Well, it could've been a lot, lot better but all the same it could have been a lot, lot, lot worse. Arts Council of England today announced their enforced funding decisions for 2012 to 2015 and WNO will continue to receive ACE backing. The funding, to begin in April 2012, represents far less than what they would have expected a year ago but given the current climate it's reassuring to know that funding will continue up until 2015. And before you think that WNO has been treated unfairly consider the fact that ROH and Opera North have both suffered the same -15% cut to their funding while other organisations have had their funding cut completely.
For those of you interested in figures:
Funding for Previous & Current Years
6, 761, 196
6, 294, 674
Funding for Future Years
6, 011, 414
6, 149, 676
6, 315, 102
The % Lowdown
Cash change -6.6%
Real terms change -15.0%
Now, as you may have guessed, I'm not that hot on figures but even to my eyes there will be a significant drop in funding income which, combined with the age-old fact that inflation always tends to inflate, means that WNO will need to increase revenue from other areas in order to maintain the current level of investment. Where this money can be found is anyone's guess but the first thought that comes to mind is an increase in ticket prices – but ticket price sales alone won’t cover the funding gap.
Another possibility has to be finding more partners. Businesses that sell the idea of Cardiff as being a young cosmopolitan city could consider combining forces with Cardiff Council and fill the funding gap - nothing says cosmopolitan more than an internationally renowned opera company. Last year's production of Meistersinger gained genuine worldwide interest with people flying in from all corners of the globe (the Wall Street Journal sent a journalist to cover the event) and was a great example of what WNO does so well.
Despite perceived negative notions the arts contribute greatly towards local, and national economies. Hotels, restaurants and countless other business enterprises benefit greatly from having links to areas where WNO performs. And let's face it, it would be an embarrassment to a nation that prides itself on being a Land of Song if it was unable to support one of its cultural jewels in its own capital city.
Inevitably the number of new productions will surely decrease, and if it means that jobs are saved then I would gladly put up with no new productions for a while. This doesn't mean that WNO's quality of work should dip - on the contrary if ever there was a time for WNO the show what it can do it is now. However, ambition comes in many flavours and surely the management of WNO should have the preservation of the status quo cappuccino in mind before embarking on any major projects – Scottish Opera produced a marvellous Ring Cycle but look at what's happened to it since then. But less of my fanboy meanderings, what does WNO have to say about today's announcement?
"Welsh National Opera is very pleased that we continue to be recognised as part of the national portfolio of arts companies in both England and Wales.
Although we are naturally disappointed that there will be a second year of reduction in the grant from ACE, we understand that this is in line with the settlement for other large scale companies.
Despite the considerable challenge that this presents, the company is confident that it will continue to achieve the highest artistic standards."
What you can do for your opera company.