Two-thirds ENO chorus may have to leave profession

Published: 27 March 2023
Reporter: Vera Liber

ENO chorus members demonstrating outside Arts Council England headquarters in November 2022 Credit: Equity UK

Ahead of a meeting between English National Opera chorus members and a cross-party group of MPs and Lords on 28 March, actors' union Equity claims that 67.9% of the ENO chorus are at risk of leaving the profession entirely if Arts Council England forces the company out of its London Coliseum home.

In an Equity survey of the affected workforce, most chorus members (82.1%) say that they would not only have to leave the company but to leave the profession altogether if the ENO were to relocate. Almost 4 in 5 would not be able to move out of London part-time and three quarters would leave their jobs.

Care responsibilities, family commitments and needing to work freelance jobs in London in addition to their work for the ENO were cited as reasons why they would be unable to move with the company.

The ENO workforce will meet with MPs and Lords in parliament to discuss this decision and next steps towards lobbying Lucy Frazer, the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to intervene with ACE.

Equity’s General Secretary, Paul W Fleming, said, “as this survey shows, by pulling the rug from under the English National Opera, Arts Council England believe they are just moving numbers around on a spreadsheet. But they are actually asking a long established workforce to upend their whole lives, for a vague promise of potential work, written in the sand.

“This highly skilled, diverse and world renowned chorus are expected to suddenly move to an unknown place, for an unknown reason by the Arts Council, who seem to have made this baffling decision with zero thought for its consequences for the workforce, the audience, and the ability of people across the UK to access opera.

“When Sadlers Wells Ballet moved to Birmingham or Opera North became independent of the ENO, more quality jobs were created. Historically, ACE has been committed to levelling up—now they’re just tearing down.”

Equity received responses to the survey from 28 chorus members, drawn from a total group of 37, of which 34 chorus members are permanently employed and work for nine months of the year alongside three on contracts.

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