Birmingham Opera facing closure, looking for help with web forum.

As you may already be aware Birmingham Opera is facing an uncertain future, possibly closure, after their Arts Council grant was cut as part of the bloody cull of last month. The Post has all the details which I’ll attempt to parse here:

They currently get £324,000 from the Arts Council and £197,000 from the city council. While the former has been removed they can apply for a “project grant” capped at £100,000, though getting this is not guaranteed.

According to The Post “The Arts Council is understood to have disapproved of the company’s decision to bring Vick’s production of La Traviata to the NIA, regarding it as too great a financial risk.

This production (blogged about in advance here and here with post-performance responses collated here and here) sold 9,908 of the 10,000 seats and, while profits were slim, was generally considered a success. Here’s a photo:

What sets Birmingham Opera apart from other opera companies is their pathalogical desire to bring people into opera who wouldn’t normally do it, not just watching but performing. Which, personally, confuses the hell out of me since I thought that’s what you needed to do to get Arts Council funding these days.

The closing quote from the AC does sort of answer this though:

“While we recognise the quality of Birmingham Opera Company’s work, we have been talking to them for some time to flag our concerns about aspects of their business and financial models. We are still in constructive talks to explore other funding opportunities available to them.”

In other words, they were told to sort the books out or face losing the money and they didn’t. Of course the timing of this decision, coming along with a massive reduction in arts funding, does make this reasoning rather suspect.

Naturally, Birmingham Opera are planning to fight this and have a chance to appeal this month. One thing they want to do is get a forum or similar set up on their website so their wide and disparate support network can come together and build a strategy. This needs to happen as soon as possible so if someone web-savvy can help them get something up and running quickly please get in touch with them. I don’t think it needs to be anything complicated – phpbb should do. (I’d do it but I’m sort of not around…)

The 2007 review will continue tomorrow…