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Classical groups in ACE’s 2015-18 portfolio: generally unscathed, universally uncertain

- 1 July 2014

Arts Council England: £331m funding announcement, 1 July

Arts Council England: £331m funding announcement, 1 July

Classical music institutions have appeared to emerge unscathed in today’s funding announcement by Arts Council England.

However, England’s funding landscape remains uncertain, with government spending beyond 2015/16 dependent upon the outcome of next year’s general election. ACE has announced projected funding levels based on standstill government funding in 2016/17 and 17/18. As yet, the major parties’ spending plans for the next government are unknown.

In most cases, changes to ACE grants will be felt evenly, with the majority of previously-funded classical music institutions receiving standstill funding (amounting to a 0.3% cash terms increase on their funding for 2012-15 in 2015-18). In real terms (adjusted for inflation), ACE says this figure amounts to a reduction of 4.7%.

This group includes several major English performing groups (including the LSO, Hallé, CBSO, London Sinfionietta, BCMG, BSO, LPO, Philharmonia, OAE, Sinfonia Viva, Manchester Camerata), Music in the Round, the National Opera Studio, British Youth Opera, classical producer SoundUK, the Tête à Tête opera festival, Streetwise Opera, and Wiltshire Music Centre.

The National Centre for Early Music will drop back to the level of funding it received in 2013/14 (£270,467 from £316,603 in 2014/15), meaning that it appears as one of the harder-hit organisations.

The Southbank Centre will operate on £417,652 less than in the current year, with a grant of £19,428,000 per annum, the second-largest in the portfolio. The Royal Opera House will retain its place as the highest-funded institution, receiving £24,772,000, a reduction of £555,084 on 2014/15′s grant.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic will receive a real-terms increase of 2.4% (amounting to an extra £150,000 per annum), an increase which recognises the new second space at Philharmonic Hall, which will reopen in November this year. The RLPO’s chief executive, Michael Eakin, said: ‘Arts Council England has made significant investment in the refurbishment of our home, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, so we are grateful for their continuing confidence in providing enhanced support to this organisation as part of their NPO portfolio announced today.’

Aurora Orchestra, which received portfolio funding for the first time in 2012-15, will receive an extra £30,000 per year, up to £91,829 annually from £61,829 this year.

London-based Spitalfields Music will receive £70,000 per year, an increase of £22,682.

English National Opera has received a real-terms cut of roughly one-third but had already acknowledged the need for a major shift in its business model. The Barbican Centre will receive around £90,000 less per annum than before, a real terms cut of roughly 20% by 2018, and the performance charity Orchestras Live will see a real-terms cut of roughly 21% by 2018.

Excepting the 58 organisations to lose funding altogether, ENO’s is by far the most dramatic cut. It will operate on £14,222,711 less NPO subsidy in 2015-18 than it did in 2012-15. No other organisation in the entire portfolio has been handed a similar reduction.

The decision follows a two-year review into ACE’s opera and dance provision, which was also published today.

There were 46 new entrants into the portfolio, which will be reduced in overall size from 696 to 670 organisations. One of these is Oto Projects, the charity which runs the programme of ‘creative new music that exists outside of the mainstream’ at East London venue Cafe Oto, which will receive £74,933 per year.

‘Choices become particularly hard when your starting point is an existing portfolio that was carefully selected in the first place,’ wrote ACE chief executive Alan Davey, ‘and which contains so much outstanding quality.

‘The Arts Council’s Grant-in-Aid budget has been cut by 36 per cent in real terms since 2010. We’ve had some mitigation from the Lottery ‒ and thank goodness for that ‒ with an increased share granted by the Government. But this has been countered by the blow of local government cuts outside London. These have and will challenge the whole funding model for culture, which depends on a real local-national partnership for its effectiveness. We have tried to ensure some degree of stability ‒ and we’ll need to work with our funding partners see what more we can do.’

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