English National Opera set for £24m to support relocation from London

Equity union welcomes increased funding while continuing to oppose move being imposed on ENO chorus

The English National Opera is set to receive £24m in public funding to support its move to a new base outside London while continuing to stage performances at the London Coliseum, its West End residence for more than 50 years.

The opera company had its general public funding cut from £12.8m a year to zero in November as part of a drive by Arts Council England (ACE) to divert money outside the capital, reflecting the government’s levelling up agenda.

ENO has now been invited to apply for £24m over three years from 2024 to support its plans for a “reimagined artistic and business model with a primary base out of London, whilst continuing to own, manage and put on work at the London Coliseum”.

The provisional budget is in addition to £11.46m already agreed for 2023/24. At the end of three years, ENO will be able to apply for further public funding.

The removal of ENO’s funding triggered an outcry. The mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly and other leading opera figures described the cut as a “hammer blow to the opera industry”.

ENO is considering a number of cities for its new base, including Hull, Newcastle, Birmingham, Nottingham, Truro and Manchester. The London borough of Croydon, on the southern edge of the capital, is also thought to be in the running.

Last month, Equity, the union representing 34 members of the opera company’s chorus, said that most would be forced to leave their jobs if ENO moved its primary base outside London. The chorus members cited children at school, partners with jobs in the capital and caring responsibilities as reasons why they would be unable to relocate.

In response to the funding announcement on Wednesday, Equity welcomed the “significant increase in funding compared to ACE’s initial offer in November”.

But, its statement went on, “funding at this level still marks a significant real-terms cut to ENO’s regular funding, and is still being given on the condition that the company develop a primary base outside London which will come at a huge cost to the workforce … who have built their lives and livelihoods around their work in London.

“The ENO and its workforce have demonstrated huge success in bringing opera to new audiences, and making world-class opera affordable and accessible to all. Public funding of opera across the country should not come at the cost of working-class Londoners, or Equity’s London-based workers.”


Harriet Sherwood Arts and culture correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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