The new face of Arts Council England

The new face of Arts Council England


norman lebrecht

March 31, 2023

Forget orchestras and (especially) opera.

ACE exists to promote enterprise and innovation.

Can you hear Maynard Keynes turning in his grave?


  • Maria says:

    What a load of cobblers!

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    Given the bias of the Arts Council, notwithstanding the current spurious shift away to the ‘provinces’ , it still remains more the Arts Council of London than England. As this appointment shows. Ms Nelson will now use her role to ensure that ENO remains where it is which won’t mean much use of enterprise and innovation on her or ACL’s part.

  • Simon Dearsley says:

    Is there no end…

  • Adrienne says:

    “Classical & electronic music meet thru the work of @auroraorchestra. Performing at a former printing factory ……. This is the type of innovation @ace_national is proud to fund.”

    Performing in factories is innovation? Barbirolli was conducting in factories 80 years ago. At least give him some credit.

    • Richard says:

      He was. My mother had fond memories of concerts with the Halle in very ‘unelitist’ venues like Eastbrook Hall, Bradford, in the 1940s.

      (Bradford’s main concert hall is St George’s Hall)

  • William Evans says:

    Why does she refer to herself as TheTonyaNelson on Twitter? The definite article certainly emphasises her self-belief/arrogance, if nothing else! (Unless, of course, another ‘TonyaNelson’ had already laid claim to the unadorned moniker on the site in question whom, during a cursory search, I’ve been unable to locate).

  • Anne Midgette says:

    Norman, you’ve made more than one post recently in which you suggest that the appointment of a Black person is somehow terrible for classical music, without any substantiation. Are you basing this view on anything more than the color of her skin? She appears to be a highly credentialed person and very good news for ACE, and I find your post both offensive and frankly shocking.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Anne, I very much hope you are not accusing me of racism. Given that from your distance you know little or nothing of the ACE situation, allow me to enlghten you. ACE has launched an unprecedented onslaught amined at reducting the proviion of opera and classical music. This particular London director took an enthusiastic part in the process. She has now been given a promotion to a national role, which I have conveyed to our readers. That is of concern to people in our field.

      • McBaldy says:

        You may certainly not be a racist, but your article attracts a substantially racist readership, towards which you seem to adopt “light-touch” approach to content moderation. There’s a lot that can be said about a man by the company he keeps, and your case it is pretty obvious which company you prefer…

        • norman lebrecht says:

          Apparently the company we keep includes anonymous You, who is plainly a person of the most enlightened and liberal views, along with many others like you. We have a monthly readershp of 2.2 million and around 200-300 comments a day. It’s absurd to expect us to search everyone’s ideological baggage.

        • Adrienne says:

          In a country where S Asians significantly outnumber black people, this black person would like to know why so many black people are appointed to these positions in the interests of ‘diversity’. It’s nothing of the sort, just pure patronising tokenism under pressure from people who think that BLM is a force for good. I would also argue that it isn’t even effective because it is going too far and people are no longer pretending not to notice, as they used to, and are starting to react. I suppose this is the ‘racism’ that you think you have so cleverly identified?

        • Andrew C says:

          Thank goodness this article doesn’t mention the Goldberg Variations. We’d never hear the end of it. Mr Lebrecht would subsequently go down in history as the world’s first Jewish anti-semite.

      • Anne Midgette says:

        These are all reasonable points, Norman; I wonder why you didn’t make any of them in the original article you posted. You’re right I don’t know the background, but that’s why I’m reading an article about it — I would have thought the whole point of the post would be to enlighten me, rather than that being something extra you have to do in the comments. This is an international site, and I’m sure a lot of other readers don’t know the back story either. I admit I was sensitive to this issue after your recent headline “Dumb and Dumber” over a picture of Davonté Tynes, with an accompanying post that also didn’t communicate much nuance; I regretted not speaking up about that one, and this pushed me over the edge.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          Dear Anne
          Sometimes pressures of time and material oblige me to write shorthand on this site. I cn often rely on readers to fill in the gaps. In this case, the back story is so long it would have taken me a couple of hours to report it… and it’s not that important, either. Just another symptom of ACE decline. all best, Norman

    • Di Jonson says:

      Don’t make it about race, the Arts have problems enough without accusing anyone who criticises a black person employed in the Arts as being a rasicist…. This post is about the fact that the Arts are now seen, like everything else this government is ruining, as a business that has to make money for them and/or donors/shareholders. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the colour of this ladies skin fgs.

      • Gregory says:

        ‘Don’t make it about race’…

        It’s not about race, it’s about the all pervasive twisted re- working of the ideology of egalitarianism whose fallacy is the irrational fear that to see differences of merit or preference between us, might lead us to treat each other without respect, therefore all differences are denied. It includes race, gender, sexuality and just about any other branch of identity politics that is rampant at the moment under the banner of ‘diversity’.

        I hope people will stop being naive about this because it will eventually tear down the arts to a skeleton because they are seen as unimportant, devisive elitism.
        It is seducing both left and right of the political spectrum.
        The left find it attractive because it has the appeal of state controlled equality and levelling. The right, because it moves the arts closer to private funding with the credo of personal choice for the masses.
        Both are superficial misconceptions missing the underlying evils that are starting to take place, one of which is the visible erosion of culture in our societies.

        • Di Jonson says:

          My comment was in reply to Anne Midget who was the one who made it about race, I don’t think it is about race….quote cleverly all you like but read other posts properly.

          • Wilf says:

            You’ve misunderstood. I merely referenced a quote from your post to discuss the point in more depth. It was read and understood. Perhaps you could have another go at doing the same to mine.

  • soavemusica says:

    “Diversity”…the word of the day for the Farts Council of England.

  • Wilf says:

    Well done all you bourgeois fools who virtue signalled with the diversity badge. Realised what’s happening yet? They’re going to fire your asses now!

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    Directly from her website:

    “Before I entered the cultural sector, I was a management consultant and lawyer in Washington, DC, where I grew up.

    On the occasion of International Museums Day 2020, I curated an online exhibition titled Diversity Inclusion Innovation on the ArtUK platform. Check it out and add your own exhibition.”

    performing arts in UK: what is Left is what is Left.

  • Rob Keeley says:

    That sound you can hear is people walking. ever-so-carefully. on eggshells.

  • Scorn says:

    Well 2 boxes ticked at least, any more?
    But again Londoncentric. Why not a Northerner?

  • Guest says:

    The headline seems to suggest that Tonya Nelson is running the ACE. Not the case. Does the classical music world in general have something against enterprise and innovation, or is it only this site?

  • Peter Davis says:

    “with a new portfolio of organisations that better reflect the diversity of London” and how does that help classical music? Also, from her “Before I entered the cultural sector, I was a management consultant and lawyer in Washington, DC, where I grew up” but have you done anything cultural or musical? and “I invite you to reflect on how we can increase diversity and inclusion as means of creating a better society.” No doubt you think equality is a trump card as well.
    “I built on the work I did at the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) in 2017, under the leadership of Matthew Hancock MP, which resulted in the Culture is Digital policy paper.” Personally, I would never mention working with Matt Hancock. So, you have no background in performing let alone classical music. Boxes ticked, goodbye classical music.

    • Adrienne says:

      ‘how does that help classical music?’

      It doesn’t, but that isn’t the intention at all, as the growing number of ‘racists’ here are beginning to realise.

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    A new broom sweeps well, as the old saying goes, except when it comes to Arts Council Heads they never do. It looks like the same old drivel any new Officer spews forth when appointed. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!!
    We all know that the future of classical music in the UK is bleak (doomed, even), especially in the hands of the wicked Auntie Beeb; so does it really matter who takes this position on – irrespective of skin colour or whether the appointed individual can play three blind mice on an instrument or not?