Social Enterprise of the Month: Pianos, Pies and Pirouettes

Blog Created: February 28, 2024

Piano, Pies and Pirouettes dance school recently secured £150,000 of Proper Good funding to continue bringing arts to the community. We talked to co-owner Alan Gregory to find out more about this very special social enterprise and how a Hollywood star is a big fan!

Alan said: “We are essentially an arts-based company that wants kids to get involved in drama and music, and especially dance! We provide low-cost ballet, tap and street dance lessons and the dance school is the front door to introducing families to the arts. 

Alan, a former ballet pianist at top performing arts school the Hammond, and co-owner Donna Harrison, an Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing qualified ballet dance teacher, are committed to breaking down barriers and showing that the arts are for everyone.

Over its six years, Alan estimates PPP has worked with more than 10,000 people.

He said: “We are making dancing, singing, music and acting accessible to all. Kids will come to us from three years old onwards, with the affordable £1.50 lessons. They will then go through Wigan Minis scheme and on to Wigan College performing arts department or another local organisation.” 

PPP in the past have raised funds for future stars of stage and screen to attend prestigious performing arts colleges across the country.

 “I don’t think money should be a reason why anybody can’t do it,” Alan said, “but we are also forging a pathway in Wigan where kids didn’t have to pay stupid amounts of money to study performing arts in major cities.”

And you don’t have to be the next Dame Judi Dench to be a part of arts sector.

Alan explained: “The Wigan Minis programme, which we set up with David Baxter from Wigan and Leigh Community Charity among others, teaches children how to work in businesses and become entrepreneurs using the arts as a medium.”

He regularly uses the pantomime as an example.

“We tell the kids: you’ve got to help us write it, you will help us write the songs, but not only that, you’ve got to design the posters. You’ve got to sell the tickets. You’ve got to get your parents involved in doing the set decoration. 

“Children see that the arts are not just for those kids who always get picked because they’re good at art, or dancing or singing, but also the arts need electricians and plumbers and carpenters. It can’t work without them. And they learn what a chief executive does and how he has to make a profit out of the business.”

And PPP are smashing stereotypes about who would – or should – enjoy dancing.

After a hugely successful campaign to persuade Wigan Warriors rugby team to incorporate dance into their training, including the burly players performing with ballet dancers at the Royal Opera House, the latest PPP partnership is with Boxing For Better.

Alan explained: “There is clearly there’s a very, very close link between dance and boxing – think Muhammad Ali’s “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” – our dancers will learn boxing and their boxers will learn dancing.”

Proper Good funding 

Wigan’s most famous thespian son Sir Ian McKellen sent a letter of congratulation when he heard about the funding, saying: “I’m so pleased that the immediate financial situation is secure and send my best wishes for a peaceful 2024.”

The two-year building loan from GMCVO through the Proper Good programme, administered by Wigan and Leigh Community Charity, will be used to develop the former Catholic club attached to Sunshine House Community Centre, into a modern dance studio.

There are plans to redesign the building install new dance floors with mirrored walls and barres for ballet.

Alan said: “There are all sorts of caveats because we don’t own the building. They had never really done a lease loan before. So, there were lots of things we had to do to for them to ensure it was suitable for them to lend us the money.

“The process lengthy and in depth. They wanted a an extremely detailed business plan for the next five years which Proper Good worked on with us. The panel was very, very positive. They recognised our social benefit. They recognised we were already working in the community and have a huge scale of activities. 

Proper Good Wigan shepherded PPP through the rigorous process.

“We put in the initial bid in in May 2023 and we got the go-ahead in December that we’d got £100,000 initially, once we’ve met certain conditions with regard to the amount of income we were bringing in in the first year, then they’d released the remaining figure in the second year.”

The funding will also be personally life-changing for Alan and co-owner Donna as it will allow them to focus their attention entirely on their passion project.

“Our lessons start at the minimal price of £1.50, which is considerably less than anybody else. To support this, we have had to take on other jobs, this funding will now subsidise the children’s lessons for the first 12 months. Donna and I are now able to give up our many other roles and concentrate on the business.”

Alan added: “The biggest positive I see from this process is we has to prove we were a sustainable business; we’ve been seen by an independent body of financial experts on the panel to be a sustainable business.”

Discover more about Pianos, Pies and Pirouettes.

To find out more about the Proper Good Programme and funding contact Alex Winstanley at or visit: 

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      Wigan & Leigh Community Charity. Business Community Hub. Platt Bridge Community Zone.
      81 Ribble Road, Platt Bridge, Wigan. WN2 5EG
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