Arts & Culture

ENO and ACE reach funding agreement to plan for future

Featured image credit: Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash

The English National Opera (ENO) has revealed that Arts Council England (ACE) has agreed to invest £11.46m (€13m/$14m) between April 2023 and March 2024, to sustain a programme of work at ENO’s current London home while starting to plan for a new base outside of the English capital by 2026. 

Further investment for 2024 through to 2026 is also available in principle, though this is subject to discussion and application. 

The ENO has said that investment will help the transition to a model where it can deliver an innovative opera programme, from a base outside of London, while also continuing to perform at its current London Coliseum home. 

It is hoped that the ENO will be in a strong position to apply to the Arts Council’s National Portfolio of funded organisations from 2026, from a new base outside of London. 

The funding will aid ENO’s initial development work on a new business model from 2026-27, which will outline the level of public-facing work it hopes to deliver in and outside of London. There will also be an analysis of options for the future use of the Coliseum, and an outline of the revenue and capital needed for the transition to a new business model. 

“This grant will provide the ENO with stability and continuity, while they plan their future,” said Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England. “We want to back an exciting programme of work from the ENO in a new home, and make sure it stays part of the brilliant London arts offer, at the Coliseum. We know this means a challenging period of change for the company and its staff, but it will also mean opera for more people in the long term and contributes to the levelling up of cultural investment.

“The funding announced today is on top of a £30million per year National Portfolio commitment to opera and the many talented people who work within it.

“Our financial resources are finite, and today’s investment balances the public’s desire for high quality arts and culture of all kinds in towns and cities all over England, and the ambitions of artists and creative professionals working across England’s arts, museums and libraries.”

Stuart Murphy, CEO of the English Nation Opera, added: “We are pleased to have agreed £11.46m of funding from Arts Council England to take the ENO through to 1 April 2024. Negotiations now turn to investment for 2024-2026, which, in opera planning terms, is imminent.

“This funding level for 23/24 will allow us to continue to make incredible opera available for everyone, in English, with hugely subsidised tickets, completely free for Under 21s and with 10% of all seats available for £10.  It will also allow us to continue the award-winning ENO Breathe, available in 85 NHS Trusts across England, and ‘Finish This’, available in over 200 schools nationwide.

“While we fundamentally disagree with ACE’s decision to remove the ENO from the NPO list having met or exceeded all success criteria laid down, we nevertheless continue discussions with ACE in good faith and look forward to agreeing funding levels for 24/25 and 25/26 which would allow us to continue to deliver the best of the ENO for out-of-London audiences – at a level London audiences have experienced for almost 100 years.”

ACE originally reduced funding for the ENO in November last year, and told the organisation that it should consider relocating out of London. Funding was spread more equally to institutions outside of the capital, with a number of other arts organisations losing or having their funding reduced.