The English National Opera, one of the country’s cultural flagships, is being relocated outside of London. It announced the move as England’s main funding body for the arts unveiled a new three-year agreement that will pull cash out of the capital.
The opera house will receive a £17million grant from Arts Council England (ACE) to develop a new business model at its new home after its overall funding was cut to zero in grants announced on Friday.
ENO said his crotch was marked “the beginning of a new chapter‘ and would ‘build new audiences and reach beyond London’. Its new base is expected to be Manchester, although ENO will continue to manage and perform from its London home, the Coliseum, while “maximizing it as a commercial asset”.
In addition to the specific grant to ENO, 24 arts organizations have received funding from ACE to relocate outside the capital by October 2024. The government earlier this year directed ACE to spend more money on arts organizations outside of London as part of its alignment programme.
“We just had to make some very uncomfortable decisions,” said Nicholas Serota, ACE chairman.
Among those whose funding has been cut to zero is the Donmar Warehouse Theater in central London. Sam Mendes, the theater’s founding artistic director, said it was a “short-sighted decision that will cause lasting damage to the entire industry.”
He added: “The Donmar has been at the heart of British theater for three decades and has a hard-fought legacy of punching well above its weight in both ambition and reach. It is a world famous and hugely influential theater and the UK cannot afford to jeopardize it.”
The Barbican Center also lost all of its ACE funding. A spokesman said they are “very grateful for the funding” and “fully appreciate the changing landscape” – but the City of London Corporation will continue to be the venue’s main financier.
In total, ACE has provided 990 arts organizations with £446m a year over the next three years, which according to Darren Henley, its chief executive, was the “most widespread investment of all time across the country”. The money comes from the government and the National Lottery.
Among the recipients were 276 organizations that had not previously received an Arts Council grant. ACE declined to say how many organizations had been removed from its “portfolio.”
New arrivals included the National Football Museum in Manchester, Tourettehero, which celebrates the “humor and creativity of Tourette Syndrome”, the Postal Museum in London and Blackpool Illuminations.
Ballet Black, which historically provides a platform for dancers of color, saw its grant almost doubled to £424,000 and Bamboozle, a Leicester-based touring theater company for children on the autistic spectrum or with learning disabilities, received a 50% increase in funding.
Henley said: “We wanted to make sure the portfolio reflected the way England looks and feels in the 21st century.”
More than £43m of the total has been spent on Leveling Up for Culture Places – cities and towns found to have historically been underserved by government spending on arts. These included Mansfield, Gloucester, Stoke and Slough.
London still saw the biggest investment, providing £152m a year, a third of the total. The South West received the least funding, with £37m going to 33 organisations.
Theaters were the largest recipients with total grants of £111m. Libraries received the smallest share of the money, at £4 million.
Some of the capital’s biggest names have seen their grants frozen or cut while facing exponentially rising costs and plummeting box offices.
The National Theater said cutting its funding by 5% to £16.1million a year would “pose a challenge” but was “grateful for the financial support… especially given the difficult times many people are facing”. The Royal Opera House grant has been cut by 9%. Funding for the Royal Shakespeare Company was not increased and the English National Ballet grant fell 5% from just over £6.3m to just over £6m.
Sadiq Khan, London Mayor, said “50m worth of cuts in London’s arts funding are impacting the cost of living crisis on audiences”.
Serota said ENO “has long wanted to do more outside of London. And the potential of them working from a base up north is pretty exciting.”
He acknowledged that cutting the opera house’s regular funding would pose a challenge, but “the scale of the funds we had to withdraw from London made it necessary to look at a number of larger organisations”.
ACE had been clear for several years that it “wanted to do more for communities outside of London that previously had no public funding for the arts”.
1,700 applications for funding were received this year, compared to 1,100 in the previous round five years ago. “It is right that we should respond to energy, imagination and opportunity across the country. I don’t think we shouldn’t apologize for that.”