David Lister: The Lowry Centre is right to be worried

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The Independent Online

To understand the new "Opera House of the North", look to the arts world's most important northerner. The present Secretary of State for Culture, Andy Burnham, has told me that he believes his own department is too "London-centric", that the arts world can be "patronising to the provinces" and that our national institutions, not least the Royal Opera House, need to start showing their wares outside of the capital.

Burnham is a northerner, passionate about his northern roots, and has been closely involved in this new opera house for the north, working with the head of the Royal Opera House, Tony Hall, to have a touring base for Royal Opera and Royal Ballet productions in Manchester.

The ROH's touring in the UK hitherto has been minimal, so this seems like a welcome initiative. But it begs certain questions. The Lowry Centre in Salford rightly sees itself as an opera and ballet base for the North West, and a considerable amount of taxpayers' money went into the Lowry. It recently hosted the Kirov Ballet, so why can it not host the Royal Ballet? Is it now being written out of the script?

Lastly, the old sore of ticket prices. We need to know what they will be. If they are too high, it defeats the object of bringing opera and ballet to the people. And if they can be kept low in Manchester, then why not in London?