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Thursday, December 17, 1998 Published at 13:47 GMT


Extra cash for Royal Opera House

Management of the Royal Opera House has been criticised

The troubled Royal Opera House has received a boost as the Arts Council awarded it increased funding over the next three years.

BBC Arts Correspondent Torin Douglas: ROH 'back on track'
The cash-strapped Covent Garden institution, which has been accused of mismanagement, will see its grant lifted by 11% to 16m next year and then up to 20m in the following two years.

The Opera House was heavily criticised by a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1997. Earlier this year the Eyre Report set down a number of recommendations for its future survival.

But on Thursday the ROH heard it would be one of the beneficiaries of an extra 30m in government funding, which was announced earlier this week.

The Arts Council budget also sees rises for many other arts organisations.

[ image: Geoffrey Robinson: Extra cash is conditional on changes]
Geoffrey Robinson: Extra cash is conditional on changes
Council chairman Gerry Robinson, who earlier this year warned organisations to get their accounts in order, said the extra cash for the ROH was based on a "genuine turn around in their attitude" and an attempt "to sort themselves out".

Since the height of the Opera House troubles a new board chairman, Sir Colin Southgate, has been appointed and recently Michael Kaiser was drafted in as chief executive to give it new direction before the opening of the new building in December 1999.

The Covent Garden site is being rebuilt at a cost of 218m, 78m of which comes from National Lottery funds, but a problem in funding day-to-day activities means the Opera House will remain virtually closed next year.

Mr Robinson said the cash was being awarded primarily to support the production of world class ballet and opera.

He added: "It's unimaginable that we don't have first class opera and ballet in London."

But he stressed the Opera House would have to meet various conditions before the Arts Council released the extra money.

Prices cuts

These include opening up the building to a wider audience, ticket prices being brought down and the enhancement of the educational programme.

[ image: Michael Kaiser: Welcomed new funding]
Michael Kaiser: Welcomed new funding
Chief executive Michael Kaiser said: "On behalf of the board, management, artists and staff of the Royal Opera House, I would like to express our gratitude to the Arts Council for their commitment to creating a solid base for the future of world class ballet and opera here.

"The more I see of the progress of the Covent Garden establishment, the more I am aware that this building as well as the artists it houses will provide the most tremendous new asset for the whole country."

For many threatened arts companies and organisations the extra cash will provide long-awaited relief although the cash boost to the ROH is certain to cause controversy.

Major galleries to benefit

Among those companies receiving extra funding are Hull Time Based Arts whose grant rises by 133%, while Artangel and Locus both see their funding double.

A number of art galleries also benefit from increased funding including London's Serpentine Trust (rising by 24.4%), the Whitechapel Gallery (10.5%) and the Arnolfini Gallery (13%).

The Arts Council also marked a new commitment to those organisations which had shown excellence in their fields.

Winners and losers

Those seeing increased budgets include the Royal National Theatre, taking a 1m increase (9%).

London Symphony Orchestra is to receive a 12% rise, City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra gets 10.3% and Bournemouth Orchestras 10%.

The English National Opera finds its grant upped by 5%, to go with an Arts Council stabilisation award - to help the company find a firm footing - of more than 9m.

But many organisations, including Birmingham's Ikon Gallery, were disappointed to receive no grant rise.

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