9 June 2014 at 6.52pm | 13 Comments
Today, Harriet Harman made a speech at The Roundhouse about young people and the arts. Much of what Labour’s Deputy Leader (and Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary) said chimed with our aims as an organization to enrich people’s lives through opera and ballet, and to enable as wide and diverse an audience as possible to enjoy our art forms.
That is why we were disappointed to find that although Harriet referred to the ‘great’ work we do with the local community in Thurrock, Essex, she went on to talk about a visit to watch Dialogues des Carmélites in the following terms,
‘I couldn’t see in the audience anyone who wasn’t like myself – white, metropolitan and middle class.’
She goes on to talk about the responsibility of publicly funded institutions to reach out to bring disadvantaged groups closer to the arts, and to ensure that people outside London have a chance to experience great art.
Lots of our audience have been commenting on the Guardian article trailing the speech - and on social media – to flag all the ways we reach out to young people and disadvantaged groups (for which, much thanks). We wanted to flag just a few of the projects we’ve been running recently:
- On stage during the very performance Harriet attended were a community ensemble composed of drama students, the homeless and the long-term unemployed. They were recruited by organizations including Streetwise Opera and many say that the experience has had a transformational effect on their lives
- This week we are putting on sale the tickets for the opening night of our 2014/15 season. The performance of Mark Anthony Turnage’s opera Anna Nicole will be available only to students and tickets will start from £1.
- Last week we held one of our regular Schools’ Matinees performances, in which over 2,000 teachers and students watched a mixed ballet programme and roared their delight after every piece. We offer schools a travel grant if they need it and 44% of the audience is from outside Greater London.
- We agree wholeheartedly with the importance of the arts in education and that’s why we are training teachers and trainee teachers so that, over the course of their career, they can inspire many thousands of young people about the arts. Our courses include this summer's Write an Opera.
- Our Youth Opera Company meets weekly and performs on the Main Stage of the ROH. Over 65% of the children taking part are from black and minority ethnic communities or non-British white backgrounds. They are terrific performers, selected entirely on merit.
- We work with companies around England to support their touring programmes and assist them in business development, so even if you haven’t visited Covent Garden you may have benefitted indirectly from the support we’ve given Stop Gap Dance or Mid Wales Opera.
We could go on and on, but if you’d like more detail, do take a look at the evidence we submitted to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on the work we do with Arts Council England.
Consistent investment from Arts Council England, combined with the generosity of audiences, charitable trusts and sponsors has enabled us to develop a large-scale programme of Learning and Participation work and we want to shout about it.
Harriet, do keep banging the drum for cultural entitlement, but do please also come and experience first-hand the screams of delight at a Schools' Matinee. You’d be surprised.