‘Leveling up’ UK arts grants hit London


Major cultural institutions in London will lose significant financial backing from Arts Council England, adhering to the British government’s “leveling up” agenda of shifting resources to cities and regions outside the capital.

At least one entity now based in London, the English National Opera, facing a cut of £12.6 million (about $14.2 million), plans to move most of its operations to Manchester. (Or maybe/apparently not – see Nov. 15 update, below, and Nov. 17 update, above.)

Other London arts groups facing major reductions in council support include the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (down £2.9 million), the Southbank Centre (down £1.9 million) and National Theatre (down £850,000). Funding for several others will be eliminated, but some troupes in London suburbs will receive more.

Council subsidies will rise for the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, Shakespeare North Theatre in Prescot, the Factory International venue in Manchester, English Touring Opera, and Chineke! an orchestra that showcases racial/ethnic minority artists and repertory.

Arts Council England, whose funds come from government appropriations and profits from Britain’s National Lottery, is expected to disperse £446 million annually for the next three years. That number may drop as the UK government struggles to reduce spending in an oncoming recession.

Like many European countries, Britain has exploited its artistic and cultural attractions to boost the tourist trade, especially among affluent visitors. Key to that trade is London’s status as one of the world’s leading cultural centers. A diminished arts scene could make the city less of a destination.

The arts council’s support for London groups will drop by 16 percent in the coming year, while funding for entities outside the city will rise by 21 percent, the BBC’s Daniel Rosney reports:


London-based orchestras facing reduced subsidies include the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestra (down 12 percent each) and the London Sinfonietta (down 41 percent). The Royal Philharmonic and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will not face cuts, Norman Lebrecht reports on Slipped Disc:


UPDATE (Nov. 8): The Bachtrack website offers a more extensive roundup of winners and losers in Arts Council England’s shifting subsidies:


UPDATES (Nov. 15): The Observer’s Fiona Maddocks, while blasting the funding cuts for the English National Opera, writes that reports of the company’s move from London to Manchester “have no substance as yet, and certainly make no sense.”


Meanwhile, Darren Henley, Arts Council England’s chief executive, writes in a commentary published by The Guardian that the council faced “invidious choices” in redressing “the historical unfairness in the balance of funding between London and the rest of the country.”

Henley suggests that opera companies, in order to appeal to a larger, more diverse audience, should consider “opera in car parks, opera in pubs, opera on your tablet. New ideas may seem heretic to traditionalists, but fresh thinking helps the art form reimagine itself and remain exciting and meaningful to future generations of audiences and artists.”