English National Opera to create ‘main base’ in Manchester


The English National Opera has announced plans to create a new base in Greater Manchester, after Arts Council England told the charity it must move out of London to remain eligible for funding.

In July ACE agreed a £24m grant with ENO for the 2024/26 period for the development of an artistic programme, on the condition it moved its main base out of London.

The city region was selected through a “structured and transparent” assessment process, the charity told Third Sector.

It added that Greater Manchester was the best fit for the charity’s criteria, which included fitting with ENO’s values and vision, access to both on and off stage talent, suitability and availability of performance and working spaces, available audiences in the new location and access to financial and in-kind support.

The charity will not have a set venue in the city and instead plans to work with a variety of venues across the region, including the Lowry and Aviva Studios.

The ENO will transition to this new business model over the next two years and aims to be firmly established in Greater Manchester by 2029, it said. 

The charity’s opera season will continue at its London Coliseum in the capital but ENO will deliver performances and wellbeing and learning activities with partners and venues across Manchester.

Jenny Mollica, interim chief executive at ENO, said the announcement marks an “important and defining moment” for the company. 

“This future direction will see us continue to expand our role as a national institution – supporting our mission to create work with and for even more audiences across the country,” she said.

Mollica added: “Throughout our discussions with partners and stakeholders in Greater Manchester, we have been struck by an emerging vision for the future of ENO and operatic work in the city-region, defined by a shared ambition to open up new possibilities for opera in people’s lives.”

Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary, said: “I look forward to seeing the exciting new developments in ENO’s journey as they build on this new partnership, level up access to opera up and down the country and create more opportunities for the young people across the north to explore their creative talent.”

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, said the city was “immensely proud” to give ENO a new home, adding: “We’ve worked closely with it to set out a shared vision for a future in our city-region, where it can continue making groundbreaking opera, foster new collaborations with artists across the north and bring its award-winning learning and wellbeing programmes to communities here.”

In October, ENO’s music director announced his resignation over proposed cuts across the charity.

Martyn Brabbins said proposed changes to the charity were driving “a coach and horses through the artistic integrity of the whole of ENO as a performing company”.

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