Arts & Culture

ENO seeks u-turn after calling Arts Council funding cuts and relocation plans “absurd” 

Featured image credit: Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash

The English National Opera (ENO) has called the Arts Council England (ACE)’s plan to cut its funding unless it considers relocating to Manchester as “absurd” and “insane”. 

ENO’s annual funding of £12.8m ($14.6m/€14.6m) was cut by ACE on Friday and was instead replaced with £17m over three years, if the Opera considered relocating, potentially to Manchester.

Now, The Stage has reported that ENO chief executive Stuart Murphy has secured talks with the UK’s Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan and ACE.

Other opera companies including Glyndebourne, Welsh National Opera, the Royal Opera House and the ENO held an emergency meeting yesterday (Wednesday).

According to further reports, ENO chief executive Stuart Murphy said: “I think we’re going to be saying to the secretary of state tomorrow and to the Arts Council, ‘We can definitely do levelling up, but that can only happen with a big London base’.”

Murphy also said that the Art Council’s plan was “absurd” and “insane”. ENO is now campaigning for the decision to be reversed.

A petition set up by opera singer Sir Bryn Terfel Jones CBE to reinstate ENO’s Arts Council funding has reached more than 22,000 signatures at the time of writing.

English National Opera bosses said that they looked into the relocation, but found there were too many obstacles.

“We spoke to people that the Arts Council hadn’t bothered to speak to in Manchester, from across the opera world, and our staff – and it’s just not doable,” Murphy told BBC News.

“These are skills that can’t just be learned in the three years we’ve been given. These are people who’ve been in the company for 40 years. It takes a long time to train to be an opera singer. We can’t just close down in one area and start in another.”