Charity donors have long grown used to the idea their pound coins will be used to buy specific items, such as mosquito nets and clean wells for struggling communities in the developing world.
But the fundraising tactic has now been adopted by an organisation not traditionally associated with miserable living conditions and a daily battle for survival, unless you count trying to get to the packed bar at the interval.
The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, where tickets for its breathtakingly staged shows can cost as much as £225, has launched a costume appeal towards the cost of all those top hats, feathery dresses and glittery wigs.
Urging generous devotees of its productions to put their hands in the pockets, the ROH points out that just £31 could buy the 365 crystals required to decorate one of the Caterpillar’s shoes in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, while £45 can buy the fabric for one of the petticoats worn by the female Chorus members in the new production of La bohème
The appeal goes on to state:
- £98 could buy the make-up for a flamingo in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
- £141 could buy enough spirit gum, used to secure wigs in place, for an entire Season
- £296 could buy the fabric required for the 40 top hats in La bohème
- £560 could buy the material to make seven tutus for the new production of Swan Lake
The costume appeal has prompted some wry comments on social media, with several people contrasting it to appeals by the likes of Oxfam and Action Aid for the world’s poor and dispossessed.
moved to horrible tears by the poignancy of this charity appeal pic.twitter.com/Fb1iOfiifX— Trevor Wood (@trevwood) April 12, 2017
Trevor Wood, a maths and statistics consultant in Cambridge, wrote: “Moved to horrible tears by the poignancy of this charity appeal.”
Seb Patrick, a football and film writer, said: “Oh God, please tell me they've done that as a parody?
Another Twitter user wrote: “I refuse to subsidize their spirit gum habit, but will gladly send them a donkey.”
The ROH points out that as it’s public subsidy from the Arts Council falls it increasingly relies on fundraising to stage its shows and that its tradition of “excellence” costs money.
Its latest public accounts, for 2015, show that 23 per cent of its income came the £29.3 million brought in by fundraising, up from £26m (21 per cent) the year before.
Over the same period its publicly funded grant fell from £29m to £28.5 and in 2015 made up just 22 per cent of its £128.2m income. The rest comes from ticket sales, fundraising and commercial activity.
The Covent Garden institution is conscious that its appeal for cash to pay for beads and fabric could be seen by some as striking a wrong note. But it says it’s a case of needs-must.
Writing about its fundraising appeal Alex Beard, the ROH’s chief executive, has said: “Sometimes people are surprised to see a fundraising appeal from the Royal Opera House. The idea of such a luxurious venue asking for money can initially seem absurd. 'Isn't it enough that I buy a ticket?', you may ask.
“The reality for the ROH is that money raised by ticket sales and other commercial activity, combined with the support of Arts Council England, is not enough to fund what we do. Without the support of the Friends and Patrons of Covent Garden, generous sponsorship and money donated to fundraising appeals, we would not be able to balance the books.”
Mr Beard added: “The Royal Opera House is different from a commercial theatre - we have a duty to preserve levels of excellence and tradition for which we are internationally renowned. Although we are always conscious of saving money, working at this level is expensive, but the value it contributes to the UK's international standing in arts and music is significant.”
A spokesman for the ROH said yesterday: "This fundraising appeal, aimed at members of our audience, helps support the fantastic work of our costume department. We are very fortunate to benefit from the generosity of donors, as it allows us to bring the best of opera and ballet to all of our audiences.”