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MU Supports Latest ENO Statement on Funding Cuts

The MU agrees with English National Opera that Arts Council England needs to provide further clarity, and the Union remains committed to fighting the cuts altogether.

Published: 09 December 2022 | 4:29 PM
Arts funding cuts demo in front of the DCMS
The Musicians’ Union stands with ENO and other groups facing these devastating cuts, and we demand better from the Government and ACE. Photo: Musicians' Union

English National Opera (ENO) has responded to statements made at a Government Select Committee by Chief Executive of Arts Council England (ACE) Darren Henley. Henley was summoned to the committee following drastic funding cuts made to ENO, Welsh National Opera, Britten Sinfonia and others.

At the committee, which met on Thursday 8 December, Henley praised ENO but doubled down on the cuts and argued that ACE’s latest funding decisions were sound, despite critical comments from MPs.

Later that evening, ENO commented on Twitter that they share Henley’s “desire for the ENO to build on our successful work” but criticised Henley’s lack of clarity on several counts, including the reasoning behind the cuts and ACE’s expectation that ENO can transition to a new business model much more quickly than any other equivalent organisation has ever been asked to do.

Devastation to the industry

The Musicians’ Union stands with ENO and other groups facing these devastating cuts, and we demand better from the Government and ACE.

MU National Organiser for Orchestras, Jo Laverty, said:

“We are in discussions with the organisations affected by the cuts, including those that have been defunded altogether. In all cases there appears to have been no case presented by ACE as to why they have been cut, despite the devastation to the industry of potential losses of hundreds of employed jobs, and for our freelance members a huge diminution in the work that will be available to them in the future.

“In all these cases, when you look at the great work, not just in concert and opera giving but in community and education projects impoverished areas of England, it is clearly not just musicians but the communities they serve who will be far poorer as a result of these decisions.”

How the MU has responded to the cuts

The MU views the cuts as a tragedy, both for the arts and culture in general – which are already chronically underfunded – and for many of our members, whose lives will be completely disrupted by what is proposed.

Since the cuts were announced, the MU has met twice with ACE and pushed for MPs to ask questions in the House of Commons. We have also helped organise and taken part in two demonstrations outside ACE and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. To find out about future actions, log in to My MU and opt into news emails under ‘communications preferences’.  

Additionally, we have written to the Mayor of London’s office to ensure they are in close contact with ENO’s management, and we are working with other unions to keep up the pressure and raise public awareness of the damage the cuts will inflict.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Michelle Donelan has so far failed to respond to multiple requests from the MU to discuss the cuts. The previous Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, also refused to meet with us.

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