Editorial, July: Comprehensive Spending Review blues

- 28 June 2013

And so we know. DCMS lives on despite rumours to the contrary but will be stomaching an 8% cut for 2015/16. Within that the Arts Council itself will be facing a relatively modest 5% cut. It’s hardly a champagne moment, but with ACE having modelled plans of action for 5%, 10% and 15% cuts, it is clear that the announcement will have been greeted with sighs of relief. However, we’re still looking at a reduction of National Portfolio Organisations by up to a third, with a slightly bolstered Grants for the Arts programme to help the transition along. More details of what it all means from Simon Tait on page 9.

I cornered ENO artistic director John Berry in the interval of the stunning Death in Venice revival, just a couple of hours after he’d heard the news. He reckoned 5% was just about ok but anything in double digits would have likely made his whole operation untenable. It’s a sobering thought, all the more so on the evening of such an intense and enriching operatic experience.

John Graham-Hall’s astonishing Aschenbach and Britten’s genius were fresh in my mind when, a couple of days later, I took the trip to Aldeburgh for the production of Peter Grimes on the beach, for which you’ve probably stumbled on a five-star review even if you weren’t looking. In a press briefing beforehand, the newly ennobled Jonathan Reekie gave some sense of the logistical challenges of staging an opera on a blustery North Sea beach, of which there are many and various, as you can well imagine. But the end result went much further than just overriding those difficulties: it was a theatrical triumph, its impact magnified by the completely appropriate setting.

Meanwhile in Greece, austerity’s bite has claimed a high-pro‑ le victim in ERT, the state broadcaster, along with its 75-year-old symphony orchestra and various performing groups. A new organisation will emerge but what happens to the musicians remains an unknown for now. So spare a thought for colleagues abroad whose future just got very uncertain.

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