After a concerted high-profile campaign that included passionate debate in the Houses of Parliament from MPs across the political divide, it has been announced that English National Opera (ENO) will receive £11.46 million to sustain its productions and work for at least another year.
It followed the news late last year that ENO was to lose its annual £12.8 million grant and that it would have to leave its base in April 2023 to find a new home outside London.
The decision by Arts Council England (ACE) provoked widespread criticism — leaving the future of the company and its many employees at risk.
It was argued that with 1 in 7 attendees to ENO under 35, 50% of the audience first time opera goers, 11% of the audience ethnically diverse, and with half of the ENO's audience came from outside London, it was actually a shining example of ACE's own long term strategic ambitions.
In addition, ENO was the first company in the UK to introduce fellowships for ethnically diverse orchestral musicians, choristers and directors and was in the process of recruiting a Chorus Fellowship for Disabled People.
Speaking to 4BR at the time, ENO Director of Music Martyn Brabbins said: "Our track record in producing world class operatic experiences at the London Coliseum is exemplary and has also been enhanced by a long standing and recognised commitment diversity and inclusion."
The outcry that followed caused both ACE a great deal of embarrassment and bad publicity, with CEO Darren Henley and colleagues enduring a caustic cross examination by MPs.
This grant will provide the ENO with stability and continuity, while they plan their futureCEO, Darren Henley
March 2024 and beyond
Now ACE has said it will invest National Lottery Funding until March 2024 to, "â€¦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". It also stated that further investment for 2024-26 would be subject to discussion and application.
Following the reversal of the decision, CEO, Darren Henley was reported as stating: "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."
In response to the news, ENO chief executive, Stuart Murphy, said it would continue discussions with ACE in "good faith"and looked forward to agreeing funding levels until 2026.