The board of English National Opera has been warned officially three times in the past 15 years that the Arts Council was about to withdraw funding if they continued in denial of financial facts.
Yet the chairman Harry Brünjes, in an article in the New Statesman, maintains that the guillotine came as a complete shock to him.
The only way ENO can possibly survive is for it to be reconstituted with a completely new board and management. Almost every sentence in the text that follows is surreal.
Harry Brünjes writes:
… We were shocked to learn from Arts Council England in a meeting last week that ENO was no longer to be a National Portfolio Organisation – selected leaders in their fields with a responsibility to protect and develop the arts – and our general funding would be cut to zero. We were informed that ENO might be allocated a “transition fund” if it were to relocate from its home for the last 55 years, the London Coliseum, possibly to Manchester. There was no warning, no consultation. We were told for the first time 24 hours before Arts Council England made its plans public, on Friday 4 November. It is only now that the full consequences of this decision are fully understood: the loss of a national institution in London that is approaching its centenary and the loss of livelihood of hundreds of loyal, devoted and talented people.
The suggestion that ENO relocate comes despite the fact that we were specifically advised not to propose a move outside of London in our original application. The suggested transition fund would come to £17 million over the next three years, £20 million less than our usual investment.
ENO has an established reputation for national projects. Manchester is a brilliant city with a fantastic arts ecology but the transition will take time – it could take as long as four years to move – and the ENO has only been given five months left at the Coliseum. We were advised that ENO would retain ownership of the Coliseum but must use it as a commercial asset and make it available for other National Portfolio Organisations to use at favourable rates.
The modern ENO has an excellent relationship with both Arts Council England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport….
Read on here and weep.
Shocked, I tell you. Shocked.