Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the English National Opera (arts 184)

Summary (short paragraph summarising below in bullet points):

· It is clear that arts organisations will be impacted by funding cuts; to varying degrees. Everyone in the cultural sector understands that the arts are not a special case, but there is concern that culture is an easy target politically, when the reality is it provides huge return for a small investment and is crucial to a healthy, happy society.

· ENO is not alone in running a very efficient organisation with 94% of our costs going straight into the artistic programme. The impact therefore of even 5 – 10% will be noticeable to the public in the form of loss of jobs, diminished training opportunities, cuts in programming and rises in ticket prices.

· ENO provides a huge amount of public value in return for the Arts Council grant of £17.9 million (2010/11). Through an artistic programme which strategically uses the grant to support adventurous, innovative and dynamic work, it reaches a much wider and diverse audience than is usual for opera and brings unique work to the UK that would not otherwise be seen. Many people have seen their first opera at ENO as a result of the Company’s policy of affordable tickets - over 50,000 tickets were £20 or less last season. ENO is the UK’s largest employer of British opera talent and plays an important role nurturing emerging talent through a number of schemes and career opportunities. Like others in the subsidised theatre or music sector we provide a vital bedrock for the talent and expertise that the commercial sectors require.

· Our significant collaboration within the UK theatre and media sector and with international opera houses ensure not only that our work reaches large numbers of people but also provides important financial investment. Our international partners for the forthcoming 2010/11 season alone are investing £3.5 million into ENO productions.

· Introducing a model which relies more heavily on corporate or individual giving or on self generated income needs serious consideration particularly in the current economic environment. Some organisations – those with limited assets such as entertaining space or commercial property - such as ENO, will find this model harder to sustain. Relying on individuals to support the artistic programme makes the creation of the riskier, more innovative and adventurous work more difficult. It is clear from the UK and international response to ENO’s work over the last two years that there is a real appetite for work of this kind produced to world class standards. Over 39,000 people saw a contemporary opera at ENO in the 2009/10 year. Clearly for the arts to continue to have such an internationally strong reputation it is important that we continue to invest in a wide range of work including new commissions, contemporary opera and productions by creative talent from across the arts.

1. What impact recent, and future, spending cuts from central and local government will have on the arts and heritage at a national and local level;

1.1 It is clear that every cultural organisation - national, regional and local - will be affected to varying degrees as a result of funding cuts. The arts are not a special case in these times of cuts, but should not be dismissed as only a luxury or as an industry that can easily survive by finding funding from rich individuals or those who want to participate. Just as the benefits, both financial and social of the arts are not in dispute but difficult to precisely calculate, so is the likely impact of cuts. Some organisations will survive better than others. Most organisations do not have "fat" or "excesses" to cut – cuts will generally impact directly on the art itself, the affordability of access for the public and the development of UK creative talent – the past and current funding have seen to that. For example in the 2008/9 ENO received no uplift in its ACE grant (impact of circa £450,000 in that year and almost £1.5m across the three year spending review) and has been impacted like many other organisations in the recent recession, with a fall in corporate sponsorship. The impending rise in VAT and increases in National Insurance contributions will compound the problems. Far from the concept that medium or large scale organisations at national level have a lot of slack, waste public funds on excessive pay or expenses, ENO is very efficiently and tightly run. 94% of our running costs are used on the artistic programme. With good financial management, a strong artistic programme and leveraging investment from international houses in our work, we operate at a very small surplus/breakeven; investing as much as possible in the work on stage and ensuring that we offer opera at affordable prices. For an organisation such as ENO with minimal discretionary spend a cut of 5% to 10% in the grant would result in change that would be noticeable to the public – in the level of work on stage, jobs and ticket prices.

1.2 Artistic Programme

Inevitably the element of the artistic programme that is most likely to suffer due to cuts in funding is that work that is riskier – the lesser known work; the existing contemporary opera; the new commissions. We believe that grant funding should be used to take risks –to allow creativity to flourish; to experiment; to bring the public work which they would otherwise not experience; to challenge. ENO uses it grant-in-aid (around 50% of income) strategically to create a dynamic and unique programme and to invest in the future of opera in a way that reliance solely on earned income or private fundraising would not allow (the US funding environment has resulted in far more conservative programming in that country than in the vibrant UK). In each ENO season circa 70% of the programme (10/11 productions) is new (i.e. not revivals) including a commitment to contemporary opera. For example, in the forthcoming 2010/11 season we are staging the UK premiere of a 20th century opera by a Russian composer and the World premiere of a newly commissioned work by a young American composer. Not only are we the only opera company with this approach in the UK, we are seen by the international opera industry as one of the most creative and inspirational places in the world to see opera at the moment. This has resulted in ENO being able to forge a number of critically successful international partnerships with important houses/festivals (witness the comments of our co-producing partners in the ‘Working with ENO’ section at These not only allow us to bring to UK audiences work that would not otherwise be seen but means our work is travelling much more widely across the globe – allowing us to celebrate the UK creative industries abroad. We are currently working with at least 20 international houses and in the 2010/11 season have leveraged £3.5m of investment towards our artistic programme and the commission and development of new works (refer also 2 below).

This artistic strategy, combined with affordable tickets, results in ENO having a much more diverse and younger audience. Over 30% of our audience is under 44 on average and for contemporary operas this figure is higher. This is an increase from 21% five years ago and is the highest of the UK opera houses. Sustainable public funding allows us to maintain a balance of private/public funding to ensure that more adventurous, new and unexplored work is created and that we develop new audiences.

1.3 Outreach and Participation

Outreach and participation programmes are important for the long term future of the arts. While these programmes by their nature initially reach relatively small numbers of people they play a crucial role in supporting the core artistic programme by encouraging participation in and engagement with the arts - reaching out to a more diverse audience, targeting communities that would not ordinarily participate in the arts and encouraging disadvantaged and younger people to engage more closely. There is much evidence of the benefits of these programmes. In autumn of 2009 we worked closely with the BBC, in particular BBC Radio 3, on a project to encourage people around the UK to find their voice and discover the joy of singing. Sing Hallelujah used Handel’s famous Hallelujah Chorus to involve people of all ages. Two live events – in Glasgow and London – brought people of all ages together to learn the chorus while a multitude of interactive tools online at still exist to help people get started and to continue to sing through local networks. Feedback to events and online initiatives was hugely positive with many people saying they would join local choirs and continue to sing. The project spanned from a Radio 3 broadcast on Christmas Day to activities with volunteers from our local borough, Westminster, and reached hundreds of thousands of people over the course of four months.

1.4 Jobs and Training

As outlined above, funding cuts will mean cuts in the artistic programme – this will result in the loss of jobs and diminish training opportunities. Generally jobs within the arts sector are not highly paid positions but often require specific skills and years of training. Many of the people working in the broader music and theatre sector learn their craft and gain immense experience from subsidised organisations such as ENO. The skills and experience gained within the subsidised sector benefit the broader commercial entertainment and creative industries. From creative talent to stage management, props, make up and costume professionals, the subsidised arts sector supports careers early on and gives people huge opportunities to develop that benefits the wider cultural and commercial sector. The high level of new productions originating at ENO each season is helping to support the commercial set building industry. Reductions in funding leading to a cut in the artistic programme will have a direct impact on the companies in this sector, potentially resulting in more job losses.

As the UK’s largest employer of British opera talent (86% of our singers, conductors and directors are British or British trained in the 2010/11 season) we at ENO take our role in nurturing talent seriously. ENO currently runs three training schemes for emerging talent: two for singers and one for orchestral players. The training and role opportunities we give to singers are not in abundance in the UK and we provide an incredibly important staging post between formal learning and professional careers. ENO Opera Works is the only scheme of its kind to provide gifted singers who have fallen into other careers or are unable to undertake full time training a more flexible route to a singing career. ENO Evolve is the only training scheme for young orchestral players in an opera house in the UK.

2. What arts organisations can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make economies of scale;

2.1 Co-producing partners

Most cultural organisations have been collaborative for a good while. ENO’s many co-producing partnerships are testimony to a collaborative approach that spans the UK, Europe and North America. At home we co-produce work with smaller theatre companies such as Improbable, Fabulous Best, Punchdrunk, Complicite and the Young Vic, mixing a wide range of creative talent and theatre and opera. Outside of the UK we co-produce with many houses. Our most longstanding artistic relationship is with the Metropolitan Opera, New York with whom we regularly co-produce and we have just entered into a new long term collaboration with the Bayersiche Staatsoper, Munich. We are always careful to pick partners who share our artistic ambition.

This model of collaboration allows us to do two important things. By sharing financial and artistic risk we can ensure that ambitious, internationally recognised works are presented in the UK and showcase British creative talent abroad. We opened the 2009/10 Season with a new, spectacular production of Le Grand Macabre by Ligeti, directed by the Catalan theatre group La Fura dels Baus. This remarkable production sold out in London. It was a four way partnership with three European houses and the total production costs of £1million were shared four ways. Essentially ENO brought investment worth £ 750,000 into the UK with just one production. Without this approach ENO would not have produced the production and UK audiences would not have had the opportunity to see it. In the forthcoming Season (September 2010 to July 2011) this figure is £3.5 million.

2.2 Internship scheme

Another good example of the collaboration currently in place is a scheme to provide properly organised and fully monitored and assessed internships in the cultural sector for people registered as unemployed. ENO is one of a number of organisations including the Royal Opera House and Somerset House in the scheme and the internships, which are linked to NVQs, are funded through the Future Jobs Fund.

2.3 Potential for the future

There is potential for more as well and we are exploring options with a number of other London based organisations particularly in relation to buying power. Having just experienced some problems with the housing of the organisations’ archive there may be some logic in a central location and service for arts archives.

3. What level of public subsidy for the arts and heritage is necessary and sustainable;

3.1 Most organisations work very hard indeed to generate £1 for every £1 given. This 50/50 model works well when the economy is thriving but less well in hard times. Being more reliant on non-sustainable sources of income jeopardises long term planning and makes organisations very vulnerable in difficult times. Some organisations, with a lot of assets such as land or property, might find it possible to generate new income streams but others less so. For example it is more difficult for ENO to encourage corporate giving because we cannot provide the entertaining spaces that the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne offer and unlike the South Bank Centre, or again the Royal Opera House, we are not landlord to shops and commercial units that provide an income stream separate to our artistic programme. While it might seem the fairest approach to expect organisations across the board to generate a similar level of income or cope with a similar level of cuts, in reality organisations are not all in the same starting position.

· Is the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one

3.2 It is sensible, for everyone concerned, to have an arm’s length principle in place – such as the Arts Council. Key to sustainable funding is long term objectives and funding agreements so organisations can be strategic and forward thinking.

· What impact recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations

3.3 It is still very unclear how these changes will work in reality and what the benefits are for the arts as well of course when these changes really would take place. More understanding of changes would be very helpful.

· Whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery funding need to be reviewed

3.4 No comment – see above

· The impact of recent changes to DCMS arm’s length bodies – in particular the abolition of the UK film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council;

3.5 Not our field so we don’t feel we can comment

· Whether businesses and philanthropists can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level

3.6 Private sector fundraising cannot replace Government funding to the level that is required as individuals or corporations have very specific interests and motivations and there is not a ready traditional in the UK of sponsoring operating costs. As already discussed to rely so heavily on this strategy will compromise the more innovative, creative or experimental artistic output that is so essential to the UK’s reputation for cultural excellence and the future of our arts. It will also necessitate a review of ticket pricing policies potentially making great art less accessible to everyone. We know from our artistic programme that people are very cautious to sponsor anything new or different. However private funding could make a greater contribution to the arts than it currently does with more encouragement and profile (see below) – but this is a long-term strategy to change perceptions and needs to be viewed in that way.

· Whether there need to be more Government incentives to encourage private donations

3.7 The Gift Aid/tax regulations need to be clarified and the level of benefit we can give donors without being taxed significantly increased. Some way of encouraging increase in profile and public thanks for arts donors and sponsors (press recognition, honours etc) would also be very valuable.

September 2010