English National Opera hit by funding cuts

1 July 2014, 19:04

The opera company's annual public funding has been slashed by almost a third in the new three-year investment plan from the Arts Council announced today.

ENO will see its funds drop from £17.2 million to £12.4 million each year following analysis by the funding body Arts Council England. Of the seven major arts and ballet organisations funded by the Arts Council, only the ENO has seen its funding cut.

Speaking to Classic FM, Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, explained the motivation for the cuts, citing problems with the ENO's business model as the main reason for restructuring the funding plan.

"In the last few years we've had to put in very large amounts of extra money simply to keep things level," he said. "Both we and they took a long look at this and decided that the business model needed to be looked at.

They've embraced this, and said they can deliver a high quality programme that maintains all the characteristics of English National Opera: the exciting approaches to direction and the great musical direction, and they can do that for a smaller amount of money. So they themselves have taken the initiative and said we can develop a new model for an opera house, one that works in the 21st Century."

With overall government spending on the arts decreasing this year, Davey urged music-lovers to continue fighting for future arts funding.

"Everyone who loves culture, who loves music, who loves theatre, should be saying to their MPs that this is important investment," he added. "It's a small amount of money relatively, compared to the overall mass of government spending, and it goes an awful long way because artists and arts organisations are really clever at spending money well."

ENO's Artistic Director, John Berry, explained the organisation was not surprised by the decision, and shared his plans for creating a more sustainable business model including transforming the inside of the home of ENO, the Coliseum, and producing musicals in the West End.

"It's disappointing when everybody recognises artistically you're really fantastic, yet you have to deal with cuts, but that's the world we live in," he said. "We've got a plan for the future, we've got plans already in place, and it's now working closely with the Arts Council over the next six months to really define those plans and make sure they're watertight."

Despite the funding drop, the Arts Council has allocated up to £7.6 million to help the organisation move to its new business model. With the addition of the transfer fund, the figure equals the amount for which ENO had asked over the next three years.

Overall arts funding drops slightly, from £341.4 million this year, to £339.5 million for the coming year. In total, Arts Council England funds 670 organisations in its 'national portfolio', as well as 21 'major partner museums'.