English National Opera is the single biggest victim of cuts in Arts Council England’s funding arrangements for 2015-18, announced today, but had already been working with ACE to establish a new and more financially sustainable business model.
The company will suffer a real-terms cut of around one-third, with its portfolio funding per annum dropping from £17,177,037 in 2014/15 to £12,380,000 for each year in 2015-18.
Its total cash change when comparing three-year periods is a projected £14,222,711, by far the biggest drop in ACE’s entire portfolio.
Both ENO and ACE have acknowledged the need for a major overhaul of ENO’s business model, after the company repeatedly received stabilisation funding in recent years and made a loss of £2.2m in 2011/12, leading it to halve its cash reserves.
The decision was presaged earlier this year by artistic director John Berry’s announcement of a raft of plans ‒ from opening up its West End venue for daytime retail, to producing mass-market productions designed to fill other West End theatres in lucrative runs ‒ which suggested the company was going to require new funding streams in the relatively near future.
ACE has made available transition funding of up to £7.6m ‘to support ENO’s change to its new business model’.
John Berry, artistic director of ENO, said: ‘We have been working for some time with the Arts Council to develop a new business plan which recognises the challenging funding climate and reduces the cost to the public purse, while also enabling us to create an exciting and sustainable future for ENO and maintain our artistic quality, ambition and reach, nationally and internationally.
‘We announced a number of key elements in that new business plan in April ‒ specifically our approach to balancing commercial and public investment ‒ and we are delighted that the Arts Council is supporting our application with the funding announced today.’
ACE said today that it had suggested that ENO reduce the amount of performances it ran at the plus-sized Coliseum and maintain its programme of smaller-scale work at different venues. It appears that Berry and the ENO team were instead keen to present a radical plan ‘which would incorporate the lower planning figure while maintaining a full season at the Coliseum’.
‘ENO has embraced the need for a new business model based on reduced funding and has committed to working with the Arts Council to achieve that end,’ said an ACE statement.
‘Through partnership with international companies, ENO leverages significant additional investment in its productions, bringing enhanced production values to British audiences. This is underpinned by outstanding musical standards. The quality of its programme has been recognised through the number of awards it wins.
‘In spite of the indisputably ambitious quality of work and the important role this company plays in developing talent, ENO has struggled to reach box office targets and to achieve long-term stability, despite receiving stabilisation funding between 2003 and 2006 and other significant interventions in the preceding years. Whilst noting recent improved performance, ENO has drawn heavily on its reserves and both the Arts Council and ENO agree there is now a need for radical change to its business model.’