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‘Arts are the forgotten world-beaters,’ says renowned Swan Lake choreographer

Sir Matthew Bourne reveals culture minister did not even know who he was

05 May, 2017 — By Jane Clinton

Sir Matthew Bourne with Islington Arts & Media School students

CHOREOGRAPHER Sir Matthew Bourne has hit out at the government’s lack of support for the arts and called on politicians to recognise the huge economic and social benefit homegrown creativity brings to the UK.

At the fourth Trustees’ Education Lecture at Islington Arts & Media School, in Turle Road, Finsbury Park, guest speaker Sir Matthew voiced regret at the short-sightedness of government ministers.

He revealed that Karen Bradley, the culture, media and sport secretary, did not even know who he was at an arts event.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I don’t expect to be known or recognised, but her entourage seemed to know who I was and my work but I could see she was floundering a bit and this was just a little indication to me that this was someone who needs to gen up a little bit.”

Sir Matthew OBE has won a cache of awards, including seven Oliviers, and has created the world’s longest-running ballet. “The problem is that most people in politics are not that interested in the arts. You have got the exceptions but it’s not top of the agenda of what gets votes, they think.”

The Red Shoes

Referring to the multi-billion pound success story that is the arts in the UK, he said talent should be nurtured at school.

He regretted the cuts to creative subjects. “The government is not proud enough of the fact that we are the best in the world at so many things in the arts,” he said. “You would think that would be a selling point, wouldn’t you?”

He was echoing concerns about government cuts voiced at the event by the school’s new headteacher, Susan Service.

“We are committed to make sure creativity is at the heart of learning here,” she said. “It is very sad that with the cuts the creative arts are being marginalised almost to extinction but here we are going to do our best and we are committed to keeping them alive.”

Sir Matthew, who lives off Upper Street, spoke of his “late start” in dance – at the age of 22. His first dance lesson was an audition to get into Laban Dance Centre, now Trinity Laban Conserv­atoire of Music and Dance.

His dance company, New Adventures, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. In 2008, he established his charity Re: Bourne to increase opportunities for young people to take up dance.

Diversity in dance, he said, was still an issue and the cuts could affect this despite people’s best efforts.

“It is the main issue in professional dance,” he said. Dance tuition did not start at an early age, making it vulnerable to cuts.

Sir Matthew, who was knighted in 2016 for services to dance, was in conversation with dance critic and journalist Sarah Crompton. They spoke after dance performances by school students.

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