How ACE took an axe to contemporary music

How ACE took an axe to contemporary music


norman lebrecht

November 07, 2022

Amid the fuss about English National Opera, few have noticed the deep cuts made by Arts Council England to support systems for living composers.

Here are four major blows:
Britten Sinfonia – total removal
Psappha Ensemble – total removal
London Sinfonietta – minus 41%
Sound and Music – minus 31%

That is savage.

The options for composers could be silence or emigration.


  • Wurtfangler says:

    As long as the composer ticks the right box (naturally, talent is not one of those boxes) there will be plenty of opportunities with the groups that have benefitted from the redistributed funds and destruction of long-established and successful organisations.

    • operacentric says:

      I tried to make several similar comments last week and every one of them was censored and not published! Well said!

    • wildcherry says:

      Ugh! Guaranteed the first comment I scroll down to responding to savage cuts to amazing new music organisations is some brexity-like culture-war nonsense. No different in substance from those who blame immigration for austerity. Make no mistake about it, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the Tories, who thrive on stirring up anti-other rhetoric, often to excuse yet more cuts.

      The ACE is simply putting into practice the Tories’ so-called “levelling-up” policy. This is what that looks like.

      • Ed says:

        Ugh! Guaranteed the first comment I scroll down to responding to savage cuts to music funding is some tedious political claptrap about the Tories.

  • Anton Chron says:

    Dear Norman, what support do you give to living music in your blog?

  • Lothario Hunter says:

    “It is scientifically proven that when the cows listen to the music of Mozart, they make very good milk. When they listen to contemporary music or avant-garde music, they make acid milk. Or maybe ricotta, I don’t know.” (Riccardo Muti)

  • Peter Seivewright says:

    There has been absolute certainty in my mind for many years now that the aim of ‘woke’ ‘liberalism’ is the complete destruction of Western Classical Music. No more concerts of Western Classical Music anywhere in the world, ever. Fortunately, I do not believe that this aim is achievable. But here is something that members of the ‘wokerati’ need to ponder. There is one country in the world where Western Classical Music has flourished uninterruptedly and constantly, always. A country where Symphony Orchestras have always performed magnificently, and continue to do so, under the direst of conditions. A country beset with economic problems, where many people on very low incomes save money devotedly, in order to be able to buy one ticket a month for the Philharmonic concert. Where female members of the audience, on very low incomes, will often buy a new dress to attend the Philharmonic, and preserve their new dress in pristine condition, so that the dress is immaculate for the concert, in honour of the music and the performers. A country where the President has a very deep love of Western Classical Music, and counts many leading performers of Western Classical Music amongst his closest friends. A country where Symphony Concerts are routinely performed to capacity audiences. A country which a coalition of almost every other country in the world is currently trying to destroy completely. Russia.

    • gareth says:

      I think you’ll find that the philistine “anti-woke” are the least likely to listen to classical music or attend any live classical events. Know your enemy.

    • trumpetherald says:

      Pootinist crap.

    • Interested Party says:

      So Nadine Dorries and her instructions to the ACE are Wokerati liberalism? Good Lord, get a grip.

    • Hacomblen says:

      I think you’d have less certainty in your mind if you looked beyond your prejudices and were less UK-centric in your judgment of systemic failings. There are many considerably more liberal and inclusive (I refuse to use “woke” as the feeble insult it has become) régimes that have no problem with sustaining a very healthy arts scene, including classical music, as I have discovered by spending most of my time abroad. In fact, it’s only really the UK in Europe that’s doing quite so badly, and much of that comes down to government backlash against an industry so clearly in opposition, and a previous “culture” secretary hell-bent on petty vengeance.

    • wildcherry says:

      The Arts Council of E is simply putting into practice the so-called Tories’ “levelling-up” policy, literally.

      This is what that looks like, whilst at the same stoking the fires of the culture war through moral panic and claims of “wokeness” because it’s proven an effective strategy.

      What do you imagine is the majority political preference of those working in the very organisations that were cut?

    • Ed says:

      I think it’s doing it’s level best to destroy itself at the moment.

  • Priti Paintal says:

    Omg Norman! Get a grip and live in the real world!

  • Thor says:

    So not so much a levelling up agenda as a levelling down. How sad…

  • BeethovenPrevin says:

    However organisations like Manchester Collective, Aurora and the Paraorchestra all of whom perform a lot of new music, got new or increased funding.

    We can’t keep funding the same organisations for ever just because, and some orchestras have failed to innovate or change enough. At some point we have to reward the efforts and new ideas of other ensembles.

    And even a lot of people working in classical music would struggle to articulate what Sound and Music actually does…

    • anon composer says:

      Sound and Music has become a political mouthpiece for its chief executive, Susanna Eastburn, and her crusade against assessing composers on merit. For goodness sake, Sound and Music actively BAN anonymous selection in their so-called “Fair Access Principles”, despite anonymous selection being one of the most reliable ways to eliminate bias on non-artistic characteristics. I have given up on composing and composition schemes for now because I will only submit pieces anonymously as a matter of principle, and Sound and Music have managed to force almost every major composition scheme to abandon that principle. Please, get rid of that outfit, and replace it with what its predecessors used to do, which is promote composers without trying to tell everyone else how they should be selecting them.

  • Ed says:

    There’s an industry-wide bias against older new composers. Only work by youngsters is considered for performance. Totally agree with anonymous selection.