The English National Opera (ENO) has announced that it is considering moving to Manchester.
The move comes as the Arts Council shakes up its funding policies as part of “levelling up” the arts sector, a measure designed to reduce inequalities across areas in England.
The shake-up will see the company set to receive a £17 million grant over three years, instead of a £12.6 million per annum grant, to develop a “new business model” – part of which includes considering Manchester as a new home.
An ENO statement said that “Today’s [November 4] announcement marks the start of a new chapter for the English National Opera (ENO).”
The ENO has pursued a modernisation drive in recent years, citing efforts to improve diversity, digital outreach, and supporting the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Praising Arts Culture England’s decision, Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “Thanks to this new government funding package, spreading more money to more communities than ever before, people living in areas from Wolverhampton to Wigan and Crawley to Chesterfield will now get to benefit from the deep economic and social rewards culture can bring.”
However, not everybody is pleased about the move. Philippa Childs, head of the broadcasting union Bectu, said she was “deeply concerned” by the impacts of the announcement. She said that the ENO and other institutions represented, including the Royal Opera House, now faced the “uncertainty” of a move out of London.
Hugh Morris, arts journalist for publications such as the New York Times, the Financial Times, and The Guardian, tweeted that it would take a “significant change of fortunes” for the English National Opera to find success in Manchester.
Speaking from a Manchester perspective, reckon it's gonna take a significant change of fortunes to develop an audience for opera in the city, given Opera North's existing presence, and the reduced numbers post-Covid at comparable classical gigs.https://t.co/nkdGAjGs2b— Hugh Morris (@hwfmorris) November 4, 2022
It remains to be seen if the ENO will relocate to Manchester, however, it is clear that Manchester may benefit from these changes in the culture scene.