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Arts Council England will provide £11.5m of funding to allow English National Opera to continue operating for a year and 'plan for a new base outside London'.

The interior of the London Coliseum, the home of English National Opera
The interior of the London Coliseum, the home of English National Opera

Colin/Wikimedia Commons

A deal has been struck between Arts Council England (ACE) and English National Opera (ENO) for it to continue receiving funding for a further year while discussions over its future continue.

Announcing the agreement today, ACE said the £11.46m being provided will be used by ENO to continue a programme of work at its current home at the London Coliseum during 2023/24, and "help it start planning for a new base outside London by 2026".

It said further investment for the two-year period 2024 to 2026 is also available "in principle", subject to discussion and application.


As part of the deal ENO will undertake initial development work on a new business model from 2026/27 onwards, ACE said.

This will be expected to outline the level of public-facing work it plans to deliver both outside and within London, to provide an analysis of options for the future use of the Coliseum, and detail levels of revenue and capital funding needed to transition from the current to the new business model.


The agreement comes after a significant backlash against ACE's decision to remove ENO form the National Portfolio, announced alongside its wider investment plans for 2023-26 in November last year.

At the time ACE suggested ENO could potentially move to Manchester and offered it £17m over three years to relocate.

ENO said it was "baffled and shocked" by the decision, with Chief Executive Stuart Murphy pointing out that the £17m offered to it over three years was less than half the amount it received as part of the National Portfolio.

The decision to offer ENO funding £11.5m for 2023/24, brings its budget for the forthcoming year close to what it received as part of the National Portfolio for the current financial year 2022/23 - £12.6m.

ACE has said that the £11.5m announced today will come from the original £17m that it ringfenced. It is not clear whether that means there is only £5.5m in potential funding avaiable for the two-year period 2024 to 2026, or whether ACE may be prepared to up this.

Further negotiations

ACE expects to be take funding proposals for ENO for 2024-26 to its National Council before the end of March 2023, with the activity, plans and levels of funding "subject to further negotiations".

"An overall three years of investment would help the ENO transition over time to a model where it can deliver an innovative opera programme from a base outside London while continuing to perform at its London Coliseum home," ACE said. 

"The shared ambition is for the ENO to be in a strong position to apply to the Arts Council’s National Portfolio of funded organisations from 2026, from a new base outside London."

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said the grant announced today will provide the ENO with stability and continuity while it plans its future. 

"We want to back an exciting programme of work from the ENO in a new home, and make sure it stays part of the brilliant London arts offer, at the Coliseum," he added.

"We know this means a challenging period of change for the company and its staff, but it will also mean opera for more people in the long term and contributes to the levelling up of cultural investment.

“Our financial resources are finite, and today’s investment balances the public’s desire for high quality arts and culture of all kinds in towns and cities all over England, and the ambitions of artists and creative professionals working across England’s arts, museums and libraries.”

Stuart Murphy, Chief Executive of English National Opera, said: “We are pleased to have agreed £11.46m of funding from Arts Council England to take the ENO through to 1 April 2024. 

"Negotiations now turn to investment for 2024-2026, which, in opera planning terms, is imminent. 

“While we fundamentally disagree with ACE’s decision to remove the ENO from the NPO list having met or exceeded all success criteria laid down, we nevertheless continue discussions with ACE in good faith and look forward to agreeing funding levels for 24/25 and 25/26 which would allow us to continue to deliver the best of the ENO for out-of-London audiences - at a level London audiences have experienced for almost 100 years.”