Birmingham Royal Ballet has completed the £2.7 million modernisation of its Hippodrome theatre base as it celebrates 25 years in the city.

Fundraising president and Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell unveiled the new facilities at the building, which hasn't been touched since the company moved there from London in 1990.

The scheme was financed with a grant of £1.85 million from Arts Council England’s Capital Investment Programme and BRB’s Campaign for the Future appeal.

The building has been turned into an accessible rehearsal facility while providing a modern working environment for dancers and other staff.

The refurbishment will allow BRB to place outreach work at the heart of its strategy, with an emphasis on public open days and events.

Ms Bussell has a special connection with BRB because it was the first company she joined, in 1987, when it was still based in London and called Sadler’s Wells.

Talking about the new facilities, she said: “As president for the Campaign for the Future it is so rewarding to see the results of a fundraising effort that has enabled a company close to my heart to continue to be a first-class rehearsal facility for its dancers, staff and the wider public who can all enjoy this marvellous creative space.

“The new facilities will allow Birmingham Royal Ballet to welcome the community, nurture the talent of the future and maintain their position at the forefront of both British and international dance.

“Our goal now is to secure the remaining £2.5 million of our £15 million target to ensure the studios are bursting with new work by world-leading choreographers as well as creative opportunities for local people to discover, take part and excel in classical ballet.”

BRB is celebrating the opening of its new facilities with a series of special events which will see more than 1,000 people pass through its doors.

On Sunday (January 25) between 11am-4pm the public can visit the new space with activities, tours and performances.

BRB performs at the Hippodrome for approximately ten weeks each year and the remainder of the year is made up of touring throughout the UK and overseas.

Chief executive, Christopher Barron, who has announced he will stand down this summer after ten years with the company , said: “The refurbished facilities will enable an increased delivery of community work in-house offering unique, first-hand experience of dance and Birmingham Royal Ballet.

David Bintley
David Bintley
 

“The optimal studio configuration will enhance the company’s scope for rehearsing and staging large-scale ballet and provide outstanding facilities to attract, retain and care for elite dancers.”

BRB director David Bintley joked about the equipment the company had before the investment in new facilities.

“We didn’t mind that we didn’t have a new sound system. We were quite happy with our ghetto blaster on a chair in the corner of the room,” he said.

“It didn’t matter that we didn’t have these wonderful, large TV screens. We had our portable 12-inch telly propped up on the piano that everyone used to gather round.

“But now we do have this fantastic space, but that’s all it is, really – a space.

“Unless the rooms are filled with dancers; unless they’re filled with young people then we don’t recognise what we’ve got to do to up the ante.

“What we now have in this building is a wonderful platform to make that next step. We know we have difficult times ahead - our chief executive is leaving, the chief executive of the theatre, Stuart Griffiths, is leaving.

“Do they know something!?

“It has been a great team. We’ve done extraordinary things over the past few years, but we’ve got to keep it up, because things are getting tougher.

“If you believe, as I do, how important Birmingham Royal Ballet is to this city and region, and to the art form nationally and internationally, then you will want to help this company as much as I do,” he added.