"I think it's actually going to have a galvanising affect" John Merry, Leader Salford City Council
As Salford faces £40million of cuts over the coming year, John Merry, Leader of Salford City Council, has approved the spending of £150,000 towards the controversial opera, The Life and Death of Marina Abramović. The opera will be performed at The Lowry as part of the Manchester International Festival in July, with tickets costing up to £39.50.
The spending was first revealed by the Salford Star back in December (click here for more details) under the Freedom of Information Act, after a drawn out e-mail battle with Salford Council which wouldn't provide a straight answer on the proposed opera spending (click here for more details).
Now, the £150,000 has been formally approved as part of "events to mark the public use of MediaCityUK". The official decision notice justifies the funding as it has come from funding dating back to 2007… "the budget exists within an allocation made at that time for promotion of MediaCityUK".
Salford Council will provide £150,000 towards the production costs for The Lowry opera - "a biography of the grandmother of performance art re-imagined by visionary director Robert Wilson" – and the decision notice states that "The work to commission the piece for the Manchester International Festival and the two pieces for young people to make use of Mediacity have been in train for several years".
It adds that "unlike in previous festivals there will be no supporting events or receptions sponsored by Salford City Council". There are no reductions in prices for Salford people.
Back in December, the Salford Star questioned John Merry on the opera spend…
Salford Star editor, Stephen Kingston (SK): Come March you're going to hold your hands up and say `The Tory government has cut all the money, we're in a recession, help!'
John Merry (JM): I'm going to say what this Tory government is doing to the people of Salford and you'll agree with us as well
SK: So come March you're going to be saying that there's no more money but come March you're going to be writing a cheque out to the BBC plus a cheque for opera at The Lowry for £150,000
JM: Well wait and see, yeah…
SK: Come now you've given a £22m loan to Salford Reds and things – now when you come along and say we're going to have to cut this service or that service what do you think people are going to say?
JM: Let's deal with them one by one. Yes we are giving £150,000 on commissioning a world famous opera or happening or whatever you want to call it.
SK: I'm not getting at the actual production
JM: Exactly and I think it will be something that will actually help in terms of promoting the International Festival and promoting the BBC and promoting Salford in particular, and what we're trying to do
SK: But if you're going to have to close down this or that or the other and you're supporting opera…
JM: This is the fundamental difference between us and I'm always quite surprised by it. I think the BBC coming to Salford is going to make an enormous difference to the local economy of Salford, you don't think so do you?
SK: We're not against it
JM: I don't think you're against it but I don't think you think that it will have the affect I think it's actually going to have, a galvanising affect.
SK: I think that it's going to be an island and everything I've seen so far shows that
JM: We actually want to make money out of the BBC's link with Salford, of course we do, and we think that this is an investment that is worthwhile in order to bring the BBC to Salford and I think we're already beginning to see that… etc
Photo by Jemma Cooper