Page last updated at 00:15 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 01:15 UK

Call to scrap north opera plans

The Lowry
The Lowry fears the current proposal would cause 'unacceptable damage'

The Royal Opera House's plan for a northern base is "bad for the arts" and must be scrapped, the trustees of The Lowry arts centre have said.

The Royal Opera House said last year it was in talks to establish a presence at Manchester's Palace Theatre.

But the Salford-based Lowry has claimed the proposal would threaten £116m of public money already invested in it.

Instead, it supports a "dual-house" model, where The Lowry would be a home for dance, including the Royal Ballet.

Opera and music would be concentrated at the new facility at the refurbished Palace Theatre.

Overall vision

In a statement, the Royal Opera House (ROH) said it was still committed to pursuing the proposals.

The call by The Lowry follows talks with the ROH and Manchester City Council about the artistic programme of the new facility.

Research commissioned by The Lowry concluded the plan could not work without destroying the arts centre's business model, thus threatening its £116m investment.

However, The Lowry said it "remained committed" to the overall vision of bringing the ROH to Manchester.

In a statement, Rod Aldridge, chairman of the The Lowry trustees, said: "It is clear that the current proposal is not viable and cannot be made to work without causing unacceptable damage to existing arts provision.

The Royal Opera House remains convinced that there will be a solution that will bring great benefit, both artistically and economically
ROH statement

"At The Lowry, we are proud of the enviable reputation we have established for bringing world-class opera and ballet to the region.

"Our research provides clear evidence that that the current proposal presents significant threats to the viability of The Lowry. It would destroy what we have achieved and would put the £116m of public money invested in The Lowry at severe risk."

Mr Aldridge added that the dual-house model still involved "substantial uncertainties" and required significant further work.

He said: "The current proposal cannot be made to work. It is bad for Manchester, bad for the arts and bad for the taxpayer. In the interests of the whole region, it must now be abandoned."


The ROH wants a northern home for the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet, in addition to their base in London's Covent Garden.

In March, a report from Arts Council England said it had the "potential to transform the artistic life of the north west".

Leanne Benjamin in Manon.  Bill Cooper.
The plans would bring world-class ballet and opera to Manchester

But it also warned the scheme was "not yet viable" and would require "significant" public investment.

The ROH said: "The Royal Opera House and Manchester City Council believe that there is a very exciting and viable way forward for Royal Opera House Manchester and the arts in the North West as a whole.

"Discussions are ongoing regarding how this might most effectively be achieved, and the more potential partners are brought into the discussions, the more exciting the proposals are becoming.

"To deny the current proposal at this stage without those wider discussions taking place is premature, and the Royal Opera House remains convinced that there will be a solution that will bring great benefit, both artistically and economically, to Manchester and the greater north west region."

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council said the council was "disappointed" with The Lowry's remarks.

"I find it difficult to understand, as whilst at a meeting yesterday with The Lowry Trustees where I thought we agreed a way forward, a statement was issued on the contrary," he said.

"The meeting explored the mutual benefits and options to develop this exceptional opportunity in partnership.

"The potential to transform the artistic life of the north west is widely recognised and although we recognise The Lowry's concerns we will continue to work with them and other major arts bodies to drive forward our ambition for the future."

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