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English National Opera the biggest loser in Arts Council funding shake-up


The English National Opera was the highest profile loser as its grant was slashed a third in the Arts Council’s three year funding shake up, while concerns were raised over the number of regional organisations to lose funding.

Arts Council England (ACE) announced its investment for 2015 to 2018 this morning announcing the 670 arts organisations and 21 major museums it would support over the three year period. The organisations will share grants totalling about £340m a year.

Arts Council England (ACE) announced that more money would be spent on supporting the arts in the regions, but it also emerged that of the 58 organisations to lose funding altogether 43 were based outside of London.

One commentator asked: “How does that help the geographical spread?”

Chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette said he still believed the settlement would be a “major boost to England’s culture and creativity”.

He pointed out that in 2008, 49 per cent of its funding went to organisations outside London, which next year will rise to 53 per cent, with £16m more being spent outside the capital.

Alan Davey, chief executive of the Arts Council, said: “These are small but purposeful steps, which have been achieved without damaging London's global cultural offer and that’s very important.”

However, it emerged that only 15 of the 58 organisations that will no longer receive Arts Council funding were from the capital. While some did not reapply, the majority had their applications rejected.

This included Red Ladder Theatre in Durham, which said it would need a change of business plan, Propeller Theatre Company in Guilford, The Wordsworth Trust in Cumbria, and Bath Festivals.

Belinda Kidd, chief executive of Bath Festivals which runs The Independent Bath Literature Festival, said she was “deeply disappointed by this decision. However we are determined to secure the future of our festivals".

She added that the withdrawal of Arts Council support would make it “harder to plan ahead and take artistic risks”.

One of the more high profile organisations in London to lose funding was Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, whose funding of £1m was withdrawn. On his first day in the job, artistic director Paul Miller said the group was “deeply disappointed” adding they would set about “the hard work of hitting ambitious new targets for private fundraising”.

While 75 per cent of organisations received the same level of funding, more than five per cent saw their grants reduced. Of the major organisations to suffer, the ENO’s funding was cut 29 per cent to £12.4m. ACE said it needed “radical change” and had struggled to reach box office targets.

The ENO changed its business model in April, with new partnerships and changes to the building’s operations. The Art Council has put aside further one-off funding to support the organisation in its “transition”. The Barbican’s funding was also down, 20 per cent lower than three years ago.

Matthew Bourne’s dance company New Adventures was one of the big winners, receiving funding for the first time to the tune of almost £1.3m. The Design Museum in London also received ACE funding for the first time.

The cuts could have been much worse had £69.6m of lottery cash per year not been put into the pot, after Arts Council funding has been slashed 36 per cent since 2010.

Without the lottery and a better than expected settlement from Chancellor George Osborne, Sir Peter said the Arts Council would only have been able to support about 250 organisations.