Over the past two years ProDanceLeeds has established itself as an artist led organisation, vital to the growth of the independent dance community in Leeds. We inspire and enable artists to sustain a professional career by inviting local, national and international teachers to come and lead morning class five times a week. Many of you that come to the classes have expressed a concern as to whether the classes will continue in the New Year and we haven’t been able to give you an answer. We still aren’t able to answer that question as the sad reality is that we don’t know. We want to share with you what is happening behind the scenes and let you know about some of the issues that ProDanceLeeds is currently facing.
The bottom line is - of course - money. The programme is heavily subsidised and absolutely relies on funding as it is important for us to be able to pay the artists we employ a fair rate (because we know this is a massive problem in our industry), at the same time as keeping the classes affordable for freelancers on a precarious, very low income. The majority of the work we have been doing this year has been to develop a strong model so that we can provide the kind of classes that our community want and needs. Part of this is to figure out how ProDanceLeeds can run in the long term. The problem we are facing at the moment is that although we have received two lots of funding through the Arts Council, they do not fund projects to run long-term through Grants for the Arts. There is one other funding stream we could access through the Arts Council - National Portfolio Organisation - but we do not have the legal structure, experience, capacity or wish to apply to become an NPO at this stage. For a long time we were in negotiations with Yorkshire Dance to become part of their NPO. That would allow us to still run the project as an independent organisation, but have the stability of regular funding for four years. Yorkshire Dance would have had to apply for an uplift (extra money than they asked for last time they applied) to fund us, which due to ACE advice, a limited pot of money for NPOs, a difficult application process and the ability for Yorkshire Dance to only apply for one project as part of that uplift meant that they chose to fund another project, that better suited their aims. So unfortunately these plans fell through very recently.
With only a few weeks left of the programme, this has left us with almost no time to come up with an alternative plan. We are looking at submitting another G4A at the end of January to support the running of the classes for another 18 months, which would buy us some time to yet again come up with a plan for how we can make the classes the steady provision that we believe this city needs. This means we won’t hear whether we have been successful until April 2017, at the earliest, which in turn means no class in January, February, March or April. We would like to run a scaled down version of the programme with three classes a week and local teachers - but this will still cost around 4K. This is why we have asked four dance organisations in the region to help and support us with cash, so that we are able to continue the classes in Spring, without losing the momentum that we have built during the past two years. We are currently waiting to hear whether they will be able to support us.
Since its inception, ProDanceLeeds has employed 67 teachers to teach 324 classes to 2402 participants. The number of people in class are steadily growing: in the last month we have had an average of 10 people every class - we are helping to build a community. The classes have gained a reputation nationwide and internationally with teachers contacting us from all around the UK as well as abroad to come to Leeds and share their practice. It has been an incredibly successful project, and we have learnt a lot.
Unfortunately the sad truth is that the current funding situation in the UK, and the current government cuts to this, means that everyone is stretched to their limits. We are really proud of the work we have done over the past two years and really happy to be part of such a supportive community as this one. However, at the moment it is looking like the future of ProDanceLeeds is quite uncertain. We believe in this project and we believe that the ways in which the dance community has grown and developed in the last few years has made a massive difference. We want to thank everyone who has been to our classes, supported us, advocated for us and shouted about us… and let you know that we’re not giving up yet. If we’re going down we’re going down FIGHTING!
Kate, Rachel, Rebecca and Sofia