of what we do is enhanced by being part of the EU, and I believe this to be true not just in our organisation, or in dance, but right across the creative industries. In the end, it is as much about approach and outlook as about direct financial gain. We have no wish to look inwards, to pull up the drawbridge and ignore the huge benefit that comes from the relationships we enjoy with our closest neighbours in Europe. Our membership of the EU helps us to make the best use of the rich seam of creative talent we have in the UK and it brings new ideas and new talent to us in return. We value being part of a bigger conversation as  active members within a bigger community. It makes a positive difference.

Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp OBE

Chief Executive, The Place


A recently published survey conducted by the Creative Industries Federation showed more than 96% support for Remain among its members, with barely 4% in favour of Leave. 

The Creative Industries Federation is a membership organisation representing the views of the UK's creative industries, while challenging and assisting the sector to stay ahead of the international competition. 

The Place, along with Warner Brothers UK, became the first paid members of the Creative Industries Federation at its launch in November 2014. 




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