After almost two years of demanding human sacrifice in exchange for extra cash, Arts Council England capitulated this morning beneath the weight of public outcry and its own incompetence.
The ACE will give ENO an extra £30.5m over two years as part of ‘a special funding arrangement’. The extra grant reverses last year’s £5 million cut to ENO’s budget and adds £10m a year for strategic improvements to the company’s business model. The figures are slightly confusing but, at the very least, they restore every penny that the ACE punitively cut from ENO last year.
It marks a total surrender by the ACE, which had been demanding the head of John ‘the Berry’ Baptist, ENO’s director, before it released another penny to the loss-making company. Much is wrong internally at ENO, but its artistic progress is unmatched and its world reputation, as a feeder of new shows to the Met, Munich and elsewhere, is uncontested.
It’s not yet clear what provoked the ACE turnaround, but the departure of ACE’s chief executive, Alan ‘Widmerpool’ Davey, to head BBC Radio 3 has made it easier for the council to allow ENO more time to put its troubled finances in order. And a huge wave of collegial support for Berry has defeated a campaign of polonium leaks against Berry from the ACE, where the new chief executive, Darren Henley, has many fences to mend.
UPDATE: Official statements here.
UPDATE 2: Why ENO has nothing to fear from ACE here.