Arts Council England(ACE) announced its investment programme for its next funding period, 2023-26, at the beginning of November. It’s fair to say this announcement caused some controversy.

A total of 990 organisations are set to receive a share of £446 million each year of the funding period. The majority of this investment will go to what ACE calls National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs). These 950 organisations are those that deliver cultural experiences for the public in England.

The remaining 40 organisations are Investment Principles Support Organisations (IPSOs), which support other organisations working within the cultural sector.

Of the organisations receiving funding, 276 are new to ACE’s portfolio, leading ACE to describe the list as “richer and more varied than ever before”.

The £446mn total investment includes £43.5mn each year to be invested as part of ACE’s Levelling Up for Culture Places (LUCPs) programme. This means more funding for areas outside of traditional cultural capitals such as London.

“By funding new organisations in new places, we are delivering on the vision set out in our strategy, Let’s Create: that everyone, everywhere, deserves to benefit from public investment in culture and creativity,” ACE said in a statement.

However, ACE received funding applications from a record number of organisations this year – more than 1,700, meaning more than 700 applications failed. This comes on the back of a decade of falling investment in the arts in England, and more funding for locations outside of London means less for the capital. In total, £50mn has been pulled from London’s arts funding.

Campaign for the Arts, a charitable organisation that supports the arts in the UK, commented: “For the average organisation receiving it now, Arts Council investment contributes 29% of annual income. This public funding makes things happen. It enables people to create and experience art.”

Figures released by the alliance show that 7% of organisations (53) will receive less in cash terms than in 2022-23, while 62% (445) will receive the same as in 2022-23; however, the impacts of higher inflation will make this a significant cut in real terms. Only 221 organisations – or 31% – will receive more than in 2022-23 in cash terms.

Several music organisations had their arts council funding withdrawn completely in the 2023-26 programme. These include English National Opera (previously £12.4mn), Britten Sinfonia (£399.3k), Plymouth Music Zone (£130k), Sound UK Arts (£100.6k) and Psappha (£82k).

However, there was some good news according to Campaign for the Arts. The new portfolio included 148 organisations (15%) with boards and senior leadership teams in which a majority of people are Black, Asian and Ethnically Diverse.

“This is a significant improvement on the last funding round, in which only 53 organisations (6.3%) had majority-diverse boards and senior leadership teams,” the organisation commented.

What does this mean for opera? As might be expected there are winners and losers. Southampton-based company OperaUpClose has announced that it will be joining the Arts Council England National Funding Portfolio from spring 2023. This will help the touring company develop partnerships and strengthen its presence in local communities.

Artistic director Flora McIntosh said: “We are enormously grateful that Arts Council England have decided to regularly fund OperaUpClose as a National Portfolio Organisation. This supports a new and transformational phase in the development of OperaUpClose as we embed as the only resident opera company in the south-west.

“From our new home at the brilliant and diverse cultural hub of MAST, Southampton, and with the support of Arts Council England, we are now in a unique position to have both local and national impact, developing and expanding our work as an innovative force in UK opera.”

There was good news for English Touring Opera (ETO), too. The company will receive funding via ACE’s Transfer Programme which will allow ETO to move its head offices out of London. Most of the organisation’s work takes place outside of the city, and it believes that a move away from the capital will better represent it.

“We are proud that the Arts Council England has recognised English Touring Opera’s vital and distinctive work, providing outstanding live opera productions and community projects to audiences across England.” ETO said in a statement. “We would like to thank ACE for its crucial support and all those involved in bringing our work to the stage.”

On the other hand, English National Opera (ENO) has had its NPO status removed, with a subsequent withdrawal of funding. This puts ENO’s work at risk and the company is asking members of the public to sign a petition calling on the government to reinstate the funding.

Welsh National Opera is facing a £2.2mn reduction in its funding from ACE. As a result the company has announced that it can no longer tour to Liverpool.

“Following their recent announcement, we are now facing a significant cut to our ACE funding. The reality of this means that we have no option but to make cost savings and this will result in difficult decisions,” WNO general director Aidan Lang commented.

“Our decision to withdraw from performing in Liverpool is regrettable, but has been carefully considered, taking into account a wide range of factors which will help us to make cost savings without impacting the quality of our work.”

Further information on the funding is available from Arts Council England.



English National Opera has been withdrawn from Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisation programme and will lose its public funding from 2023, putting the organisation’s work at risk.