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Emma Dent Coad - putting the record straight

Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad has again used OHP as a tool in her battles against RBKC. This piece once again quotes figures that are manifestly untrue.

The first time she quoted these figures was in her 'After Grenfell' paper on poverty. A great deal of misinformation has been circulated regarding OHP's costs over the years and the amount of money the council spent. Inflating, misreporting and dramatising the cost of supporting public arts only adds to the sense of outrage, increasing the climate of fear around local authority support for culture. When these arguments appear, little reference is made to expenditure on other services the council provides. We are an easy target.

Emma Dent-Coad's "After Grenfell" paper tied OHP to the disaster and quoted a FOI report from RBKC that purportedly revealed the council had spent "£30 million over 15 years" on the…
Recent posts

Isabeau - off the beaten path (just)

Among the major producing companies, very few beyond Opera Holland Park explore the repertoire of the late 19th or early 20th century and it is a period from which some quite astonishing music emerged. Anoraks will no doubt be able to produce a list of companies and productions who do dabble, but that won’t change the reality that we are just about the most regular producers of such ‘enjoyable tosh’ (as one esteemed critic calls them) possibly in Europe.  Since OHP was born in 1996 we have produced operas by Mascagni, Cilea, Giordano, Ponchielli, Montemezzi, Zandonai, Leoncavallo, Wolf-Ferrari, Menotti and Catalani.
The common thread that joins most of these composers is that they were all part of a movement known as the giovane scuola (young school) and then in time, as the modern world took over, they came to represent what Allan Mallach called the Autumn of Italian opera; the last great flowering of Italian operatic invention and one that was looking northwards towards Wagner and …

Panic! Culture and the working class

A new report on the working class relationship with culture has been doing the rounds recently.
Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries (which you can find here ( comes at the issue from the point of view of the working class and their opportunities to find careers in the cultural sector. I usually concern myself most with the audience aspects of this debate but this report does touch on matters that relate to that, too. The general issue was also recently making waves with respect to entrants into Oxbridge and with Owen Jones's huge Twitter spat about the class of those in the media. 
The Panic! report takes data from various sources and draws conclusions from it. Some of the conclusions are based on what appear to me to be oddly skewed impressions and some of the report sounds like an argument looking for a validation, rather t…

Hip Hop to Opera - a new film by Opera Holland Park

In early 2017, I was asked to go and speak to the sixth form of Archbishop Tenison's school in the Oval, south London about my book 'Noisy at the wrong times' in which I tell the story of my own school, Woolverstone Hall, and its role in lifting me, psychologically at least, out of the inner city. The chair of governors had read it and felt my experience and background might chime with the students. Facing a room full of clearly unimpressed 17 and 18 year olds turned out to be more daunting than standing on a stage speaking to a thousand patrons; writ large on what felt like every face was the question 'why are we listening to a bloke who works for an opera company?' I don't think one student looked at me as I began to speak, and they did what I would have done at their age, showing their suspicion and doubt by looking at the ceiling or at each other. It was only when I got to the part about my brother's death and my own myriad misdemeanours that they began…

Audiences will decide the future of opera

I have news: the audience will decide the future of opera.
When our season at Opera Holland Park comes to an end, I pore over spreadsheets trying to find reasons why our audience have behaved in the way that they have, and the most concentrated analysis tends to come after seasons during which our house has been full. The theory is this; if we have underperformed, we are programmed to find solutions, but if we have performed well, we are less likely to look for the gremlins that might lose us that ever-capricious audience in a trice – you are never more vulnerable than when you are successful.  Sometimes, though, one can miss the obvious, or perhaps ignore it.
In nearly three decades in opera, I have experienced one "boom" in the art form but an almost perpetual "crisis" of confidence, an alarmed perma-reflection on whether we remain relevant as an art form. This introspective brew is spiced by the occasional real crisis, like that recently at ENO, but we never reall…

Bridging the divide and opera’s Holy Grail

I'm not fully subscribed to the notion that opera has an age problem, inasmuch as I don't find loyal audiences in the autumn of their lives to be problematic. It isn't rocket science to understand that any obsession with new audiences puts you at risk of marginalising the one you have, and in the process of trying to shape it to suit, the very authenticity of the art form you wish to convert new followers to. In opera, our focus is on young people and the New Generation. At this point, to save me wasting time on it, you may go off and Google the myriad reports, studies and initiatives that attempt to address the matter.

In essence, Opera Holland Park has accommodated the desire we share with our peers to develop new youthful converts by giving away thousands of free tickets to young people, with work in schools and by providing a family show each summer but until the classical arts become ingrained as a compulsory subject in our primary and secondary schools, the paradig…

The Oxbridge divide

In the past couple of weeks the issue of privilege and the Oxbridge divide has been prominent on social media. The argument has essentially been that Oxbridge caters most to the privileged and monied, and further, excludes black students in particular. David Lammy extracted some data from Oxford which he believes shows Oxford is not doing well enough with respect to offering access to bright black and underprivileged students. I am not sure if he is suggesting Oxford is institutionally racist but the inference that Oxford actively excludes black and disadvantaged students is easy to draw from his comments on the matter. The statistics are quite complex and to me don't actually suggest Oxford is doing too badly, but this thread of tweets addresses the specifics very well;

To be frank, I am not entirely sure where to start with this discussion because those progressing the arguments against elite universities appear to misunderst…