Council explains funding rejection for Moneymore dancer

COOKSTOWN council has refuted claims from the mother of a local dancer, that they have “refused” to support him in his bid to pursue a ballet career in London.

Ruaidhri Maguire from Moneymore has been given a place at the prestigious Central School of Ballet in London, but had written to the council’s Arts department to seek funding to help with the £9,000 annual fees.

In his letter to the council Ruaidhri said he had been inspired by workshops in Cookstown’s local theatre when he was younger.

“I was a regular attendee to workshops run by Ballet Ireland in the Burnavon Arts Centre and I believe this was what inspired me to pursue a career in Professional Ballet,” said Ruaidhri.

“To come from a country town that people in England, and even in our own Belfast, aren’t aware of puts this town and your council on the map. The magnitude of this achievement is very rare, if not unique, in Mid-Ulster.”

When the request for funding was turned down Ruaidhri’s mother Christina Murray contacted the Mail to express her disappointment.

She said: “The cost of living and studying such a demanding discipline in London is very expensive. Ruaidhri is one of only three boys from Northern Ireland to pursue a career in Classical Ballet and he is the only one to be accepted at his age.

“Ruaidhri feels that he has been let down by the Arts department in the council. They refused to help and chose to fund smaller groups throughout Mid-Ulster.”

But when asked for a response on the issue, the council’s Arts Development Officer Mary Crooks explained that their funding is “limited” and used for those groups working within the district.

“The overall aim of the small grant scheme is ‘to facilitate those who deliver Arts and Cultural activities which support, enhance and develop the Arts and Cultural infrastructure within the district’. Mr Maguire’s request was for funding towards fees to attend the Central School of Ballet in London.”

Ms Crooks praised Ruaidhri for his achievement in gaining a place at the ballet school, but added that the expensive fees could not be paid from within the council’s budget.

She said: “Cookstown District Council acknowledges acceptance into this prestigious school as a remarkable achievement for an individual who has been involved in the Arts since a very young age.

“However, given the limited annual budget available within the council’s Arts and Culture Grants Scheme and the level of course fees detailed in Mr Maguire’s letter, the committee deemed it was not possible to offer financial assistance on this occasion.”