Leading article: This soap opera needs a new script

Share

The temptation with the unfolding crisis at English National Opera is to treat it as one of its own shows. The chairman, Martin Smith exits stage left, denouncing the world in general and the press in particular. The Arts Council sidles off stage right singing sotto voce that the assassination had nothing to do with it. Half the chorus of donors threatens to leave the stage altogether and two understudies are propelled to the front as the young lovers.

The events at ENO could indeed be regarded as melodrama, were it not for the fact that they concern one of Britain's premier musical institutions and one which receives a sizeable slice of government arts funding - £150m in a decade. More fundamentally they also show up many of the problems of current arts funding in this country.

Since taking office this Government has tried to push the major arts institutions more and more into the private sector, urging them to rely for their future on a US-style of funding from individuals and corporations. The result has been a greater resort to private funders to fill the ranks of their boards.

Fine in principle. It has worked well in America But the problem in Britain is that these institutions still receive substantial state funding and are charged with creating artistic excellence as well as promoting other aims such as wider access that are beyond the remit of the ordinary businessmen.

Martin Smith's failing was not that he was a philistine - just the opposite - but that he could not see that you can't run an arts institution as a private fiefdom, nor can you dispose of jobs in a public institution, particularly that of the artistic director, without advertising them.

The lessons of this fiasco apply not just to ENO but also to the Arts Council, which has played a particularly cowardly game, going along with Martin Smith at one point and then trying to disown him when the flak started. For ENO it can only be for the good that Martin Smith has stepped down. Now it can and should look to a whole new beginning. But the problems of choosing the right board and the right artistic leadership for subsidised institutions, never mind the role of Arts Council, have yet to be seriously addressed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Domino Developer and Administrator

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

Systems Build Engineer (Development) - Peterborough

£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, inte...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Cameron’s speech, his place in history, and the Pedant Club

John Rentoul
 

Why Facebook won't be feeling threatened by Ello...yet

Ed Rex
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?