South East Dance is well-known in the Brighton and Hove region for its community engagement and artist development programmes – not to mention its unrelenting efforts to push the boundaries of dance. The charity, which plays a national leadership role in the development of dance, has been looking for a new home since 2007. It will use a £350,000 loan from the Arts Impact Fund to support the development of its new multi-purpose dance studio.
The opportunity for the new development, known as The Dance Space, arose as part of a wider £100m regeneration project in the Queens Park area of Brighton and Hove spearheaded by the local council. It will bring new homes, offices and public space to one of the most deprived boroughs in England. Aside from being a base for South East Dance, The Dance Space will provide much-needed studio space, which will help attract and retain talented artists in the region.
At an organisational level, The Dance Space will help South East Dance become a more self-sustaining organisation. It will allow it to diversify its income base, drawing regular revenue from studio and office hire in the building, thus reducing the proportion of income required from public sources.
The total cost of The Dance Space is £3.78m, with funding coming from developer U+I, Brighton & Hove City Council, Arts Council England, The Wolfson Foundation, the University of Brighton, philanthropists and corporate sponsors among others. At the time of our investment, the majority of funding had been raised for the project, timing issues with capital inflows and further fundraising requirements meant cash flow management would prove a challenge. To help with this, South East Dance approached the Arts Impact Fund for a bridging loan.
The Arts Impact Fund was impressed by a number of aspects of South East Dance’s work. Its community development programmes have a strong health & wellbeing focus, working with vulnerable demographics to address, for instance, isolation, substance abuse and falls prevention. These programmes are typically delivered in collaboration with local partners that specialise in the area of need and can be subject to independent evaluation, which adds an impressive degree of rigour to the charity’s social impact assessment.
At the same time, South East Dance works to support artists at all stages of their careers through skills, network and profile-building activities, masterclasses and workshops, and providing residencies for dance professionals. It also provides seed funding for experimental ideas and is an active commissioner of new work.
The Arts Impact Fund also had to get comfortable with the business planning that underpinned The Dance Space. This meant reviewing market research, and questioning assumptions behind the revenue projections and fundraising plans. In the course of due diligence, the Arts Impact Fund team met with senior staff, trustees and representatives of some of the beneficiaries of South East Dance’s ’s work, which helped build a broader understanding of the charity.
The loan will ensure that construction of The Dance Space can begin on time, with the aim of opening in January 2018. Over the course of the investment, South East Dance will aim to implement comparable metrics around some of its social outcomes, which will allow it to aggregate the impact of its work across different projects. At the same time, it will look to increase the number of individual beneficiaries and expand the number of positive interventions available. The Arts Impact Fund team will be catching up quarterly to monitor progress in this respect.
The Dance Space offers an opportunity to ignite the imagination of the community, inspiring local residents to explore dance and build a lasting performing arts legacy in the city. Social investment here is performing one of its key aims by helping a charitable arts organisation build its balance sheet, and its internal resilience, with a powerful revenue-generating asset.
Image credit: Of Land and Tongue. Theo Clinkard. Image © Zoe Manders. South East Dance supported artist Theo Clinkard’s company perform at Circus Street Market, the future site of The Dance Space.