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Response to NPO Funding 2023-26

In the week since Arts Council England's announcement about National Portfolio Organisations between 2023-26, we've been working hard to come to terms with our new level of funding and to work out what we can achieve with this award. Read on for a fuller statement from our CEO and Artistic Director Andrew Burke. 

As the dust settles after Arts Council England’s NPO announcements last week, we have been trying to make sense of the 41% funding cut we have received and begin the difficult process of defining the future of the London Sinfonietta. We needed to meet with the Arts Council – which has now happened – so it’s time to say more.

But, first, we would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to all the organisations who received ACE funding and uplifts and particularly all those who are new to the portfolio. Culture, and music-making in particular, is a great strength of our country, and the greater breadth and diversity of the new portfolio can only be celebrated. We would also like to offer heartfelt commiserations to all those who left the portfolio, those who saw their funding cut and those whose applications were turned down. In these times, we can only be grateful to be in the National Portfolio supported by public funds. And yet, like those other organisations who have been cut, we too have difficult decisions ahead of us as we try to work out what of our planned activity we can deliver with significantly less resource.

Even as a world-renowned organisation in our sector, we have never taken our place in the Portfolio for granted. Yet I have to say we are bemused and disappointed by the scale of our cut. Our ACE grant has historically formed around 35% of our turnover and 41% of that is now being cut. It's significant because that grant supports costs which we can't easily fundraise for elsewhere. The cut seems completely out of proportion to what I believe we offer. There is no use pretending otherwise - it leaves us in a very difficult position. Rather than getting up off the Covid sickbed, it feels right now that we have been put into intensive care. Up to now, Arts Council has provided the capacity for organisations like ours to find support to deliver even more work for composers, musicians, audiences and participants and the security to take risks and innovate with our programme. We have, over many years, been remarkably resilient and entrepreneurial, achieving significant extra fundraising targets - all based on the foundation of ACE’s support. Rather than directing our creativity and experience at the exciting work we can do, we now must spend huge amounts of time evolving a completely new approach for the organisation. All this work has to happen at break-neck speed too. 

As you will see from an outline of our work below, all our programmes already reflect the values and goals of ACE’s ‘Let’s Create’ strategy. And, in recognition of this, Arts Council England have confirmed that they know the value of the great work we do, and that this award is not a reflection on the quality of our application or ongoing work. They told us we have been affected by the larger forces of reallocating funding out of London, to other music genres and the necessary inclusion of diverse-led organisations. And, as a mid-scale organisation in London, we (and others) have then had to take deeper cuts.   

Below you will see the breadth, depth, reach and increasing inclusion of our work. I need to celebrate the creativity and brilliance of the composers and musicians we work with and the huge effort made by the staff team and our board. I want to reinforce the message to a wider public that our cut is not about the quality nor relevance of our work. You can see below how much we have been achieving – which, until last week – was our platform for going yet further.

We are most concerned now about the opportunities for composers, players and artists in our part of the new music sector and ensuring that their creativity continues to reach and inspire audiences, children, young people and communities. We want to use our international brand to gather attention to the work we perform, film, record and promote. We are picking ourselves up and getting on with that.  

If you’d like to show your support for us, please buy a ticket to see us in concert, watch us online, or make a donation.  If you want to stay in touch for further news you can follow us on twitter or sign up to our newsletter. 

Thank you for reading this. 

Andrew Burke 
Chief Executive & Artistic Director 
London Sinfonietta

The world's top new music ensemble The Times

The London Sinfonietta’s Programme 

Breadth, Depth, Reach and Inclusion  

The London Sinfonietta is one of the world's leading contemporary music ensembles, with an international reputation built over 55 years of world-class music making and project delivery.  We have not stood still - balancing our tradition with innovation to remain relevant to contemporary society.  Over the past three years we have been creating new music for new audiences, inspiring musical creativity in schools and communities, and developing the next generation of performing and composing talent. We have also spent a long time re-focusing our own 10-year plans to increase the breadth, reach and inclusivity of our work in all areas – all aspects which are priorities to ACE’s Let’s Create strategy. 

New music for new audiences

London Sinfonietta

In the past 3 years we have commissioned more than 50 pieces of new music (over 450 in our almost 55-year history), written by a group of composers ranging from those who already have an international reputation, to those still in the early years of their career.  We provide composers with an invaluable opportunity of working with world-class musicians to realise their ideas – and give their music its best possible launch. 

We have commissioned composers who have made new work that addresses issues in society – creating stunning projects addressing climate change, violence towards women and the decline of local communities. We have highlighted the need for more representation from black composers in contemporary music and set about commissioning and programming them more often. 

We have an international reputation, which has seen us tour abroad to North and South America, China, Australia and many places in Europe. We regularly attract international composers and artists to work with us because of the history of the organisation and the quality of our performances.  We tour the UK, providing live music performances to audiences around the country. 

We have welcomed thousands of music-lovers to hear this music. Our audiences have enthusiastically returned post-Covid. Newcomers to our artform have been welcomed in through our audience development projects such as Couch to Concert, and young people through our Curious ticket scheme. We have significantly increased our digital content for wider audiences, giving the composers we perform a broadcast quality film of their work which promotes their future careers. This finds wider audiences and new opportunities for the composers we perform. 

Our work is ever more representative of society today, 50% of the composers we have commissioned in the past year are women (in accordance with our commitment to the Key Change campaign), and 25% are from the Global Majority – diverse – backgrounds. In the past year, 40% of the music we’ve performed is by women, and 18% from composers of Global Majority backgrounds. In our 21/22 workforce survey, our group of performing artists was made up of 40% men, 44% women, 6% non-binary. 
Full details of our policies and progress around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion can be found here


Music in schools and the community

Work in schools

In the last academic year, we reached over 10,000 young people in 193 schools and hospital settings across the country with our Composition Challenge project delivered both in person and online, which inspires children to compose for our players. With music marginalised in the school curriculum and support for composition almost non-existent, we have a unique role to play in delivering such opportunities for it.  

We have been working in the London Boroughs of Haringey, Enfield and Waltham Forest for 5 years, providing workshops that lead to performances at the Southbank Centre which are then live streamed out online to thousands of children in school classrooms around the country. Participatory new music making projects have been taking place in several locations outside of London - for example in Gloucester and Northampton.

We have just launched a new strand of community and place making work. Untold Stories will celebrate the lives of local people and culminate in a concert built around them and others in their community. 

We are working in places and communities where there is limited access to the arts. Enfield is one of the Arts Council’s ‘Priority Places’ and still underserved by work from other National Portfolio Organisations. We have chosen schools around England to work in based on advice from local partners and determined by the percentage of children on free school meals and a higher-than-average percentage of children with special educational needs. We have extended our work to some of the Government's Levelling Up for Culture areas – to Gloucester, the New Forest and the Isle of Wight. 
The sense of achievement and pride created was palpable. The students gained a great deal from seeing their musical ideas treated with respect and their compositions performed and recorded in a professional manner. Music Teacher
It was inspiring! It made me realise that anyone can be a composer. Sound Out Participant

Developing Talent

Luke Lewis' The echoes return slow

Our annual London Sinfonietta Academy has had 13 past editions, training over 300 young musicians and 25 conductors. Hundreds more early-career musicians have taken part in side-by-side main-stage performance projects at the Southbank. We know – from what they tell us – that many of these young players are inspired to pursue contemporary music and form their own new music ensembles and new music festivals or join major orchestras.  

Our Writing the Future scheme has welcomed composers who are making ambitious work for themselves which also stretches us. We have made a point of being far more inclusive with this programme, challenging ourselves to take more risks in the kind of projects and composers we support.  

56% of the participants in our London Sinfonietta Academy 2022 project were women. 11% identify as from the Global Majority. Next season, we embark on our Academy Pathways project to reach more musicians from diverse backgrounds and encourage them to train with us. 
You are given the opportunity to dream big and fulfil the creation of projects that are ambitious, which is rare as an emerging composer, and having these performed as part of the London Sinfonietta’s season is invaluable for exposure. [The London Sinfonietta] are an ensemble truly dedicated to bold, new work and nurturing relationships with composers who are underrepresented and from different backgrounds, which is so needed in this industry. Alicia Jane Turner

Support Our Work

Despite our reduction in ACE funding, we are determined to continue pioneering and championing for our art form in schools, in the community, online and on the concert platform. If you’d like to support us in this, we would be very grateful if you could buy a concert ticket or make a donation. 

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Published: 11 Nov 2022