Wigmore Hall launches £10m fund in bid to be self-sustaining | Wigmore Hall

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London classical music venue Wigmore Hall has announced a £10m fund with the aim to be self-sustaining without need for public funds. It is believed to be the first major concert hall to take such a step in what a statement described as “an uncertain public environment for classical music in the UK”.

The venue has an annual grant of £344,206 from Arts Council England (ACE) but John Gilhooly, Wigmore Hall’s artistic and executive director, says that it is “already 97% self-funded”. He added that £7m had already been pledged for the new fund, called the Director’s Fund, and that the venue hoped to raise £10m by 2027, and £20m within a decade.

Orchestras and classical music venues have found themselves at the sharp end of the cost of living crisis, the aftershocks of the pandemic, and drastic restrictions in arts funding. Last month, Birmingham City Council scrapped its entire culture budget, taking away £630,000 from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). The month before, Suffolk county council also said it would no longer fund arts organisations in the region, and Nottingham is expected to do the same.

Other organisations, such as the Cheltenham music festival and new music ensemble Psappha have to adjust – or close – due to the withdrawal of their ACE funding, while English National Opera initially lost its £12.8m grant, and was told that it must leave its London base to qualify for further funds. Cuts to the BBC, meanwhile, led to the axing of the BBC Singers, until a public outcry forced the corporation to reverse the decision.

Last year, the conductor Simon Rattle, who started his career at CBSO, said that classical music in the UK was “facing a long-term fight for existence … we cannot just quietly acquiesce to the dismantling or dismembering of so many important companies.”

Gilhooly said that the Wigmore fund would make the 123-year-old venue “100% self-sufficient if necessary”. He added that the venue’s audiences last year had exceeded pre-pandemic levels, and that ticket sales were up 28% year-on-year. The chamber music venue, which is in central London, has a capacity of 552 and access to private donors unlikely to be replicated in most regional venues.

“We fully recognise fundraising is more difficult for our colleagues outside of London, which makes the ACE’s investment more important than ever” added Gilhooly. “The current criteria for ACE’s ‘Let’s Create’ policy are problematic for most classical music organisations. ACE needs to listen to these concerns. Hopefully the current review of ACE being led by Mary Archer will also address these genuine worries for the future of classical music funding.”

Along with the announcement of the fund, the Hall unveiled a programme for its 24/25 season which includes new work by composers Mark-Anthony Turnage, Caroline Shaw and Master of the King’s Music Judith Weir; a collaboration between Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and violinist Daniel Pioro; and a recital by the celebrated young South Korean pianist Yunchan Lim.



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