November 24, 2022 by Mike Smith
Welsh National Opera general director Aidan Lang has explained why the company has immediately pulled out of touring to Liverpool – and raised concerns further venue cancellations will follow.
The move follows Arts Council of England announced a more than a third of its funding to the Cardiff-based touring company was to be axed.
Yesterday Mr Laing explained that Liverpool is being removed from the company’s tour because of the way the funding year operates and that other “reductions” will follow in later funding years.
He said, “We have received a reduction of 35% to our Arts Council England funding, and it is ACE’s expectation that we reduce our English touring to the same extent. We feel it important, however, to phase this reduction over the next 2-3 years, rather than at one fell swoop, as we come to a fuller understanding what the cut truly means for the company. The funding year starts on 1st April, rather than in alignment with our September-July performance schedule. Our planned Liverpool week fell in that new funding year and is the only touring week that we are removing in our current season.”
In an earlier statement Mr Laing said, “We have had to make the very difficult decision to remove Liverpool from our touring programme. We know that this will come as a deep disappointment to our audiences in Liverpool and Merseyside, and I would like to thank them for their support since our first performances in Liverpool at the Royal Court in 1968, before moving to Liverpool Empire Theatre from 1976.
“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. 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.
“In recent years, we have taken many steps to reduce our costs, whilst maintaining the balance of producing work of the highest artistic standard and a stimulating programme of engagement activities. We are committed to continue delivering our work but will need to diligently review the impact of rising costs and funding cuts as we move forward.
“Following recent reduction in ACE funding, we have made the difficult decision that WNO will no longer tour to Liverpool. We are deeply disappointed, having toured to the city since the 60s, and would like to thank Liverpool Empire and our audiences for the support over the years.”
The company receives funding from both the arts councils for Wales and England, as it tours in both organisations’ areas.
In spring-summer 2022 the company toured its main opera productions to Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Plymouth, Birmingham, Llandudno, Liverpool and Southampton. This autumn the company has toured to Cardiff, Llandundo, Plymouth, Birmingham and is in Southampton this week and Oxford next week. The 2023 spring tour was due to take in Liverpool in April.
Image WNO’s recent production of The Makropulos Affair