The Evil Imp

Plan A

At a recent debate hosted by DanceUK and The Arts Desk an opening question was put to all in attendance. Something along the lines of “if you could have one wish for the dance profession what would it be?”

One of the answers came from Caroline Miller, the head of DanceUK, she said that “dancers should have better pay”. The figure £30,000 per year was mentioned at some point. We think that’s a bit low but we get the point she was making.

So far, so laudable. But that was it, there was no further discussion of how such a goal was to be achieved. No suggestions were made, no possibilites offered.

When you look at the problem from a purely pragmatic point of view the issue is very easy to break down.

If you want to increase dancers pay levels then you have to give dance companies and freelancers more money so they can pay increased wages. If you want to invest more money into dance then that money has to come from somewhere. Either new investment through increased subsidy or moving the money from another area of the subsidised arts sector.

Method one is not going to happen until we get rid of the current group of hapless thugs running UK PLC so method two is the only viable option at the moment.

Curiously two of those in attendance at this debate were our old friend and Chief Bottle Washer at Sadler’s Wells Alistair Spalding and the Managing Director of English National Ballet, Craig Hassall.

These two organisations, between them, suck up almost £9Million in annual subsidy and a lot more besides from other grants and local authority support. The two men in question are paid almost £250,000 annually between them. A number far in excess of what any professional contemporary dancer could ever hope to earn working in a company today, even if they have a full time contract.

English National Ballet, as of 2010, had an accumulated surplus of almost £4Million in the bank. Sadler’s Wells was able to squeeze Arts Council England for an additional £720,000 a while back, money we illustrated in detail that they did not need.

Yet neither of these two men were taken to task on this issue.

Nobody bothered to suggest that if you want to find the money then start stripping back large scale company funding, feed those large scale companies into the hapless Catalyst Arts programme, that ACE is so convinced will be successful, and then use the money saved to invest in the small and mid-scale, thus increasing dancer’s wages in the process.

That doesn’t just work for dance either, you can formulate the same plan for music and theatre.

You know what that is? It’s an idea. So why was that idea, or one like it, not raised by anybody on that panel or anybody sitting in the audience? Why, when those people were sitting there did nobody get in their face about it?

In other words, what the hell are we all doing here?

On the basis of that “debate” the only possible conclusion to come to is, not a whole lot!