ENO can stay in London until 2029 as Arts Council announces £24 million funding boost

27 July 2023, 09:10

The cast of the English National’s production of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (left) performing in the London Coliseum, a building which the opera company is now due to leave by 2029.
The cast of the English National’s production of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (left) performing in the London Coliseum, a building which the opera company is now due to leave by 2029. Picture: Getty images

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

The English National Opera has received an extra £24 million from Arts Council England after its grant was controversially slashed last year.

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Arts Council England has announced today that it will award the English National Opera (ENO) an extra £24 million in additional funding, following eight months of insecurity for the company.

The ENO originally had its funding slashed in November 2022, after the ACE was instructed by the government to redistribute its funding from the capital to other parts of the country.

Having previously received £12.6 million of annual funding from the council, the ENO was approved to instead receive £17 million across three years to support a move from their current home at the London Coliseum, to a different city.

This decision was fought back against by the ENO, with supporters singing outside of the Arts Council offices and a slew of mainstream press coverage as high-profile musicians raised their voices in concern.

Three months later in January 2023, ACE went back on its original decision and announced that the ENO would receive 91 percent of its usual annual funding, £11.46 million. Now eight months after the original announcement for the 2023-2026 funding round, ACE has made an unprecedented decision to instead add on an extra £24 million in funding, bringing the total funds for the three-year period to £35.46 million.

Dr Harry Brünjes, chair of the English National Opera, told Classic FM the opera company was “pleased” with the decision and “looked forward to working with the Arts Council to develop this positive future for the organisation.”

Read more: English National Opera to receive 91 percent of original Arts Council funding – but for only one year

Members of the ENO Chorus sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ outside Arts Council England’s London office

The ENO’s deadline for moving to its new home outside of London has also been extended from March 2026, to March 2029.

Five cities are reportedly in the line-up to become the opera company’s new base: Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham. The ENO plans to confirm which city will be its new home in December 2023.

Between 2024-2026, while maintaining an opera season in their London home, the opera company will also simultaneously develop a performance engagement programme in its new city.

Arts Council England’s chair, Sir Nicholas Serota, said: “The extended timeline for their transition to a new main base will enable the ENO to undertake this complex move and to develop partnerships in the new city.

“The Arts Council’s support for opera is unwavering, and we are excited by the ENO’s new plans and by the enthusiasm shown by the potential host cities.”

Read more: ENO chorus sings Verdi’s thunderous ‘Anvil Chorus’, raising the Royal Albert Hall roof

Dr Brünjes told Classic FM that the ENO board and management “welcomed” the new investment and additional time and they believe that a new base can be developed outside of London, “whilst importantly maintaining our traditional season at the London Coliseum.”

He also noted the “hard work” of the opera company’s senior team during this months-long process, naming the outgoing CEO, Stuart Murphy, the incoming Interim CEO Jenny Mollica, the Artistic Director, Annilese Miskimmon, and the Music Director, Martyn Brabbins.

The joint announcement from the ENO and ACE described a “shared ambition” for the opera company to be in a strong position to apply to the Arts Council’s National Portfolio of funded organisations from 2026 – the three-year-long grant they missed out on during the last round.

Calling the ENO a “treasured national institution”, culture secretary Lucy Frazer also said she welcomed the agreement the opera company had reached with the Arts Council and looked forward to seeing how plans between the two organisations continued to develop.

Frazer said the move would “make sure more people across the country could experience [the ENO’s] fantastic work.”