ISM campaign in response cuts to the arts.
Join us and call on Arts Council England to think again
On Friday 4 November Arts Council England (ACE) announced a new National Portfolio of funded organisations for 2023-26. It covers a total of 990 arts and culture organisations (up 276 from the previous portfolio), with increased funding outside London and a more ethnically diverse range of organisations. Some organisations will be understandably delighted to be included in the National Portfolio; other organisations have received devastating news.
A number of high-profile and renowned classical music organisations have had their funding cut or removed entirely. These funding decisions will have dire consequences for musicians and the music community. We believe that ACE should think again. On this page you will discover more about the announcement and steps you can take to encourage ACE to take action.
Flagship organisations under threat
We are extremely concerned by the decision to cut funding to high-profile arts organisations such as the Royal Opera House, Welsh National Opera (WNO), Glyndebourne, English National Opera (ENO), the Britten Sinfonia, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra and the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS). These flagship organisations draw international audiences to the UK, with all the associated benefits to our travel and hospitality sectors. To cut their funding when these organisations are already struggling to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and barriers to touring caused by Brexit, plus massively increased fuel bills and depressed consumer confidence due to the cost-of-living crisis is a devastating blow.
ACE has claimed that funding decisions were based on delivering funding to a more diverse set of organisations; however, many of the organisations losing funding have pioneered diversifying on and off stage. ENO does a superb job of making classical music more accessible to younger and more diverse audiences, with ground-breaking and affordable performances. The East Anglia-based Britten Sinfonia does a wide range of educational and outreach work, and the EFDSS are the only national organisation that champions folk music and dance for all.
'This is not about opera. This is about access to the arts for everyone' - Stuart Murphy (Chief Executive, ENO)
The music industry is worth £5.2 billion per year to the economy and ACE plays a vital role in supporting it. Funding outreach and educational projects is important, but if we starve our leading opera houses and orchestras of funding as a result, they will not be able to continue providing the high-quality events that have made the UK arts sector rightly world-renowned, and our country will become increasingly culturally impoverished.
English National Opera
ENO has been particularly hard hit. ACE has removed it from the National Portfolio of arts organisations, which means ENO loses its £12.5 million annual funding. Instead, it has been offered £17 million over the next three years on the condition that it agrees to relocate outside London, probably to Manchester.
ENO is calling on ACE to undertake a comprehensive review of opera nationwide before making a final decision, claiming it is impossible for the company to relocate by 2026. It is also asking for ACE funding to be reinstated for the next three years and to be given enough time to consider its future.
ENO's Music Director Martyn Brabbins has called the decision, which threatens the livelihoods of the company's 600-strong workforce, 'grossly negligent'. Read his full statement here.
Sir Bryn Terfel Jones has launched a petition calling on DCMS and ACE to reinstate ENO's funding immediately. Please consider adding your voice.
On Tuesday 22 November a debate on Supporting UK Artists and Culture was held in Parliament in Westminster Hall. A number of speakers championed ENO and other arts organisations who had lost out on funding as part of the National Portfolio, calling on ACE to think again.
Reaction to the announcement
'I share your deep concern about the impact of the ACE announcement. What surprised and saddened me is the complete cessation of funding to companies like Britten Sinfonia and English National Opera without warning. I would imagine that planning to leave one's home base of operations to relocate to another city would be a five-to-ten year plan at the very least.
'We are facing an extraordinary crisis, on the back of a really tough recovery from Covid lockdowns. It feels as though the post-lockdown financial crisis is being used as a smokescreen to dismantle something really precious. It takes years, decades, to build something of the quality of ENO or Britten Sinfonia. It takes a single announcement to destroy them.'
- Roderick Williams (British baritone and composer)
'ENO was a crucial part of my early career development as it has been for many singers since. It plays a huge role in London’s cultural life and we will all be the poorer without it. It deserves every possible support.'
- Dame Felicity Lott (British soprano)
'Myself and countless other homegrown talents would simply not have a career if it weren’t for the training and opportunities ENO have afforded us. Making opera is hard work at the best of times and every department at ENO are so much more than the sum of their parts. The irreparable damage done to the cultural fabric of the UK in these cuts beggars belief and my heart breaks for all of the individuals who make opera happen. ENO have responded quickly and creatively to previous cuts working with the Arts Council, more than fulfilling previous targets regarding inclusivity and reach. I only dream of what the arts could do if properly funded.'
- Nicky Spence (Scottish tenor)
'These cuts are the inevitable result of the media's endless denigration of classical music as being irrelevant, and the damning of opera and ballet as elitist. We will end-up the artistic paupers of Europe, having driven our top-class performers abroad, where the arts are still deeply valued, supported and attended by a broad spectrum of society.'
- Sir Simon Keenleyside CBE (British baritone)
'ENO is where aspiring UK-based performers have developed and worked to a level of excellence that compares to the best companies in the world. Its innovative audience building and artistic outreach should be celebrated! London should remain its base to ensure that top talent is presented to the widest possible audience. Glyndebourne Touring Opera has taken the benefits of its association with the festival and offered it to communities throughout the country. Its youth and local programming has nurtured young British talent and presented it to discerning audiences throughout the country. Let’s celebrate and support this initiative!
'If access is curtailed by cuts to companies like ENO and Glyndebourne Touring, we will not grow the audiences of the future.'
- Gerald Finley CBE OC (Canadian bass-baritone)
'It makes no sense at all to withdraw Arts Council funding from English National Opera. Here is a world-renowned arts organisation at the top of its game, which is fulfilling all its requirements for education, diversity and inclusivity. This is merely "levelling down" - the false idea that the arts scene in London has to be damaged in order to make things better elsewhere. The purported move to Manchester is bizarre: maybe the Arts Council needs to be reminded that it was originally called English National Opera North and was founded precisely to provide opera and other music-based activities in the north of England, including education, and it does exactly that. This really does need a rethink.'
- Richard Farnes (British conductor, formerly Music Director at Opera North)
'For decades London and the wider UK have enjoyed opera in two of the world’s great opera houses. At the Royal Opera House audiences can hear opera sung in its original language performed by the best singers and musicians to be found on any continent. In the other they can hear the best UK-based singers performing in English. I believe the cultural benefits of two contrasted companies in the capital outweigh the cost benefits of transplanting ENO to a city such as Manchester where it will struggle to survive.
'Both theatres seat upwards of 2,200 people. I invite ACE to consider the possibility of ENO finding a new home in a purpose-built theatre of no more than 1,400 seats outside Zone 1 but within the capital where it can produce exciting opera, involving itself in education within the community and enhancing every aspect of life within several boroughs.'
- Toby Spence (British tenor)
'The recent slashing of financial support for ENO by ACE is indefensible. The notion that London only needs one main opera house is a decision that appears to have been made by people who seldom go to either. If they did they would know how different the ethos, productions and type of audience are. ENO strives to alter a perception that opera is "elite" and the increasingly young and returning audience is a reflection of that. To even conceive that a company this size could move 200 miles north in a matter of months is ridiculous and invites the thought that ACE just want rid of the company altogether.
'Young singers and players need places to work when they leave conservatoires. ENO has been a prime employer of developing British talent for decades, whereas the Royal Opera House is more likely to look internationally. We will lose some of this precious talent to foreign companies. ACE must U turn.'
- Susan Bickley (British mezzo-soprano)
'We cannot allow nor afford this cultural vandalism to happen on our watch. The future generation of opera depends on it.'
- Natalya Romaniw (Welsh soprano)
'These cuts represent the exact opposite of their intention to move funding from London to the regions. Catastrophic reductions to Glyndebourne Tour and Britten Sinfonia will impact two of the most regionally present organisations. Moreover, removing all support from English National Opera, naively suggesting they move to Manchester, is single-handedly destroying an iconic institution that got so many of us into opera. ENO has done more work to improve audience access and diversity than any other company I know and this decision is heart-breaking for those of us fighting to welcome more people from different backgrounds into this art form.’
- Ben Glassberg (British opera conductor)
‘I hope ACE are aware that not only are they ridding London of the national opera company, ruining the income stream of so many artists, but also losing the wonderful outreach projects that brought so much enjoyment to the underprivileged of London.’
- Patricia Bardon (Irish mezzo-soprano)
'Orchestras and opera companies are key not just to income generation for the UK but for soft power. As ACE has already acknowledged, these cuts could well lead to job losses, which is truly dire given everything our sector has already been through over the past two years.'
- Deborah Annetts (ISM Chief Executive)