The elephant in the Arts Council room

The elephant in the Arts Council room


norman lebrecht

July 01, 2014

Read again the Arts Council justification for stripping English National Opera of one-third of its funding:

‘In spite of the indisputably ambitious quality of work and the important role this company plays in developing talent, ENO has struggled to reach box office targets and to achieve long-term stability.’

Question: Who was the chairman of ENO during the period when it ‘ struggled to reach box office targets and to achieve long-term stability’?

Answer: The same person who is now chairman of Arts Council England.

One of the reasons ENO failed to meet its targets was because its board chairman took his eye off the ball to pursue a higher office.

Elephant, thy name is Peter Bazalgette.



  • A shocking story. The ENO belongs to the British cultural assets.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    Norman, thank you for pointing out the hypocrisy of those entrusted with the nation’s cultural heritage. After days of constant live coverage on the BBC’s news bulletins of “Glastonbury, Glastonbury, Glastonbury”, I am incensed that so few in positions of power are prepared to fight on behalf of those who toil every day to maintain the highest possible standards given the constraints of under-funding. It has already been pointed out in these columnns how much other nations spend per capita on the arts, compared to the still comparatively rich United Kingdom. And before people jump up to criticise what they regard as an elite pastime, let me state as forcefully as I can that most of the money in arts organisations like ENO is spent on paying the wages of people like carpenters, electricians, stage-hands, costume and make-up staff (to mention just a few). These are jobs, for heaven’s sake. If you cut the budgets, you make people unemployed and potentially lose their skills forever. When will politicians and members of the Arts Council finally wake up?!

    • Will Duffay says:

      They hypocrisy is indeed appalling, and I agree completely with you about the pitiful value which the UK places on the arts, compared to other nations.

      But opera companies are a problem, given the amount they suck up money and the limited appeal they have even for the musically enlightened. Personally I think they should be funded properly because that’s what a civilised western nation should do, but I’m not sure that appealing to the philistines that the millions of pounds of public money help keep electricians and carpenters etc in work is the way forward. We do it because it’s culturally right, not because artisans rely on the work.