British National Opera resists funding cuts as petition hits milestone

British National Opera boss Stuart Murphy said Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan was in “listening mode” as a petition to reverse funding cuts exceeded its target of 25,000 signatures.

n plans were announced last Friday, the Arts Council of England (ACE) said it would remove the company from its funding portfolio, resulting in a £12.6m-a-year funding cut. since 2023.

The ACE grant is equivalent to more than a third of ENO’s annual income, the company confirmed.


Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan (Aaron Chown/PA)

Proposed plans instead see ENO receive £17m in funding over three years – but only if it relocates outside of London, with a move to Manchester proposed.

Mr Murphy secured a meeting with Ms Donelan and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay on Thursday, demanding that the company’s funding be restored and its London base retained.

After the meeting, he told the PA news agency: “It’s good, they’re in listening mode. She inherited this decision from her previous secretary of state, Nadine Dorries. I thought it was a good meeting, we left and said we hope we can see each other again in two weeks.

“She has a big brief, she’s only been on the job for a few weeks so I’m really aware of that and I think it was a productive meeting.

“We have clarified our request that our money be returned and this decision makes no sense.”

As part of a campaign to reverse ACE’s funding decision, the national opera company is backing a petition set up by opera singer Sir Bryn Terfel – which reached more than 25,000 signatures on Thursday.

Mr Murphy, who recently announced he will be stepping down as chief executive of ENO in September 2023, said he has spoken with Ms. Donelan and Lord Parkinson about the petition.

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“We didn’t start the petition, it started two days ago. I explained that I couldn’t stop petitioning. He told PA there is a huge power of feeling, broader than opera.

“It’s about accessibility to art, and saying that if you have the money, you can absolutely get access to art. If you have the right connections, you may already have access to art jobs. But there is great recognition that ENO recruits from non-traditional sectors.

“The people that we put on stage or in the orchestra are completely different from what you see in any other orchestra in the UK.


Member of the British National Opera (Ian West/PA)

“She (Miss Donelan) fully acknowledges and appreciates that.

“Those are the big decisions we have asked her to make and I think she has a lot to consider and I think it would be a great thing if she manages to change course and move on. continued to open one of the great British academies that had been here. for over 100 years. “

Mr Murphy said it was a “much broader issue” than just opera.

He told PA: “The Arts Council has said they really love what we do. In the scorecard they gave us, we over-served for everything they asked us to do, but they are halving our budget and asking us to find another establishment .

“If someone works for me and hits all of their goals, and I’m happy with them, I wouldn’t tell them to move 200 miles and cut their pay in half.

“So for me, this is not just opera. It’s about transparency, honesty and good governance in public institutions, and I think it’s also about respecting 100 years of pioneering tradition.”

The CEO confirmed that he asked ACE six months before the announcement whether they had asked ENO to move out of London and that they “specifically and categorically refused”.

Speaking of ACE’s proposed plan to provide £17 million in funding over three years when ENO accepts a move out of London, Mr Murphy added: “Why do people outside of London deserve it? half the budget of an institution in London exceeds mine. We have never had an explanation for that.

“Do not serve below the level of those who are underserved. This opera house is an opera house that attracts a wide audience and to remove something that is discriminatory and appalling, it completely flies on the agenda of the Arts Council.

“If I were one of the 15,000 young people coming to ENO, or any of our diverse orchestra, I would be absolutely as outraged as they are and that is why petitions are growing in number. day.”

ENO, founded in 1931, is headquartered at the London Coliseum in the West End and is one of the two main opera companies in London, along with the Royal Opera.

Agreeing with ENO’s campaign, Richard Mantle, General Manager of Opera North, said: “As a company that was founded by the British National Opera more than 40 years ago to deliver opera across the North of the country. England, we support our friends and colleagues there facing tough news about funding this week, potentially denying tens of thousands of people in London and beyond the chance to experience opera. .

“We believe audiences everywhere deserve this opportunity, right across the country.” British National Opera resists funding cuts as petition hits milestone

Fry Electronics Team

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