A case study from Siobhan Davies Dance, a recipient of the Mayor of London’s Creative Workspace Resilience Fund.
Founded in 1988 by pioneering choreographer Siobhan Davies CBE, Siobhan Davies Dance (SDD) is an artist-led contemporary arts organisation that advances the art forms of dance and choreography.
Siobhan Davies Dance has worked hard to create a hub for experimental dance and choreography, connecting artists and audiences through investigative, collaborative and interdisciplinary activities. The result is the formation of a powerful platform for their work that is hard to find elsewhere in the UK cultural landscape.
The organisation earns its income through support from the Arts Council, but also has to earn money from studio hire, class and course fees, and from ticketed events. The Covid-19 lockdown has wiped out the majority of this income for the foreseeable future. During lockdown the team felt it important to continue offering classes by putting them online on the understanding that, as many people are struggling with income, participants were asked to pay only what they could, with SDD subsidising any shortfalls.
Many studios have helped their tenants in order to maintain a positive relationship, ensure they are able to return after the lockdown and support the sector, however this can cause further financial hardship. As well as losing their own income, SDD’s community of independent dance artists have been greatly affected by lost income, work and creative outlets. Rather than going on furlough many SDD staff worked to support tenants through these difficult times with diversifying their activity, funding applications and other support. “This kind of support helps us keep in touch with the community of artists who would usually hire space within our building,” explained Carrie Anne Duff, Development Manager at SDD.
“We are working hard to ensure resilience in the future so we can continue to act as a resource for the dance community, providing studio space for their activities. This work will have a ripple effect as our tenants in turn support a large number of independent artists and so through them, we are helping a wider artistic community.”
SDD successfully applied for the Creative Workspace Fund to enable them to provide further free and subsidised studio space for independent dance professionals allowing them to keep dancing and recommence work upon re-opening the building. “The Creative Land Trust has made a generous offer of funding which has enabled us to offer some of these artists free space in the studios once we can reopen.”
The hard work being done by SDD remains critical to the creative industries even as lockdown may have eased. This is because of the longer-term impact that the pandemic has had on public attitudes. For example, a survey by Indigo Consulting this summer revealed that 43% of theatre goers wouldn’t consider booking a performance for at least four more months: revealing a reluctance that will likely impact across the creative arts at of all types.
Recently, SDD invited a small number of artists from their network to test our new Covid-secure studio set up, although at the moment the number of people accessing the space remains restricted and this, combined with wariness around using public transport, may continue to be an issue for the studio.
“The artists who have come in to help test our new ways of working have been very happy to be back in the studio space; creating and dancing despite the different conditions and difficulties around transport. That has been really heartening to see and lends us a feeling of hope for the future of our organisation and the wider dance sector.”
“We believe that in order to build a more sustainable future for artists and studios we need recognition from the Government and wider public that culture and creativity are central to society and our way of life. Something which is often ignored, misunderstood or unacknowledged is how much the arts contribute to the UK economy and the positive impact on an individual’s development and well-being through the participation and engagement in the arts.”