Dancers in the dark

Michael Prestage

Prema Lee Farnon dreams of becoming a dancer but her Welsh college faces an uncertain future because of cuts in local authority discretionary grants. The 17-year-old, who started dance classes at five, has been turned down by Dyfed council for a grant for her course at the Cardigan School of Dance, writes Michael Prestage.

"My parents have had to make a lot of sacrifices," said Prema. "My mother is in debt and is struggling. . . she runs a stall at the market. This is my chance of a future. Whether I will be able to finish here is still unsure. "

Local authorities have been forced to cut back on discretionary grants because of their own finan-cial problems. At Cardigan School, the only residential dance school in Wales, numbers on residential courses have dropped drastically, by half in some classes. Prema's parents cannot afford to let her board and drive her 15 miles a day.

Patricia Smith, who set up the school 40 years ago, said: "Many talented girls in this area are not now being given the chance to dance even though there is employment for those who complete the course. Students are having to drop out because their grants have been cut. The girls are heartbroken. They are totally dedicated. They end up on the dole queue when there would be work available. "

She is reluctant to end the residential courses, and in the meantime the school's survival depends on the 250 to 300 day students who attend daytime classes.

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