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ENO’s Cressida Pollock – arts must admit new audiences ‘tend to be white, middle class’

Cressida Pollock ENO chief executive Cressida Pollock
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English National Opera boss Cressida Pollock has claimed most audiences for the performing arts will inevitably be white and middle class, no matter what is done to try and increase diversity.

The opera boss said that organisations should always be trying to appeal to new audiences, but warned that those likely to come would tend to be in the white, middle-class bracket.

“The performing arts audience in the vast majority in this city and country is white, middle class. And when we look to attract a new audience and new people into our audience, we have to acknowledge that we usually end up with a white, middle-class audience,” she said.

Pollock highlighted how dance has a more diverse audience, and added: “That doesn’t mean we can’t make constant efforts to say ‘Here is something on stage that will bring you a different way into this art form’. Even if they come once it’s better than not coming at all.”

Her thoughts were backed by new artistic director Daniel Kramer, who outlined his vision to increase access to the opera as part of a lunch with journalists in London.

Kramer said he would like to take reduced operas to outdoor spaces and town centres, to encourage people to get interested in the art form.

He said: “This company could go round and rock up to a community centre, a town centre, a park and do a one-hour version of an opera to get exposure out there. If we had permission to do it on the South Bank, a family could stay three minutes or one hour,” he said.

Kramer said that he wanted to improve diversity in opera, even if audiences came to just one show.

“Not everything we do has to pay off in a cross over, it just can’t. It has to be enough, once a year or once every two years, that we are getting people to have music [in their lives] and this is okay. Of course, maybe two or three cross over, and I will pray for a couple, but it has to be enough to keep finding ways to let this be a home for a larger London audience than it has been in the past,” he said.

He linked a decline in arts education to the violence that has been seen in the US.

“With zero sentimentality I say that what happened to my country at the weekend in Orlando, and the ongoing and repulsive violence problems the US faces, I believe ties directly into a lack of arts education, a lack of lateral thinking and a lack of creativity which is imbued in us as children,” he said.

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