Campaigns: Arts & Culture - Ballet puts young people centre stage

Campaign: Ballet, Birmingham & Me
Client: Birmingham Royal Ballet
PR team: Clive Reeves Public Relations
Timescale: July-December 2010
Budget: £10,000

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) created a new production of Cinderella. Alongside this ran Ballet, Birmingham & Me, a two-year programme of mass participation involving 80 young people from youth clubs across the city, who would perform their own version of Cinderella on 7 December. The Ballet, Birmingham & Me initiative was created as a Dancing for the Games project inspired by London 2012. It also formed part of the West Midlands' three-year culture programme to get people across the region dancing, which culminates in 2012.

Objectives

- To generate regional publicity and awareness

- To showcase BRB's work to local authorities and funding providers

- To drive footfall to the Ballet, Birmingham & Me performance.

Strategy and plan

The PR team used natural and staged moments within the timeline of the production to create media opportunities. These included the casting of key characters such as Cinderella and Prince Charming, costume fittings, hair and make-up sessions and dress rehearsals.

The young Ballet, Birmingham & Me participants were encouraged to tell their stories in their own words, and some key cast members were given media training by former ITV newsreader Llewella Bailey so they could act as spokespeople for the project.

The Comprehensive Spending Review and Arts Council funding cuts were used as further hooks to publicise the project.

BRB's chief executive Christopher Barron, members of the Ballet, Birmingham & Me project team and cast members took part in TV and radio interviews about the significance of arts outreach projects and the legacy benefits of projects such as Ballet, Birmingham & Me.

To maximise Olympic links, a media tour of the London Olympics Park was hosted by 2000 Olympic triple-jump gold medallist and London 2012 organising committee member Jonathan Edwards.

It gave a chance for 16-year-old Ballet, Birmingham & Me participant Luke Green to talk about how he swapped rugby practice for ballet lessons to keep fit after a knee injury.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign generated 30 pieces of media coverage in national and regional titles. Highlights included a feature in The Independent's arts diary, a feature in Dancing Times, three reports on BBC Midlands Today, two reports on the BBC's website and six pieces in the Birmingham Mail.

Results

In total, 1,700 people attended the Ballet, Birmingham & Me performance, including the mayors of Birmingham, Walsall and Dudley. A total of 100 dignitaries and guests from the Arts Council, Big Lottery Fund and other arts and local organisations attended a VIP gala before the performance, allowing BRB to showcase the project to stakeholders.

SECOND OPINION

Juliet Simpson, MD, Stripe Communications

This campaign really is the stuff of which little girls' and boys' dreams are made.

While it would be very easy to write this off as a cliched attempt to replicate Billy Elliot, with the backdrop of major cuts in arts funding, this campaign needed to target numerous stakeholders with hard-hitting messages.

It put the young people centre stage, in more ways than one.

Training them as media spokespeople was essential in demonstrating the personal difference this project has made to them - inspiring them, increasing confidence and getting them active.

Proactively jumping on the news agenda around the Comprehensive Spending Review and Arts Council funding cuts helped lift this campaign out of the arts pages to the news pages, using it as an example of how the arts can be taken to the masses in innovative and different ways.

There is a real communication challenge around the Cultural Olympiad and creating relevant links between sport and the arts.

By using strongly messaged Olympic icons at the staging of the event and organising a media tour of Olympic Park with one of the young participants of Ballet, Birmingham & Me, the campaign made the link feel as natural as possible.

It achieved strong local and national coverage in both press and broadcast. But what would be really interesting would be to find out what difference it has made to the young people and Birmingham Royal Ballet. Has it been a fairytale ending?

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