English National Opera to receive £11.5m from Arts Council England amid future ‘uncertainty’

18 Jan 2023 News

London Coliseum


The English National Opera (ENO) will receive £11.5m from the Arts Council England (ACE) over the next financial year following negotiations between the two organisations. 

In a joint statement published yesterday, ACE said it has agreed to allocate funding to ENO from April 2023 to March 2024 to “help sustain a programme of work” in London and establish a new base outside the capital by 2026. 

This comes after ACE’s previous decision on funding, which would have seen the charity lose its £12.6m annual grant in favour of a £17m investment over the next three years. 

The £11.5m, which is part of the £17m, represents a 9% cut from ENO’s previous funding. 

ENO said the funding only “gives one year’s reprieve” and still leaves a “huge amount of uncertainty” regarding its future.  

Further funding needed to ensure sustainability

ACE said the investment will help ENO “undertake initial development work on a new business model from 2026-27, which will outline the level of public-facing work it plans to deliver both outside and within London”.

ENO welcomed the funding, saying that it will enable it to fulfil many of the contracts of the hundreds of freelancers it hires every year, while continuing to make opera available for everyone, with “hugely” subsidised tickets. 

However, it added: “We do remain concerned that this only gives audiences and our workforce one year’s reprieve, and still leaves a huge amount of uncertainty regarding ENO’s future. For ENO to meaningfully deliver on the government’s levelling-up agenda, ACE needs to invest in the organisation at an appropriate level going forward. 

“This has to be done in the context of ACE developing an opera strategy, in conversations with audiences and our colleagues across the industry – something that is still yet to be undertaken by ACE.” 

‘Negotiations now turn to 2024-26’

ACE confirmed that further investment for 2024-26 is available in principle, subject to discussion and application.

Both organisations are expecting to reach an agreement by the end of March regarding another two years of funding. 

“An overall three years of investment would help ENO transition over time to a model where it can deliver an innovative opera programme from a base outside London while continuing to perform at its London Coliseum home,” the statement said. 

Stuart Murphy, chief executive officer of ENO, said: “While we fundamentally disagree with ACE’s decision to remove ENO from the NPO (national portfolio organisation) 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 2024-25 and 2025-26 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: Funding will provide ‘stability and continuity’

Darren Henley, CEO of ACE, said: “This grant will provide ENO with stability and continuity, while they plan their future. We want to back an exciting programme of work from 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 [yesterday] is on top of a £30m per year National Portfolio commitment to opera and the many talented people who work within it. Our financial resources are finite, and [the] 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.”

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