Liverpool demand ‘level playing field’ in race to become ENO’s new home | English National Opera (ENO)

Liverpool leaders have written to Arts Minister Stephen Parkinson asking him to ensure the race for the next English National Opera residency is ‘on a level playing field’.

It comes after reports that ministers are backing bids from Manchester and Birmingham as part of their devolution deals.

ENO has narrowed its search for a new home to five cities after being forced out of London. The society’s general public funding was cut to zero by Arts Council England (ACE) last year as part of plans to divert culture money outside of London.

In a Wednesday letter, copied to the Arts Council and ENO, Liverpool Mayor Steve Rotheram and City Council leader Liam Robinson called for urgent clarification of the tender process to ensure it was “as fair and transparent as possible”. ”.

“Where ENO moves next, it should be about choosing the location that offers the best fit for the opera to thrive with a sustainable future – not simply the location that offers the greatest incentives. short-term financials,” they wrote.

“The process so far has been somewhat confusing, with several interested parties taking part in the discussions, including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCSM), Arts Council England and the ENO itself. It would be helpful for us to understand exactly who will make the final decision on a new site.

Rotheram and Robinson added that while they had “not put too much weight on the rumours”, it would be remiss not to “seek your assurance that there is no substance to the reports we have heard. on government officials seeking to pressure Manchester and Birmingham’s bid to succeed as an addendum to their “Trailblazer Devolutions” deals.

The government, the leaders pointed out, had set up the advisory committee on the future of Liverpool’s strategy, and they were working with Michael Gove, the leveling minister, to identify areas of competitive advantage in the city, including including music and its growing tourist economy.

“We would appreciate it if you could dispel some of the uncertainties surrounding the bidding process and provide your assurance that the best bid will be selected. If the process is conducted on a level playing field, we are confident that the ENO will soon be moving to the Liverpool area.

While ENO will continue to stage shows at the London Coliseum, ACE has said its base must be outside the capital if it is to receive £24million in public funding over three years from 2024.

The forced move prompted a backlash from cultural figures including Melvyn Bragg, who called it “cultural vandalism”, while others called it “a hammer blow to the music industry. ‘opera”.

Critics have questioned whether there is enough appetite for opera to sustain the ENO outside of London – a hypothesis strongly dismissed by figures such as Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who has described this as based on “residual and outdated attitudes”.

The final decision on the new location will be made by the ENO and its Board of Directors, but the shortlist will be submitted to the ACE.

Rotheram and Robinson said they believe the Liverpool City region has presented ‘the strongest case that it is viable and sustainable and will allow the business to thrive as it enters its next chapter’ . They highlighted the region’s musical heritage, its cultural bodies including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, and its recent hosting of Eurovision.

But, they added, “there is no opera company serving this part of the North West”, making Liverpool the only shortlisted area lacking any opera supply.

DCMS, ENO and ACE were approached for comment.

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