Arts Council England cuts English National Opera funding

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Opera company hit by 29 per cent grant reduction, but others enjoy increase

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As Arts Council England today announced its investment plans for 2015-2018, it was confirmed that English National Opera will see its annual grant reduced. The reduction, from £17.2m in 2014/15 to £12.4m for the next financial year, amounts to nearly a third of ENO's Arts Council funding.

An ACE statement announced that ENO had ‘struggled to reach box office targets and to achieve long-term stability’, despite an ‘indisputably ambitious quality of work’. The company will, however, receive a one-off ‘transitional-funding’ payment of £7.6m as it moves towards staging modern musicals in an attempt to attract new audiences, and ENO artistic director John Berry has said that this plan will enable the company to ‘create an exciting and sustainable future’.

Overall, a National Portfolio of 670 arts organisations will share annual grants totaling £340m per year. ACE added that it would prioritise companies that actively research potential audiences and acknowledged that it should play an active role in supporting the relationship between touring companies and venues.

Outside London, funding has been increased in response to calls for a fairer balance of arts funding between the capital and the rest of England. Bristol Music Trust, for instance, will receive £975,000, allowing both Colston Hall and St George’s to become National Portfolio organisations. The trust, which also runs Bristol Plays Music, provides music education to over 8,000 children a year. Matthew Bourne’s dance company New Adventures will also join the Portfolio.

Meanwhile, ACE praised a series of cinema screenings of live and recorded performances of opera and ballet, including from English National Opera and Royal Opera House, as demonstrating ‘considerable potential for garnering new audiences’.

Anya Hancock