Simone Clarke (born 1970 in Leeds, Yorkshire) is an English ballerina and former Prima Ballerina of English National Ballet company. In 2006, she was the centre of controversy when it was revealed that she was a member of the British National Party. She retired from professional dance in 2007 and opened her own school, the Yorkshire Ballet Academy, in Leeds in 2008.
Clarke trained at the Royal Ballet School (1981–1988) and then joined the Birmingham Royal Ballet where she was promoted to the first soloist in 1995. In 1998 she joined the English National Ballet. During the company's tour of China in 2000 she performed the role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake as a guest dancer, and became senior soloist in that year. In 2003 she advanced to principal dancer. She has performed as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and as Cinderella and as Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty.
In an undercover investigation, The Guardian newspaper reported on 21 December 2006 that Simone Clarke was a member of the far-right British National Party. Clarke, in response to the British media's coverage of this, defended her personal political affiliation, stating that "the BNP is the only party to take a stand against immigration". She faced calls to be sacked from the English National Ballet by the campaign group Unite Against Fascism who believed it was inappropriate for a potential role model in a far-right party to be funded with public money. The Guardian later reported that Clarke said she had received "nearly 300 emails supporting me" since her membership became public. On 30 December 2006, Clarke gave her first major interview with the Mail on Sunday. The paper commented:
The BNP is certainly repellent, with its knee-jerk hatred of foreigners and history of organised thuggery, and there is something in the juxtaposition of dance pumps and bovver boots that many will find impossible to comprehend, particularly in the liberal world of the arts.
But Simone's explanation for why she decided to join the party last year – given here for the first time – cannot be simply brushed aside as a foolish error, let alone ignored.
The reason is summed up in one word: Immigration.........
But her story has wider implications. When one of the country's principal ballerinas, a 36-year-old woman who spent much of her recent working life as the Sugar Plum Fairy, decides to join the British neo-fascists, there is an argument that something has gone badly wrong with democratic British politics.
On 12 January 2007, around forty people staged a protest outside the London Coliseum theatre, where Clarke was to perform that night playing the lead in the romantic classic Giselle in her first performance since The Guardian reported on her BNP membership. A counter-protest group was led by her then partner Richard Barnbrook, the BNP local councillor for the London constituency of Barking.
Clarke was the girlfriend of Yat-Sen Chang, an ENO dancer of Cuban-Chinese descent, with whom she has a daughter.
On 19 December 2007, it was announced she planned to marry BNP councillor Richard Barnbrook, whom she had been seeing for more than nine months. In statements made before he met Clarke, however, Barnbrook was quoted as saying, apropos her relationship with Chang, "I'm not opposed to mixed marriages but their children are washing out the identity of this country's indigenous people." He has since said that should he and the ballerina wed, "her child will be my child." However, in an interview with The Times in November 2008, he claimed that they were no longer engaged.
- Andrew Chapman, "BNP ballerina Simone Clarke now teaching children aged 3", Daily Mail at mailonline, 18 October 2009
- Cahal Milmo, "Enter stage far right: 'BNP ballerina' dances again", The Independent, 12 Jan 2007
- Ian Cobain, "Inside the secret and sinister world of the BNP", The Guardian, 21 Dec 2006
- "Storm grows over 'BNP ballerina'", BBC News, 8 Jan 2007
- Hugh Muir, "BNP ballerina defies rising clamour to sack her", The Guardian, 1 Jan 2007
- Elizabeth Sanderson, "The BNP Ballerina", The Mail on Sunday, 30 Dec 2006
- "'BNP ballerina' returns to stage", BBC News, 12 Jan 2007
- Louise Radnofsky,"'BNP ballerina' to wed fellow far-right activist", The Guardian, 19 Dec 2007
- Martin Fletcher, "BNP: By all means name us, but you won’t shame us, says the ‘ordinary’ face of the far Right", The Times, 22 Nov 2008