So Now What?

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

watch now

by Neil Nisbet

In November last year the Sunday Times revealed that the chief piano player Music Director of the Royal Opera House, one Antonio Pappano, was being paid the staggeringly large amount of £630,000 per year.

Their article also revealed that Tony Hall, the Chief Executive of ROH, was pulling in £390,000. The Royal Opera House, located in Covent Garden in London, is the single biggest "client" of Arts Council England, commanding a cool £28Million in annual subsidy.

On first look, last year, the press storm was more of a tempest in a teacup but here in TheLab™ we thought the figures demanded a more detailed analysis.

Also requiring more analysis and commentary are the responses from the respective players in this self-serving, self-aggrandising little soap opera that ACE, ROH and their minions have spawned in the never ending farce of public subsidy that, for journalists at least, is the gift that keeps on giving.


First of all let's be clear that this information is not gathered through nefarious means. Nobody at ROH grew a conscience and leaked this info to The Times. All you need is an internet connection, a credit card and the ability to type.

All limited companies are required to register with Companies House in London and submit their accounts on a yearly basis. These accounts are available to anybody, for any reason. You don't have to ask, you just have to pay £1 and you can have as much information as you'll ever need on any company you care to name, large or small.

Within the accounts of these companies they are required to declare the number of people earning salaries on or above £60,000 per year. These salaries are broken down into £10,000 brackets so spotting the pay levels of individuals is easy. You just have to find the right page and look.

The ROH accounts reveal one individual (Mr Pappano, although individuals are not named in the accounts) earns between £630,000 and £639,999.

For some perspective on this number take a look at the chart below.

We've added together the salary of Mr Pappano, Mr Hall, the average salary of the director of a National Dance Agency (approximately £55,000), Alistair Spalding (Sadler's Wells CEO, CBW), at £145,000 and that of a professional dancer (about £6,000 according to ACE).

What we get is the above chart. If we round to zero decimal places then the dancer's salary, unsurprisingly, comes out at 0% of the total amount (it's actually 0.49%).

To all intents and purposes, using arithmetic as a guide, in the wacky world of arts funding, professional dancers rate a big fat zero. How important do you feel now?

More Numbers

Remember the rule that demands companies reveal the number of people earning more that £60,000? Good, because ROH has 80 people on that list (as of 2009 the last time they filed complete accounts).

These 80 people absorb £6.1Million in funding. If we follow the same method as before and add together this number with the funding of 13 mid-scale contemporary dance companies then we arrive at the chart below.

As you can see the largest share obtained from a total of £9.82Million is just 5% (that's Phoenix Dance Theatre). The combined funding of those 13 companies reaches a total of just £3.72 Million. 13 mid-scale dance companies cannot begin to match the financial muscle of just 80 employees in one large scale organisation.

Again, how important do you feel now?

Clinical Response.

As luck would have it on February 20th the Ikon Eastside Gallery in Birmingham announced that it would be closing because its public funding had been cut so drastically it could no longer remain open.

Ok, so it's not so lucky if you actually work at the aforementioned gallery but we put it to the Royal Opera House that it might be a little bit unfair for an overweight piano player to earn over £630,000 a year when an entire art gallery is going under because, apparently, there is no money.

Their response;

"Simon Robey, Chairman of the Royal Opera House and its remuneration committee, has said that 'My colleagues (on the board) and I believe that, after making international comparisons, we pay both the Tonys the right money.  I will not let standards slip.  And for that, you have to pay a certain wage.'"

"[They] will not let standards slip". If these arguments seem familiar then you are correct dear reader because you've heard them before. From the banks. Remember, the reason they pay their guys so much money? If they didn't they would lose them to other banks and god knows what would happen then?

Probably cheaper banking and a few less catastrophic global meltdowns, but we digress.

So, the going rate for an overweight piano player Music Director is £630,000 huh? Apparently the English National Opera disagree because their highest salary is £170,000 according to their latest accounts. The ENO must really suck compared to the Royal Opera we suppose.

Either that or the "remuneration committee" at ENO doesn't have it's collective head up its ass. (how desperately sad must your life's work be if you serve on a remuneration committee? Ed!)

For their part the English National Opera declined to comment on whether or not their opera company sucks when compared to the Royal Opera.

As for ACE, what do they have to say about this? Nothing, nothing at all but that's hardly surprising since ACE never says anything about anything. Their one sentence reply reads;

"Remuneration is a matter for the Board of the Royal Opera House, but we do believe that any body in receipt of significant public money should be transparent about disclosure of their core funding costs. The Royal Opera House gets its funding from a variety of sources, with roughly a quarter coming from the Arts Council"

What they're trying to do there is pretend that ROH might not be paying their exorbitant salaries from the £28Million in public funding that ACE gives them.

Bearing that in mind, Article19 asked ROH if they could still pay these salaries if their ACE subsidy was completely cut;

"Our business model relies on a delicate balance of public subsidy, box office sales, corporate and private donations together with income from commercial enterprises. We work within this framework and have balanced the books for the past eleven years."

The short version of that is "no, we couldn't, but thank god ACE gives us all this money otherwise our piano player would have to fly coach."

Even if ROH was cooking its books to make it look like their piano player's salary was being paid from private sponsorship the ACE subsidy would still be propping up the other areas of the business that were not covered by that sponsorship. Take away the subsidy and the sponsorship has to fill the void, so no deluxe Pot Noodles for Mr Pappano and no top rate tax bill either.

Nice try ACE, close but no cigar!

Bad Music

We could go on and on and on about this. There are 20,000 more words of jokes, satire and piss-taking to be had with all of it but, ultimately, none of it is funny. (The situation, not our writing! Ed!)

What we have here are essentially two individuals, Tony Hall and Antonio Pappano who are so supremely arrogant and self involved that they think their expertise, their very presence is worth a collective £1.1Million of public money every single year.

We have the Board of Trustees for the ROH, Mr Robey and his cronies, who are so sycophantically obsessed with preserving the unquantifiable level of excellence they believe the ROH possesses they will pay any amount of somebody else's money to protect it.

Finally we have ACE. An organisation so politically, socially, economically and morally tone deaf that all they can say is "nothing to do with us". It's hard to believe and completely infuriating to note that when presented with the pay levels of these two at their last funding review they didn't tell the ROH with a resounding, collective voice so loud it could be heard in outer-space, "f*** off, would you please!"

The arts are being bled to death across the country. ACE say nothing, the arts say nothing and the pigs with biggest snouts are picking your pockets and laughing their arses off.

So now what?

  • claire

    i think it is slightly more complex than you are making out! its not all cut and dry as 'its public subsidy' and therefore high salaries are ridiculous. yes it is a very large salary (we'd all like one I am sure!) but I bet my bottom dollar you'd be doing a report on here if these posts were cut or heavily reduced, artistic standards slipped and then you'd be banging on about the amount of public subsidy the ROH receives for producing rubbish work. bit of a catch 22 really!

  • Large scale organisations can sustain more cuts to their admin side than small or mid-scale. ENO manages to run an opera company with significantly lower salaries and significantly fewer middle managers on high salaries.

    Many mid-scale dance companies produce high quality work without massive funding and many dancers, choreographers and AD's are significantly underpaid.

    Believe us when we tell you that were ROH and others to have their wings significantly clipped there would be few, especially us, expressing any measurable concern about it.

  • Kema

    Wayne McGregor?
    He works for ROH, Sadlers Wells,Random and Youth Dance England. All are ACE funded
    Does he get a salary for all of them?
    It would interesting to see how many other people end up indirectly getting all their money from ACE. You know like a NHS Consultant gets paid by the NHS but if he does the same operation in a private hospital on an NHS patient he is still getting paid by Government but twice!!

  • Jack

    How lovely for them. It's ok for them to maintain standards but what about myself and many others who are currently living off of porridge and the last of my coppers whilst trying to maintain some sort of standard?

blog comments powered by Disqus

Parallel Shoot

Trailer Park