Theatre News

Arts Council announces £24m grant and extended timeframe for ENO relocation

The organisation is planning for life away from London

The auditorium of the London Coliseum
London Coliseum, © ENO

Arts Council England​ (ACE)​ has announced it will provide a grant of £24million to English National Opera​ (ENO), and a longer timeframe for the company to relocate outside London.

ENO has been riven by uncertainty since it was announced last November that it would be losing its National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status and commensurate core funding. The grant, which it will receive from 2024-26, will aid with its move to a new base and “transition to a new business model”.

According to a joint ACE/ENO press release, during this period it will “deliver a substantial opera season every year in London while developing a significant performance and engagement programme in their new city.” ENO will confirm its new location in December.

The move to the new base will now be completed by March 2029, rather than March 2026 as originally envisaged. The longer timeframe will mean “more stability, allow for consultation with staff, more work in London and more time for the ENO to develop partnerships in the new city and to establish a programme there.”

The “shared ambition” is for the ENO to be in a “strong position” to apply for the restitution of its NPO status from 2026.

Nicholas Serota, chair of ACE, said: “The ENO has presented inspiring ideas to bring their excellent work to people beyond the capital and to explore a range of new ways of presenting opera, and we are investing £24 million in the company over two years to help them realise these ambitions.”

Harry Brünjes, chair of ENO, responded: “We welcome this investment and additional time which we believe will help us to successfully develop a new main base out of London, whilst maintaining a season at the London Coliseum.”

Since their announcement, the plans have proved controversial. Stuart Murphy, outgoing CEO of ENO, described the decision as “absurd” and “insane”. A petition against the move outside the capital, set up by opera star Bryn Terfel, has attracted over 85,000 signatures.

​​Culture secretary Lucy Frazer said: “The ENO is a treasured national institution and I welcome the agreement they reached with ACE to ensure a smooth transition towards a new future for the organisation. I look forward to seeing the plans it develops to make sure more people across the country can experience its fantastic work.”