OBITUARY:Belle Shenkman

A woman of striking appearance and engaging demeanour, Belle Shenkman devoted her energising flair to the furtherance of important arts ventures, especially on behalf of Canada, where she was brought up before later moving to London.

Dressed with faultless chic, she could persuade senior corporate executives that they actually wanted to give large sums for whatever project she was promoting, whether orchestra, ballet company or exhibition. In return, she delivered a cultural package and a sense of occasion that added prestige to the corporate image and superior entertainment to the public.

In the belief that Canadian art and artists should command international attention she was responsible, in 1972, for promoting the first visit to London by the National Ballet of Canada, at the London Coliseum, where their success greatly helped a subsequent tour on the Continent. She again promoted later visits by the company to the Coliseum in 1975 and in 1979 to the Royal Opera House, with another European tour in 1987.

She raised £30,000 from corporate sponsorship for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to appear in London at Sadler's Wells in 1982, then took the company on to Cyprus in aid of the Cyprus Red Cross, and to Cairo. Other endeavours brought the Montreal Symphony to London in 1976, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir to the Edinburgh Festival in 1980, the Toronto Symphony to London in 1983 and the first visit of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival company to the Old Vic in 1984. She received the Canada Medal in 1979.

Nor were her efforts all directed one way. After the Canadian Ballet's success at Covent Garden, she was asked first to organise the Royal Ballet's tour of Canada in 1981. She acted similarly in organising a six-week tour of Canada by the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet in 1983, in liaison with the Canada Council and the British Council.

Her dark, exotic beauty was of Ukrainian origin. She was born Belle Gubler in Kiev, emigrating with her parents to Canada when she was but three months old. They settled in Ottawa, where she attended the Lisgar Collegiate school and, aged 20, married Harold Shenkman, an Ottawa businessman. They were later divorced, and in 1979 she married Major-General J.D. (Desmond) Smith, who held senior commands in the Canadian Army before following a business career in London until his death four years ago. But she retained her first husband's name in her increasingly busy cultural work.

Her flair for fund-raising became apparent in the 1950s, when she served as vice- chairman and chairman of the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra committee. The orchestra faced dire financial problems, and it was largely through her efforts in a relatively small community that the orchestra was enabled to continue. Belle Shenkman moved in 1962 to London, where her organisation of the Canada Centennial Ball helped to set up a scholarship fund for Canadian students in the UK.

Besides her interests in music and dance, she promoted Canadian Eskimo artists, an exhibition of modern Canadian tapestries, and other events. She was also a member of the Royal Academy Trust's advisory committee, of the development council for the National Theatre, of the executive committee of the Contemporary Arts Society, and of the Contemporary Dance Trust.

In all these causes Belle Shenkman worked tirelessly on the practical and social aspects, organising galas and making arrangements for the reception of royal guests. With a mixture of great personal charm and persuasive enthusiasm she would even undertake the selling of blocks of tickets, and in recent years was in demand from leading commercial concerns to act as their cultural consultant in deciding how best to benefit the arts. Her death from leukaemia has removed a dedicated and hard-working patron without whom the cultural scene will be greatly the poorer.

Nol Goodwin

Belle Gubler, arts patron and fund-raiser: born Kiev 24 June 1928; CM 1979; married 1948 Harold Shenkman (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved), 1979 J.D. (Desmond) Smith (died 1991); died London 11 March 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum