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Mid Wales Opera has claimed that Arts Council Wales' latest funding round showed prejudice against conventional opera and classical music. 

Mid Wales Opera's production of Beatrice & Benedict
Lorena Paz Nieto and Monica McGhee in MWO's production of Berlioz's Beatrice and Benedict

Dafydd Owen/ffotoNant

An opera company has accused Arts Council Wales (ACW) of maladministration alleging it was unfairly denied funding.

Mid Wales Opera (MWO) appealed the original decision by ACW that saw it lose all its £107,000 annual funding, claiming that the appraisal “fundamentally misunderstands and misrepresents the question of how we pay artists”.

An independent assessor agreed with the company that there had been some errors in the appraisal, but it did not find the mistake sufficient to justify advancing the appeal to a panel hearing.


Following the rejection of its appeal, MWO lodged a complaint to the National Ombudsman for Wales, calling the appraisal process “manifestly inaccurate and inadequate” and “ignorant” of standard practice for opera companies.

However, the Ombudsman has ruled that the complaint falls outside its remit.   

MWO had been seeking increased annual funding of £310,000. Chair of MWO Gareth Williams said although financing is in place for its upcoming season, once its ACW funding ceases, it will "probably prove impossible to continue our work”, though the company hopes to be able to draw on reserves to fund a final tour next autumn. 

The funding decision comes amid a challenging funding climate for opera in Wales after ACW’s latest financing round saw an overall increase in grants across the arts, while opera experienced a £607,000 drop. 

Welsh National Opera received the largest single funding allocation of ACW funding at £4.1m a year, but the company said this still represented a 10% cut against its application for standstill funding. This followed a 35% reduction of Arts Council England funding that led to a curtailing of the company’s touring.

'A travesty'

Mid Wales Opera’s complaint against ACW’s decision centres around a statement in its appraisal that inaccurately said the company doesn't pay standard industry rates.

Williams, called the statement “a travesty”, saying that it misinterpreted the company's concerns that it would be “at severe risk of being unable to match standard industry rates” in the future without the uplift in support it had applied for.  

MWO, which seeks to cast half of its performers from artists under 30, said it was “committed to paying all our performers at industry standard rates and to ensuring fair pay and conditions for all our freelance staff”. 

In its letter to the Ombudsman, MWO said that the decision not to proceed with the appeal in light of ACW's mistake on payment of singers was “manifestly unjust and incompatible with the gravity of the misrepresentation in the appraisal process.” 

Additionally, MWO disputed ACW’s assessment of its projected audience figures over three years and whether the number of performances it staged annually was “relatively low” when taken in the context of other opera companies.

The company also alleged that there was a pre-existing prejudice in the funding round against more conventional opera and classical music.

Difficult decisions

A spokesperson for Arts Council of Wales said difficult decisions had to be made. It said an indpendent review of the decision was undertaken and completed in line with its published process.

"The reviewer notified both parties at same time regarding their final decision on the eligibility of the appeal and the reasons for this. The reviewer undertakes this role without consultation with either the appellant or the Arts Council of Wales.

"Therefore, it would not be appropriate for us to comment on the independent reviewer’s opinion. Our published guidelines state that the decision of the independent reviewer is final and there is no further right of appeal against this decision.

"As the appeals process has not yet concluded, it would not be appropriate for Arts Council of Wales to respond to further questions regarding Mid Wales Opera’s appeal."

A headshot of Mary Stone