Interview by Neil Nisbet

On July 10th 2006 Dance UK, the self described advocates for dance in the UK, handed the Culture Minister, David Lammy, the much anticipated Dance Manifesto that set forth what they, in consultation with the dance population at large, think needs to happen to improve dance's lot in life!

For our first ever Podcast we spoke with DanceUK's Chief Executive, Alistair Spalding, about the manifesto, the hopes the organisation have for it and what we see as some potential shortcomings.

What strikes you first of all about the document itself, all 24 full colour pages of it, is that it's more like a brochure. In these times it apparently would not do to simply hand in a well crafted piece of writing and expect anyone to take it seriously.

"Dance has a great visual impact" explained Mr Spalding, "so we wanted to try and get people's attention [and] we're talking to people here who haven't got it on their agenda or on their radar so we had to kind of grab their attention. So that's the way in, is to give people images. I think there is a lot of detail in what we think should happen in each of the priority areas."

At the core of the document are the 4 'achievable' aims that DanceUK would like to see fulfilled, they are;

1) Dance to be supported and developed as an art form
2) Dance to be an integral part of every young person's education
3) Dance to be available and affordable for everyone to watch and participate in
4) Dance to be a sustainable career with world class training

The document follows a specific pattern throughout stating for each area 'the progress made so far', 'what needs to change' and finally DanceUK's 'recommendations'.

It is with the recommendation that the Manifesto becomes specifically non-specific in its writing. When we asked Mr Spalding about this he told Article19;

"We tried to have some outcomes that we could measure so there are some specific suggestions there in terms of what might happen in particular areas [but] it was really to say these are the broad areas of need and if you want to know more we [DanceUK] can give you more information about particular issues.

Dance is such a broad area anyway, there are so many people involved with it on different levels if we tried to be too detailed on the absolute minutia of what might be deliverable then it would have been a book and I think this is the beginning of something really."

Bad Signals

Throughout the interview we touch on issues regarding dancers pay, and why DanceUK chose not to set a specific target for a minimum wage for professional dancers, what the organisation considers to be 'adequate funding' as mentioned on page 7 of the manifesto, whether or not dancers will feel a little short changed by the lack of specifics throughout the document and what happens next now that ball is in their court, so to speak.

Mr Spalding mentions the "very bad signals" that are coming from central government with regard to just how much money they are going to give the arts via Arts Council England.

The interview is 15 minutes long and can be accessed via the iTunes music store [ click on the big button top left ] and it is of course, completely free.

You can follow the 'what is this' link above if you need any help accessing the Podcast. Our Podcasts are enhanced for iTunes and feature chapter markers so you can easily skip to each question and the interviewees response. At present we only support iTunes with our Podcasts.

The manifesto itself can be downloaded in PDF format from the link below.

[ The Dance Manifesto PDF ]