Ulster Orchestra begins consultation process about future

Martin Cullingford1st Dec 2012
Ulster Orchestra: possible cutsUlster Orchestra: possible cuts

The Ulster Orchestra, one of Northern Ireland's leading artistic organisations, has begun a consultation process which could see cuts to the number of players and administrative staff.

A forum-style meeting was held on Thursday evening, attended by players and staff, to discuss a consultation document about steps that could be taken. A spokesperson for the orchestra said that the view of the interim chief executive Edward Smith is that the orchestra is unsustainable in its current size, and that it is looking at 'possible cuts to the core orchestra and admin staff'. 'We could be in trouble in the next couple of seasons if nothing is done,' the spokesperson added, though was not specific about what the proposed cuts might be.

Smith was appointed interim chief executive of the orchestra in August, while the search began for a permanent chief executive. Formerly CEO of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for 22 years, he more recently held a similar role with the Gothenburg Symphony.

The Ulster Orchestra is a central part of Northern Ireland's musical life. Its principal funder is the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, from which it receives close to £2m per year. While not a BBC orchestra, it receives money from the organisation with which it has a close relationship, and is broadcast regularly on BBC Radio 3 - not least last week, where the orchestra had been the focus of Afternoon on 3. It is also supported by Belfast City Council. However, according to the orchestra, while box office sales have held up and subscribers remained loyal, corporate sponsorship has fallen recently.

JoAnn Faletta was appointed as the orchestra's principal conductor in 2011, and took up the post with the 2011-12 season on a three-year contract. Her first recording as the orchestra's principal conductor, of music by Holst including the Cotswolds Symphony (released by Naxos), was well received in Gramophone's pages (August 2012).

Recent events will not have any impact on scheduled concerts and events, according to the orchestra. 

© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2014