The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra recognises that Birmingham City Council faces significant financial challenges. The orchestra is nevertheless disappointed that its funding from the City Council will be cut by 25% from April 2017.
A cut of this scale equates to a reduction of £228,000 from the current year’s level. Coming on top of the £1.47 million real-terms public funding cuts which the orchestra has already absorbed since 2010, it means the CBSO’s public funding will drop below that currently received by any other regional symphony orchestra in the country, with its Birmingham City Council grant falling to levels last seen in the 1980s.
The CBSO has done all it can to maintain the world-class excellence and breadth of its concert-giving, educational, outreach and choral programmes in spite of previous cuts. It has consistently achieved the highest ticket income of any orchestra in the UK, annual fundraised income has increased from £450,000 to around £1.2 million thanks to the generosity of the orchestra’s many donors and funders, and it has raised a £2 million Endowment fund.
As a result, the orchestra is still recognised internationally among the best in the world, bringing cultural, educational and economic benefits to people in the Midlands and flying the flag for the region worldwide. This year it has won global acclaim for performances with its newly-appointed Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.
CBSO chair Bridget Blow said: ‘We are concerned and disappointed that, in the face of financial pressures, Birmingham City Council has felt it necessary to cut funding for arts and culture so much faster than local authorities in other major cities. There is global excitement about the CBSO’s future with one of the world’s most exciting young conductors, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, at the helm – but this latest cut will require us to work harder than ever to maintain the world-class concerts and Learning & Engagement activities which the people of Birmingham have come to expect. We are grateful for the generosity of our many supporters at this time.’
The CBSO has been working with Birmingham’s other arts organisations over the last year to establish Culture Central, a development organisation and collective voice for culture in the city-region. Culture Central is now calling for a complete review of the way that the sector and the City Council work together in the future.
Gary Topp, Director of Culture Central said: ‘We have been making it clear for many months now that a radical new proposition for cultural investment in the city needs to be established and we are disappointed that the City Council has not shown more appetite for this innovative approach to date. The many exceptional cultural organisations in the city have extended their own level of commercial and entrepreneurial activity considerably in recent years and we are asking the City Council to reciprocate. In effect we are seeking the full backing of the Council to create the necessary freedoms and flexibilities for the sector to thrive and to move to a more dynamic and contemporary approach. The sector has prepared itself for this approach through the creation of Culture Central as a collaborative leadership vehicle and we need to work in a radically reframed partnership with the Council to bring these opportunities to fruition.’