Last year we produced a gala concert in the Exhibition Hall, Australian High Commission to celebrate and honour the great Australian conductor Richard Bonynge AC CBE. The concert was generously sponsored by Elspeth Turner-Laing. Richard’s contribution to the performing arts over his long career is incalculable…we were delighted to honour him in this way. The profits from the concert were added to a new fund for an annual Tait Award to be named the Richard Bonynge Award for an outstanding young Australian or New Zealand artist studying in the UK.
Richard Bonynge AC CBE
The sizable award has been generously augmented by a grant from The Linbury Trust,* the charitable arm of the Sainsbury family, we thank Lady Sainsbury CBE most sincerely for her support and encouragement; and a generous charitable donation from the former Chair of The Royal Ballet School, David Norman. Thank you David.
In consultation with Richard Bonynge, our Music Board, and the Leanne Benjamin Awards Board (Ballet) we decided to give the inaugural scholarship to young Australian dancer, Liberty Grace Fergus. Liberty has been offered a place to join the Upper School, The Royal Ballet School in September. She has dedicated her life to ballet and is soon to graduate from the Lower School, The Royal Ballet School, White Lodge.
On Tuesday 25th May we hosted our first live recital at St Paul’s Knightsbridge featuring Australian soprano, Miriam Allan, our first live concert in 14 months. After the recital a formal presentation to Liberty was made by the Australian High Commissioner, His Excellency the Hon George Brandis QC. We thank him most sincerely for making the presentation personally and for introducing our concert with Miriam.
We were honoured that our Patron, and Chair of our Ballet Board, Australian dancer and former Principal of The Royal Ballet, Leanne Benjamin AM OBE was able to join us. Her support and advice throughout the selection process has been invaluable.
Liberty Grace Fergus
Liberty started dancing in the womb, a very active baby! She took classes at the local ballet school aged 2 and a half. After moving to The Ballet School, Notting Hill at 6, her teacher Vanessa Donkin suggested she audition for a Junior Associate place at The Royal Ballet School and she was successful! She attended classes every Saturday for 3 years at Covent Garden and loved every minute. As a JA aged 9 she won the Royal Academy of Dance Sallie Lewis Award.
Aged 10 she was selected to perform with the Australian Ballet in Graeme Murphy’s, Swan Lake at the London Coliseum theatre and also with The Bolshoi Ballet Company in Le Corsaire at the Royal Opera House. Both experiences made a huge impression on her and drove her passion for ballet further. She was also invited by The Royal Ballet School outreach team to go on tours to schools outside London to introduce and demonstrate ballet to other young children who may not consider taking it up.
Liberty was offered a place at White Lodge from year 7 and has spent a very happy 5 years training with the Royal Ballet School. She performed with The Royal Ballet company in the Nutcracker for 3 consecutive years.
She was awarded a scholarship to attend the English National Ballet School summer intensive course in 2019 and also received a scholarship to attend the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School for 2 years.
Liberty’s dream has always been to continue her training at The Royal Ballet Upper School and she is thrilled that she has been offered a place.
*The Linbury Trust was established by Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover KG, and his wife Anya, Lady Sainsbury CBE, the former ballerina, Anya Linden. The Linbury Trust made its first grant award in 1973 and since then has awarded grants of almost £200million.