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A Minute With The Manager: Our Official Opening

Published : 24/Feb/2017

Choosing an artist to open our new venue provided me with a dilemma. One of the exciting things about Westlands is that the venue means different things to different people, so how do you pick one person to make a fitting celebration for the area?

With the conferencing side a business leader could work. Musically, we could bring a bit of ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ to the opening but finding an artist that appeals to the majority is difficult. Then of course there is the artist’s availability, who is in the country, who is on tour, would they be willing to do it?

I’ve been mulling this conundrum for some time hoping that the ‘lightning bolt’ moment would arrive – and arrive it did! Speaking to one of the agents we work with for our Literary Festival we began talking about Darcey Bussell. With one of the best ballrooms in the region and the screenings from the Royal Opera House Darcey was a perfect fit - elegant, popular with cross-generational appeal and a high profile. The more I thought about it the more I felt she would be a fantastic artist to reopen Westlands so we made our invitation and I am delighted she has accepted and will officially reopen the venue on 27th June.

Although a number of events will have taken place prior to the official opening, this will enable us to iron out final tweaks at the new venue before the official opening. When I was on placement with Rambert Dance Company in London I was lucky enough to see Darcey perform with the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. It was a fantastic evening and it’s easy to see why she remains one of the most popular ballerinas of our time.

Born Marnie Mercedes Darcey Pemberton Crittle, at thirteen she won a place at the Royal Ballet School – ‘White Lodge’. She continued through the school joining Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet in 1987. Choreographer Kenneth MacMillian spotted her talent and in 1988 asked her to create the leading role in his ballet The Prince of the Pagodas that led to her moving to The Royal Ballet. A year later, on opening night of the production and at the age of just 20 she was promoted to ‘principle dancer’ – a rare and amazing accomplishment. Bussell went on to become one of the most celebrated and popular dancers at the Royal Ballet, dancing all the major roles and also performing with New York City Ballet, La Scala Theatre Ballet and The Kirov. Her career at The Royal Ballet made her a household name.

Image: Grant Sainsbury

She announced her retirement in 2004 but stayed on for three years as a ‘guest principal artist’. Since retiring she has written a series of popular children’s books and presented television shows for the BBC. She joined the judging panel of BBC 1’s flagship Saturday night entertainment programme Strictly Come Dancing in 2009 and has won a legion of new fans. She was awarded the OBE in 1995 and the CBE in 2006 and we are thrilled to welcome her to Yeovil on the 27th June to reopen our new venue.

There will be an official opening ceremony during the day and in the evening Claire Carter of BBC Somerset will interview Darcey about her amazing career and life. In this special ticketed event people will also have the opportunity to put their questions forward.