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Musicians at ENO Deliver Over 150 Letters Urging ENO Management to Reconsider Proposals to Axe Jobs and Go Part-Time

Musicians delivered 153 letters to English National Opera management, urging them to save ENO as a full-time company with a full-time orchestra and music staff on full-time pay.

Published: 24 November 2023 | 12:29 PM Updated: 15 December 2023 | 4:32 PM
MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl with ENO Music Staff and Orchestra Members after delivering  letters outside the building.
153 letters were delivered to English National Opera management. Image credit: Jonathan Stewart © The MU.

Musicians in the English National Opera (ENO) orchestra delivered 153 letters from musicians, audiences and public figures urging ENO management to reconsider proposals to axe 19 jobs in the orchestra, and make the orchestra and music staff part-time.

They were joined outside ENO’s home at the London Coliseum by MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl, National Organiser for Orchestras Jo Laverty, and Regional Organiser for London Jamie Pullman.

Speaking to assembled musicians and supporters, MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl said: “The message to management has to be that this doesn’t work.

“What we need to do is to explain to management over and over again why this proposal isn’t going to work, why you can’t have an orchestra together for six months of the year and not working the other six months of the year.

“ENO is going to lose talent, and it’s not possible for you to sustain work for twelve months of the year when you’re employed for six months of the year.

“We also need to make the point about the other city that they’re not going to get the ENO. It is not the same without the orchestra and the performers. What are they going to get? Essentially, the set designs. It’s not levelling up, it’s levelling down.

“We want to keep the pressure up with the press, we want to keep the issues alive with MPs who are very concerned, we need to keep telling this story. Thank you for coming today.”

The event was also covered by The Stage.

Proposals will impact on musicians, audiences and the future of opera in England

Letters delivered come from musicians, audiences and public figures.

They highlight the impact of axing jobs, going part-time, and former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ directive to move the company outside of London.

Nearly all raise concerns that working for ENO will no longer be a viable option for many musicians working there now, and for young/upcoming talent aspiring to work there in the future.

“Your proposals will mean that working for ENO will no longer be a viable option for many musicians working there now, forcing many musicians out of the industry who give so much back through their teaching and mentoring of the next generation, as well as inspiring with their brilliant musicianship in the opera pit.”

“It is vital for the future of opera that we save this company- no musician can survive on a 60 % salary anywhere in the uk but especially in London.”

Many also focus on the impact on audiences and, in particular, regional audiences who will not be getting the full ENO experience if the company is forced to move without its world-class orchestra, music staff and chorus.

“My daughters recently attended the relaxed performance of Iolanthe. They were dressed as fairies and the Autumn Fairy waved to them from the stage. They were completely blown away.”

“I have recently been to watch ENO performances of Tosca and ‘The Rheingold,' and as an under 35 could watch these world class productions in great seats for a very affordable price.”

“I have just seen two excellent productions of Peter Grimes and La Traviata. What a joy for we retirees of lower incomes to be able to afford operas of this calibre.”

“ENO is simply not ENO without a full time orchestra and chorus. I cannot understand what the company hopes and thinks it can offer to any audience, in London or elsewhere, without the core of the company itself.”

Explainer: what's happening at ENO

Last November, Arts Council England (ACE) announced that it would cut all of ENO's National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) funding and that the company had to move outside of London.

Following a campaign by ENO and the trade unions the MU, Equity and BECTU, ENO reached a new funding settlement with Arts Council England.

However, management now wants to axe 19 posts in the orchestra and make the orchestra and music staff part-time in new proposals that have been discussed with ACE. Some musicians could lose 70% of their work.

The MU rejects these ENO’s proposals and is fighting to keep members at ENO in full-time jobs on full time pay.

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