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Royal Opera House North on hold

Simon Binns on the funding cull that leaves a bright idea looking like a distant dream

Written by . Published on October 27th 2010.

Royal Opera House North on hold

As the region’s regularly funded arts organisations (RFOs) deal with the cuts to their Arts Council cash, the future also looks bleak for the idea of a northern outpost for the Royal Opera House.

“When the economic climate becomes clearer we will be in a position to discuss timescales,” said a council spokesman. “In the meantime we continue to work together on a number of regional projects."

Plans had been drawn up for a £100m Royal Opera House North, housed at the Palace Theatre on Oxford Road, which would provide a permanent base for ROH and the Royal Ballet. It would be a cultural driver for the north of England. A beacon of intent aimed at the London-centric arts fraternity.

The building – owned by the Ambassador Theatre Group - would be refurbished, thanks to cash from the Departments of Culture, Media and Sport, then controlled by a Labour government. Arts Council reports praised the idea, although remained cautious over the handing over of such a large amount of cash.

The Lowry Theatre took a bit longer to warm to the idea, claiming it would be ‘bad for Manchester’ but then saying it would support the venture as long as it was complementary.

But both the council and the ROH itself may have to accept defeat on a project that is unlikely to ever see the light of day unless there is a final Carmen-esque dramatic twist, which in this case, would have to look like a mystery benefactor with a pot of cash and a love of the arts.

A spokesman for the Royal Opera House told Confidential this week: “The will is certainly there but the project is not likely to move forward. It’s all dependent on funding. It’s on hold at the moment.”

Manchester City Council said both sides remained ‘committed’ to the scheme ‘at an appropriate time.’

“When the economic climate becomes clearer we will be in a position to discuss timescales,” said a council spokesman. “In the meantime we continue to work together on a number of regional projects."

The two sides are collaborating on an exhibition called Invitation to Ballet - about the Royal Ballet – that is currently being held at The Lowry.

So all may not be lost.

But for the time being, keeping hold of what we’ve got is the priority.

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15 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Kevin PeelOctober 27th 2010.

These cuts will be devastating to Manchester's vibrant arts scene. They are also incredibly short-sighted - the arts play a huge role in bringing money into the region, boosting the economy and the Treasury coffers. The arts also have a vital role in areas such as education and health. Inevitably ticket prices will rise, pricing out people on lower incomes and making the arts accessible only to a rich few. Once again this government shows its contempt for the least well off and for the UK's creative industries.

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

Unfortunately it is already the 'rich few' that take advantage of the more high-brow arts, although I question your use of the word 'rich'. The British public would rather sit comotose in front of the TV watching X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing - this is what they believe 'the arts' to be. Just a question, but when was the last time a reader on this site visited the opera, the ballet or even watched the Halle beat out Sinatra tunes or movie themes tunes?

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

I enjoy the hypocrisy on here. The arts and culture have changed many ways throughout time, the fact we're still going to Opera's composed so long ago and feeling smug about it is pathetic. Perhaps those who choose to follow the more modern art forms are culturally richer. Perhaps funding should be focused on new art forms which are cheaper. Who are you to say that base jumping for example is not a new art form? Or that 70,000 people going to watch a sport is not cultural? That web based art is not as worthy as the opera? face it, things have changed throughout history, perhaps there's a whole new sea change now and you're just a little behind with it.

culture vultureOctober 27th 2010.

Dear Anonymous

As a regular daily reader of ManCon I was at Halle last week to hear Nikolaj Snaider palying Elgar Violin Concerto, on Sunday to hear Shostakovich and Rachmaninov and tomororw to hear more Shostakovick and Rach. And tonight I will be at the Contact Theatre (oxford Road). But I also openly admit to being addicted to Stricty Come but that doesn't stop me buying season tickets for Halle, Royal Exchange and Library Theatre. One way that arts cuts can be addressed is if people actually GO and see the wonderful arts on offer in Manchester - we have not one but two symphony bands (Halle and BBC Phil), 4 theatres, visiitng Opera and loads more besides. If the public go and support cuts become all the more difficult for the organisations that make them.

KevOctober 27th 2010.

Has Kevin 'call me Kev' Peel got anywhere else he'd like to post that paragraph?

That's two threads on here and one in the MEN. So, Kev, what would your party have cut? Remember you were going to make cuts that were 'worse than Thatcher's'. How?

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

When Labour were wasting all the money, surely they could have sent Peel and Amesbury on a course entitled something like 'How to use the internet to effectively engage your public and not make yourself look like a complete plank.'

AgricolaOctober 27th 2010.

It was a silly idea. We really don't need another Opera House. But something that would be really popular would be if we got Belle Vue back

Culture Vulture fanOctober 27th 2010.

If you're a woman I love you and want to have babies with you. If you're a man then well done fella, I'll buy you a pint. Well said. There's already loads of culture here.

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

All a Gordon Brown sop to shut Leese & Bernstein up after he unilaterally ditched the Manchester supercasino! Well wasn't it?
Yeah right, a £100 million government grant for a Royal Opera House North in Manchester. Come on, just never ever going to happen.

TaxmanOctober 28th 2010.

Ballet and opera need to pay their own way not be subsidised. Other arts have to do this so why not ballet and opera. There is no more effective middle class tax on the poor than this - a tax to subsidise the delights of the richer folk.

AnonymousNovember 1st 2010.

Actually the (English) Royal Opera and (English) Royal Ballet have gone live to the movies in super HD and even in 3D. But there is not another show until June Next year.

So has The English Royal National Theatre has done likewise but not in 3D. Catch Hamlet at Corner House in January'

Will ManCons theatre critic or movie critic review the latter. (or are they the same person?)

AnonymousNovember 1st 2010.

Bell Vue has the Dogs, Speedway, and a large Mutiplex. What do you want back Acricola? The zoo, a bandstand a permanent fun fair, a circus.? Like musicals Manchester is a '(gratefully) receiving' city for the last two. Maybe ManCon should list them.

Joan DaviesNovember 1st 2010.

A filmed live production of The National Theatre´s Hamlet, with Rory Kinnear, is showing for one night @ Cornerhouse on 9th December. Similarly Donmar Warehouse´s King Lear with Derek Jacobi appears on 3rd February. Also both theatre productions are on tour next year, and visiting The Lowry, Hamlet in February and Lear in March with Kinnear and Jacobi advertised in the main roles. There´s a huge audience here for theatre, also for opera and ballet. Certainly many of the audience are quite well-off, but many are not. I´ve bumped into my postman and my office cleaner at the opera. Joan- one of ManCon´s theatre writers.

Joan DaviesNovember 1st 2010.

Why have my apostrophes mutated?

James11364November 1st 2010.

For the record Funding the Arts in England were cut in June in the Financial Year 2010-11. and are now getting there second shave for next year and the three after that.

No Party went into the election saying WHAT they would cut in particular from state expenditure, but Labour suggested the level cuts they likely to make on top of those that they were making for 2010-11 November last year. In retrospect they would have been better to have the spending review that was due in the summer of last year.

Labour cut my pension for this year (no inflation rise) and the Tories plan to cut it again for ever in the same way. Labour reduced planned rises in spending based of forecast rises in costs in 2010-11 on the NHS.

All the budgeted cuts in this year 2010-11, less the £6B made in Osbourne's June 'budget' which apply to 2010-11 are Labour cuts. As I say the £6B included the Arts cuts IN ENGLAND made this year.

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