There is much to be welcomed in what Darren Henley, CEO of Arts Council England, said at today’s DCMS Select Committee. He continued to describe the ENO as excellent, he acknowledged that a new business model takes time, and he expressed a commitment to a large-scale ENO, with a substantial London base, long-term.
We share his desire for the ENO to build on our successful work to bring opera to the entire country, and to new, diverse and young audiences, and we look forward to ongoing discussions to deliver this within a realistic timeframe and with adequate funding. However, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Jasmin Vardimon Company – the two examples whose successes he cited – were given years and proper consultations to fully realise their out of London ambitions, so this comparison feels improper.
We remain disappointed that Darren Henley still offered no clarity around the process which led to the ENO having our NPO status removed. To restore public trust in ACE, at home and internationally, and to enable the 250 or so new organisations who are developing their new relationships with ACE to have faith in their own future application processes, clarity around this decision-making process is crucial.
The allocating of public funds must be done transparently, fairly and following a logical process. It must also be done within a strategy informed by data and audience insight, and we remain deeply concerned that ACE do not have this in place for opera. This continues to ring alarm bells across the country, across other organisations, among audiences, and across all political parties.
We look forward to ongoing discussions with ACE to establish a timeline and budget for a new model that gives this incredible company the best chance of long-term, sustainable success, serving audiences both in and out of London in an impactful manner.