Ballet star Tamara Rojo: moving arts cash from London won’t help

Tamara Rojo is leaving English National Ballet after 10 years in charge  (Dave Benett)
Tamara Rojo is leaving English National Ballet after 10 years in charge (Dave Benett)

Ballet star Tamara Rojo says “punishing London” by moving arts funding out of the capital will not help the rest of the country.

The dancer who is leaving English National Ballet after 10 years in charge, said the move by Arts Council England was “simplistic”.

The cuts to the capital, which saw institutions such as the Donmar Warehouse and English National Opera lose all their funding, came after the Government ordered the Arts Council to funnel £24 million of investment a year from London to the regions with another £8 million being spent on helping London-based groups leave the capital.

Other groups, from the Southbank Centre to the Royal Opera House, have lost some of their funding.

The Government said the plan was to take the arts to “places all too often overlooked” but Rojo said that shouldn’t be “at the expense of London”. She told the BBC: “I’m not sure that punishing London is going to help anybody else.”

English National Ballet will lose about five per cent of its income due to the cuts.

The Spanish dancer, who grew up in Madrid but came to the UK to dance aged 22, also said she would perhaps have never come here under current immigration rules.

The 48-year-old said her career flourished because “Britain opened its arms to a Spanish immigrant that didn’t speak any English”. Rojo, who is leaving to head up the San Francisco Ballet, said she would “not have passed the English test” and would have been unable to get a visa as she was not an established star when she moved here.

The Arts Council announced this month it was cutting the money from arts organisations in London in its 2023-26 settlement to fulfil a Government instruction to divert money away from the capital as part of the levelling-up programme.

It insists London will still receive a third of all the investment announced and says its ambition is “to ensure a more even spread of funding”.

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan has defended moving funding from London, saying “it will see organisations in places all too often overlooked get the support they need to transform access to the arts for everyone”.

This week, hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport in response to the cuts.

Actor Juliet Stevenson, who was among the protesters, said: “The Government’s line that this is levelling-up makes no sense at all. Spreading slashed funding more thinly doesn’t help our economy or communities anywhere in the UK.

“This is an agenda of cultural vandalism to silence innovative work, attack terms and conditions, and throw arts funding into the hands of a wealthy few.”