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Watch: The stirring musical protest on the steps of the Senedd

21 May 2024 4 minute read
WNO orchestra and chorus conducted by Carlo Rizzi (Credit: S4C)

David Owens

Hundreds gathered outside the Senedd today to protest proposed cuts and redundancies at the Welsh National Opera.

Singers and musicians protested against cuts to the WNO with a stirring performance on the steps of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay

There were beautiful arrangements of Gwahoddiad (Arglwydd Dyma Fi) and the Easter Hymn performed by the WNO orchestra and chorus conducted by maestro Carlo Rizzi, who spoke passionately to the crowd about the reasons why the world-class institution needs to be properly funded.

The protest come after the WNO signalled it intends to put revised contract proposals on the table for those in the chorus who are members of Equity, the performing arts and entertainment trade union.

WNO management are looking to reduce the current full-time contracts of chorus members to 45 weeks with an estimated cut in base salary of at least 15% a year.

In addition, they are seeking to “reduce and rebalance” the size of the chorus, with a process which Equity says can only lead to the real threat of compulsory redundancy.

An emergency motion to “provide whatever support is required” for a campaign to stop cuts and redundancies to the Welsh National Opera (WNO) chorus passed unanimously at the Equity conference in Birmingham on May 19..

The motion also reiterated that the performing arts trade union “will not accept compulsory redundancies, or the desire by WNO management to have the flexibility of a full-time contract with all the precarity of an unsustainable cut to their basic earnings.”

The union had previously said it was open to the process and believed that despite the challenging financial situation the company faces, they would protect the chorus as an integral part of what WNO describe as the “musical and artistic backbone of Welsh National Opera”.

In recent weeks, however, it says “opaque proposals for changes to members terms and conditions have been tabled which would “fundamentally undermine” the job security of the ensemble”.

Substantial cuts

WNO says it’s facing ongoing financial difficulties caused by substantial cuts to funding from both Arts Council England and Arts Council of Wales.

Arts Council England cut funding of the WNO by a third to £4 million in 2022 and Arts Council of Wales reduced its funding to WNO by 11.8% following its investment review announced in September 2023.

These decisions have already seen a reduction in output with touring weeks lost in Liverpool, Llandudno, and Bristol.

WNO employs over 250 people ranging from artists, craftspeople, technicians and administrators, based at the Wales Millennium Centre.

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