Arts Council England's cuts to WNO funding will reduce opera tours

Arts Council England: Funding – in Westminster Hall
18th January 2023

Kevin Brennan Labour, Cardiff West
On the point about having a strategy and some sort of strategic thinking, one of Arts Council England’s decisions was to cut funding to the touring side of the Welsh National Opera, which tours extensively in England, including to places such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Southampton, Oxford and so on. On the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, we found out that Arts Council England had not even talked to the Arts Council of Wales about that decision before making the cut, which obviously puts that opera company under threat. The net result, along with the Glyndebourne cut, is that there is no opera in Liverpool at all. What has that got to do with levelling up?

Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Justice Committee
The hon. Gentleman’s point encapsulates why I think the former Secretary of State was right to say what she said: the decision absolutely negates the Government’s own policy. As the hon. Gentleman said, the result of the way Arts Council England has handled this issue is that there is now no opera in Liverpool, because the WNO cancelled its tour. Glyndebourne has cancelled its touring as well—that was touring in the regions of the UK. The WNO toured across the north-west, parts of the west of England, Bristol, Southampton and so on. All those places will now have no opera—not thanks to the policy decisions, but thanks to the way they have been handled and implemented by Arts Council England.

Ministers should not allow the situation to stand, and the same applies to other elements of the arts sector. There is no strategy that informs the approach to prose theatre, to concerts or to museums and galleries. Nowhere is there a fully-fledged strategy, and we certainly ought to have one for opera. In that case, we are talking about £50 million of public money simply going to the opera companies. Think how much more is going to other sectors as well—but no strategy!