Let the market return to Covent Garden

Share
Related Topics
Why shouldn't Covent Garden charge the earth for its seats? Today's news is that it will break its record once again, with up to £260 for the forthcoming Pavarotti concert. Shock! Horror! Whatever happened to the idea, familiar in a thousand speec hes, of wider public access to the arts?

It is a good moment to take a deep breath and acknowledge that this is almost one hundred per cent delusion. More politely, an ever-deferred aspiration. There is no evidence that the kind of person who goes to the theatre has changed by one hair's breadth over the past 20 years. The theatre is less central to popular culture than a home video and a six-pack.

This is not to sell theatre short. It remains one of the arts we are rather good at - world class - unlike, say, painting or tennis. Everyone should want to see it flourish. The question is whether it should dodge the usual rules: that people who want a particular item which pleases them should pay for it.

Just about every entry price in the leisure trade has been going up faster than inflation. Yet according to those who study cultural trends, it makes little difference to how many people go. We pay up happily - provided we think that, overall, we are ge

tting a good night (or afternoon) out. And if not, then not.

The Royal Opera House is, of course, in an odd, even indefensible position, because of the sheer size of its subsidy. Every penny comes from general taxation, and is a transfer from poor to rich. The real question that arises now is not: how can we get the prices down? It is: why don't we let it feel the breeze of an unfettered market?

Glyndebourne, slightly cheaper now than Covent Garden, gets zilch from public funds. Nor, in another neck of the arts, does the Royal Academy. Keynes invented our system of arts subsidy in the 1940s because he loved opera and ballet, which were still then struggling for survival in Britain. That is no longer true. The taste, and the performances, have been established. We need a new Keynes, in this area as in so many others. Exactly why should football fans subsidise the theatres they never, or seldom, go to?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells