English National Opera announces it is moving to Manchester

English National Opera announces it is moving to Manchester after relocation row – as Londoners slam decision as ‘sheer madness’

  •  The ENO has announced it’s moving to Manchester following a relocation row

The English National Opera has announced it’s moving to Manchester following a relocation row, but Londoners and those in the cultural world have slammed the decision as ‘sheer madness’.

The headquarters of the respected opera company was forced out of the capital after Arts Council England (ACE) adjusted its funding plans.

Controversially, ACE went as far as to threaten to axe its annual £12million grant if the opera refused to find a new location.

The company considered Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Nottingham as its potential new home but eventually settled on Manchester instead.

But the announcement received massive backlash from Londoners, who called the move ‘sheer madness’ as the North already has its own opera company.

Another fan said the relocation will ‘decimate London and the UK for no reason’. 

However, those living up North welcomed the news, with one Mancunian commenting ‘we’ll get the kettle on’.

The empty auditorium of the London Coliseum, current home of the English National Opera

Banners advertising operas being performed by the English National Opera, in central London 

Those living in and around London took to social media to fume about the decision

The English National Opera (ENO) announced the move will take place by 2029.

It comes after an agreement was reached with ACE in July, in which £24million was given to the company to ‘develop an artistic programme in a new base outside of London’.

But ENO will still own and perform at its current home, the London Coliseum.

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The relocation of the company has been a controversial one, met by opposition from those within ENO and by many in the cultural world. 

One opera fan commented: ‘Vandals. Short-sighted, unimaginative, ideological vandals. Decimating London and the UK for no reason whatsoever. Pathetic.’

Another Londoner said: ‘This could just harm Opera North and certainly harms our capital city’s cultural prowess. 

‘I’ve never been anywhere other than ENO as it has always been brilliant and affordable. If there’s demand in Manchester, start a branch not relocate.’

One opera performer commented: ‘This is sheer madness. Opera North is the company of the north.

‘ENO needs to stay in London. It’s world class opera for all and everyone can come to London to see it.’

One fan, who commutes into London from Somerset to see the opera, said: ‘How sad. Yet again the West Country is left behind.’

Others commented ‘shocking decision’, labelling it ‘short-sighted’ and ‘bad news all round’.

The interior of the ENO’s home base the Coliseum Theatre in St Martin’s Lane

Musician John Smith joined those mourning London’s loss of ENO

Tenor David Butt Philip, who has performed with ENO, wrote on X: ‘Unsurprisingly, this statement is more notable for what it doesn’t say than what it does. 

‘No clues as to where or how often performances in Manchester will take place, and, more ominously, no mention of whether the current chorus, orchestra or technical team will be involved.’

READ MORE –  Controversial plan to relocate the English National Opera to outside London is postponed by three years as the Arts Council gives it until 2029 to move

John Smith OBE, President of the International Federation of Musicians, said: ‘Spare a thought for the members of the orchestra and chorus – the heart of any opera company – who now have to decide whether to relocate on part-time contracts, or leave. Looks like the end of ENO as a national company.’

Manchester is currently the biggest city in Europe without a resident opera company. 

The row led Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to initially say: ‘If you can’t come willingly, don’t come at all.’

However, he has now said he is ‘immensely proud to be able to bring them to a new home here in Greater Manchester’.

He said: ‘The ENO is one of the most exciting cultural institutions in the country, and we’re immensely proud to be able to bring them to a new home here in Greater Manchester.

‘We’ve worked closely with them to set out a shared vision for a future in our city-region, where they can continue making groundbreaking opera, foster new collaborations with artists across the North, and bring their award-winning learning and wellbeing programmes to communities here.

‘Greater Manchester’s world-renowned history of radical art, activism, and affecting change, and the cultural renaissance taking place across our towns and cities, makes it the ideal home for the ENO. We can’t wait to welcome them and see where this new partnership takes us.’

The row led Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham (pictured) to initially say: ‘If you can’t come willingly, don’t come at all’ but he has since changed his tune

Some users on X posted in support of the relocation to Manchester

 Jenny Mollica, CEO of ENO, said: ‘As we continue to transition through significant change, today’s announcement marks an important and defining moment for our remarkable company. 

‘This future direction will see us continue to expand our role as a national institution – supporting our mission to create work with and for even more audiences across the country, alongside our annual season at the London Coliseum.

‘Throughout our discussions with partners and stakeholders in Greater Manchester, we have been struck by an emerging vision for the future of ENO and operatic work in the city-region, defined by a shared ambition to open up new possibilities for opera in people’s lives. 

‘We look forward to embarking on new adventures with partners, artists and audiences across Greater Manchester as we create a range of operatic repertoire at a local, national and international scale, inspired by the extraordinary cultural vibrancy of Greater Manchester and its communities.

‘We hugely appreciate the generosity, enthusiasm and time given throughout this robust process by all the cities involved, and are heartened by the warmth and openness we have received from Greater Manchester’s cultural sector and city-region leaders as we look ahead to a bright shared future together.’

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