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Alistair Spalding: UK government should follow French in support of contemporary dance

Alistair Spalding. Photo: Hugo Glendinning
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Sadler’s Wells artistic director Alistair Spalding has argued that the UK government should follow the example of the French in its support for contemporary dance and the arts.

He was speaking at the launch of new contemporary dance festival FranceDance UK, where the comments were echoed by artistic director of festival Dance Umbrella Emma Gladstone and artistic director of Belfast International Arts Festival Richard Wakely.

Spalding argued that a system in France of choreographic centres that receive funding from both central and regional governments has led to a “huge environment for the creation of work and the support of artists that is unbeaten in the world”.

“That investment over the years has produced some great choreographers and work, and we benefit from that,” he said.

“It’s a very good model, and it takes a lot of investment, but it’s about putting culture more at the centre of daily life and way of being.”

Spalding added: “If we want to match some of the achievements that have been made in France and other European countries then the investment should come [from the UK government].”

Gladstone, who is also chief executive of Dance Umbrella, added: “It’s so jealousy-inducing to see a government that supports the arts and politicians that talk about it.

“[The arts] are the fastest growing part of the economy in the UK at present, but do we hear [politicians] talking about it? Do we see them going to shows? No.

“In France, I think [the arts are] not seen as something elitist and bourgeois, they’re seen as something that are paid for by the people and belong to the people, and the politicians, I feel from a distance, are proud to associate themselves with it.”

Wakely, who is also chief executive of Belfast International Arts Festival, said that a lack of government support for dance is also an issue in Northern Ireland.

“Certainly in Northern Ireland, contemporary dance is the Cinderella of the arts in many ways,” he said.

“It gives me no pleasure to say this, but Northern Ireland has the lowest spend per head on the arts of anywhere on these islands.

“The austerity agenda is still unfortunately well embedded in Northern Ireland, and who suffers first? It’s always the artists and arts institutions, and dance has suffered more than most.”

UK festival celebrating French contemporary dance launches

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