Just in: Arts Council outsources its opera strategy

Just in: Arts Council outsources its opera strategy


norman lebrecht

March 14, 2023

Arts Council England has just published a tender for an independent organisation to analyse the opera and music theatre sector.

Presumably some organisation like BOP Consulting, which expensively nudged the BBC towards its current classical disaster.

The ACE typically has gone one further.

It has also appointed a ‘Reference Group’ of three wise persons who will act as ‘critical friends’ during the process. The troika are Fiona Allen, presently head of Opera Australia; Anthony Blackstock, a lifelong ACE committee man; and Jan Younghusband (pictured) whose tenure as Head of Music and Events at BBC Television was outstandingly successful in marginalising classical music and opera.

The timing of today’s ACE announcement, amid BBC chaos confusion, is classically priceless.


  • Ghost of Keynes says:

    It beggars belief that not one of Arts Council England’s 639FTE employees is capable of creating a plan for opera and musical theatre. Presumably the fact that music strategy needs to be outsourced in this way means there’s no longer a need for an ACE Director of Music, and that we can look forward to celebrating the inept and nasty Claire Mera-Nelson’s redundancy any day now?

  • Nick2 says:

    This is total idiocy! Why are these people on the Arts Council if they cannot assess the opera and theatre sector? Surely they should be fired and more competent experts appointed? Layer upon new layer of government bureaucracy, each one wasting cash resources that could go to the performing arts.

  • Singeril says:

    These “independent organizations” are hired for one reason…to reinforce the thoughts and actions already held by the hiring council.

  • MMcGrath says:

    I laughed out loud.
    When in doubt or under pressure: bring in the consultants. Now THAT is leadership.
    Then they can blame things on BCG or McKinsey!

  • Michael Volpe says:

    I think it is probably a case of damned if they do and damned if they don’t. It is not a strategy document in any case – it is a review and they made clear that distinction. Given the mistrust and anger aimed at them how, much credibility would a review – carried out by them internally – be given?

  • Sarichan says:

    I keep hearing from the opera company PR departments and the Scouse Diva that everyone loves opera and classical music, it’s excellent, it’s open to all, it puts £8 back into the economy for every £1 spent – so there’s nothing to be afraid of from this.

  • Walter says:

    What it means is they know fuck all about it. Who knew?

  • Robin Blick says:

    Speaking of ‘marginalising classical music and opera’, it must be going on for fourty years now when my two children sat for three hours, entranced by a BBC TV performance of the Magic Flute. I also recall how the BBC’s Young Musician competition, which they also both watched avidly, was shunted from BBC 1 to to BBC 4. and its prelIminary rounds removed entirely. I believe is this called ‘a race to the bottom’. It seems we have now landed.

  • GG says:

    Oh lordy. Not Younghusband. Didn’t they check?

  • Christopher Clift says:

    So ACE books someone from 13,000 plus miles away to tell them what anyone from the UK in the performing arts could tell them in spades. Getting them to travel here, will eat into the small amount of cash the Arts Council has. And why cannot one of the myriad of ACE members not perform this function – it is not rocket science.