An update on English National Opera funding: Investment for 2023/24 business year agreed
Today, Arts Council England agreed it will invest £11.46million in the English National Opera (ENO) for April 2023-March 2024. This is to sustain a programme of work at the ENO’s home the London Coliseum, and at the same time help the ENO start planning for a new base outside London by 2026.
Further investment for 2024-2026 is also available in principle, subject to discussion and application. The Arts Council and the ENO are working together quickly with an aim to reach agreement by the end of March this year on a further two years of funding. An overall three years of investment would help the 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 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, from a new base outside London.
The funding will see the 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; an analysis of options for the future use of the Coliseum, and an outline of the revenue and capital funding needed to transition from the current to the new business model.
Darren Henley, CEO of Arts Council England, said: “This grant will provide the ENO with stability and continuity, while they plan their future. 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 National Opera, said: “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.”
On 4 November 2022, Arts Council announced its 2023-26 National Portfolio programme, made up of 990 organisations receiving their share of £446 million per year. The investment round was the most oversubscribed portfolio to date with 1,723 applications requesting over £2 billion. Decisions were driven Arts Council’s strategy and by a commitment to provide a fairer spread of investment across the country. Arts Council also delivered on the instruction from government to invest the additional funding from the spending review to benefit areas outside of London, to increase investment in the rest of the country by 2026 and to reduce its overall current investment in the National Portfolio in London by £24 million per year (read more about the instruction here). Change in the London Portfolio was inevitable, and Arts Council had to make difficult decisions and choose between good, fundable applications.
Because of the demands on Arts Council’s budget, English National Opera, which is currently a National Portfolio Organisation, was not awarded funding in the 2023-26 National Portfolio. Arts Council has been working together with the ENO to identify and agree the next phase in its development. Arts Council announced it would ringfence £17 million funding for the ENO, outside of the National Portfolio and subject to application, to help them develop a new business model over the next 3 years, that sees them create a strong base outside of London while maintaining a presence in the capital and continuing to offer performances from the Coliseum. The £11.46 million announced today comes from that ringfenced investment and represents a 9% cut from the ENO’s previous funding. Arts Council England expects to be able to take funding proposals for ENO for 2024-26 to its National Council by the end of March 2023 and is committed, subject to application, to considering a further funding offer for 2024-2026. The activity, plans and levels of funding will be subject to further negotiations.