South London dance organisation to close after funding ends

A Dance for Wellbeing class at Greenwich Dance (Roswitha Chesher)
A Dance for Wellbeing class at Greenwich Dance (Roswitha Chesher)

A community dance organisation based in Greenwich has been forced to close after the local council didn't renew its funding and an unsuccessful bid was made to Arts Council England.

Greenwich Dance announced on Monday that it has entered redundancy talks with all its "grieving" staff ahead of its final closure on December 31.

The organisation said it has offered dance and wellbeing classes and workshops attended by more than 43,000 people since 2019, with a further 115,500 views and downloads of classes online.

It has offered dance services to south east London for 30 years and undertaken projects such as free Summer in the Park festivals and podcasts.

But the board said the Royal Borough of Greenwich made a "shock decision" in January to not renew its "longstanding" funding, following an unsuccessful National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) application made to Arts Council England last year.

Greenwich Dance's four-year funding agreement came to an end, as per the terms of the agreement, in March 2023, the council said.

"Over the last year, Greenwich Dance has worked tirelessly to seek different funding models to support its work with artists and communities and protect its staff," Greenwich Dance said on a statement.

"Despite success in attracting funding from trusts and foundations... and a successful community crowdfunder raising £10,000 towards space hire for its Dance for Wellbeing class programme, without support for its core costs Greenwich Dance is unable to continue operating.

"In the five years since the organisation was removed from Arts Council England’s National Portfolio, Greenwich Dance has successfully navigated huge challenges and an incredibly unstable funding climate.

"During this period Greenwich Dance has brought in over £1.8m worth of funding for high quality dance-based activity in the local community."

Greenwich Dance's chief executive and creative director said the organisation was put "into an immediate critical state" after Greenwich Council withdrew its funds earlier this year, even though it had been "consistently navigating financial challenges".

Melanie Precious said staff have been "going through a process of grieving".

She said: "Add to that the context of the current political and socio-economic climate and it has simply become impossible to uphold our fundamental mission. By continually chasing project funding we risk limiting the organisation to whatever it is funded for. We believe in the transformational power of our work and if we are unable to fulfil this ambition then we cannot continue.

“I am proud of everything we have achieved over the last five years. The opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives with our work is what has knitted us all together as a team.

"Whilst we are all going through a process of grieving, we’re hoping to find a moment where we can come together to celebrate our considerable achievements and honour everyone who has worked so tirelessly to make Greenwich Dance the incredible organisation it is.”

Greenwich Council said Greenwich Dance was aware that its funding was a time-limited agreement before applying for it, and so it could not have come as a shock.

A spokesperson said: "The closure of Greenwich Dance comes as a great blow to the communities and individuals it has served within the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

"When it became clear that the organisation was in trouble, the council provided access to a consultant to support them to develop options to remain open, but ultimately the board has made the difficult decision to close. Voluntary and Community Sector funding for Greenwich Dance came to an end March 2023 as planned.

"Unfortunately, the organisation was unsuccessful in applying for the next four-year programme. We are aware how hard the cultural sector has been hit by the lasting effects of the pandemic, the cost of living crisis and the Levelling Up agenda which has seen money diverted away from the capital.

"The council continues to provide support for local organisations including through our grants funding programmes BH365, the Community Arts Fund, Royal Greenwich Festivals and the VCS creativity funding workstream.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff and trustees of Greenwich Dance for their dedication and the contribution they have made to making dance accessible to everyone in our borough. "