The headline across pages 6 and 7 of the Times today is one of the most distortive I can remember in a British broadsheet newspaper.
Council made a fortune on social housing and lost it on opera.
The implication is that Kensington and Chelsea Council blew its money on champagne and arias while neglecting poor people in tower blocks.
Which is both untrue and outrageous.
Kensington and Chelsea founded the Holland Park Festival in a marquee in 1988 and funded it for quarter of a century. In Orcotber 2015, the festival became an independent charity. It continues to receive a small subsidy from the council, as part of its public duty to promote education and leisure amenities.
According to the Times: ‘Last year the council lost £1.5 million on staffing and operating the opera, its accounts show. In 2014-15, it lost £1 million.’
In the absence of evidence to the contrary, these ‘losses’ are part of its former* public subsidy.
The Times continues: ‘The festival which last night showed a performance of Don Giovanni, and sells picnic hampers for £265, takes place in Holland Park, a green space whose neighbours include some of the country’s richest people, including David Beckham.’
This is disgraceful tabloid demagoguery.
I have never seen Mr Beckham at the opera, or partaken of a £265 hamper, but I have seen lots of people watching opera at Holland Park who cannot afford the prices of any other summer opera. It is a very mixed audience and the council was right to support it with a modest amount of tax funds. UPDATE: *The council’s grant to the opera ended last year.
The Times attack is both uninformed and unfounded. Will we see a retraction?
UPDATE: Opera Holland Park responds here.