Arts Council England announces up to £24m for English National Opera

13 Apr 2023 News

London Coliseum


Arts Council England (ACE) has set aside up to £24m for the English National Opera (ENO) to support the establishment of a new base outside London. 

In a joint statement, the organisations said that the provisional funding will be allocated to ENO on the condition that it develops “a primary base” outside of the capital while maintaining its work at the London Coliseum over the next three years. 

The funding, which ENO must apply for, would be in addition to a £11.5m investment already agreed for 2023-24 after the ENO was not awarded funding in ACE’s national portfolio for 2023-26. 

Arts and entertainment trade union Equity said the new funding “still marks a significant real term cut” to ENO’s current funding and that the development of such base “will come at a huge cost to the workforce”. 

Funding ‘subject to application and assessment’

The joint statement said: “Following development work by ENO, ACE has set a budget of up to £24m investment for 2024-26. The company will now start the process of making an application to the Arts Council for an award up to this amount. ENO’s developing plans are based on 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 to support ENO “make a phased transition to this new artistic and business model, and will include work split between their new main base and London,” the statement added. 

“This will be subject to application and assessment with a decision by the Arts Council expected this summer. This funding would be in addition to the £11.46m already agreed for 2023-24.
“The shared ambition is for the ENO to be in a strong position to apply to the Arts Council’s National Portfolio of funded organisations from 2026.”

Funding still represents ‘significant’ cut

Equity said the funding represents “a significant increase in funding compared to ACE’s initial offer in November,” which would have seen ENO lose its entire £12.6m of annual funding. 

“However, 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 develops a primary base outside London which will come at a huge cost to the workforce.

“The campaign to save our ENO and protect ENO jobs is not over.”

Equity said it will “continue to fight for a funding model which protects the freelance and permanent workforce based at the London Coliseum, who have built their lives and livelihoods around their work in London”.

“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.

“Dividing and dismantling a company which is currently working effectively is costly and unnecessary when ENO has shown the ability and willingness to bring its excellent work outside London via touring and other outreach activities.”

Equity added that ACE should not force ENO to relocate “without first having undertaken a proper opera strategy which should include consultation with the workforce itself”. 

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here.


More on