Russell Watson: English National Opera would be great for the north

Classical singer Russell Watson has said the English National Opera would get “great value” from having a base in the north of England.

The opera company has been told to relocate from London to receive a grant from Arts Council England (ACE) and is reported to have a shortlist of five areas, including Greater Manchester and Liverpool.

Watson, originally from Salford, Greater Manchester, spoke before performing with the English National Opera (ENO) for a Eurovision event in Liverpool on Tuesday.

He told the PA news agency: “The north has such a vast array of classical venues and places where classical music is played, I think it would be great for the north to get English National Opera here.

“I think they’ll get great value from the north as well, I really do, because us northerners like a bit of classical music.”

He said either Liverpool or Manchester would be a good fit for the company, adding: “I think one of the big cities would be a good place for them to set stall.”

The BBC reported that Birmingham, Bristol and Nottingham were also on the shortlist.

The company’s chief executive Stuart Murphy told the Guardian newspaper Liverpool and Manchester were “really strong contenders”.

Last November, ACE announced plans to remove the opera company as a national portfolio organisation, instead proposing the ENO receive a £17 million grant over three years – but only if it relocated outside London.

Earlier this year, ACE said the funding had been granted to “sustain a programme of work at the ENO’s home, the London Coliseum” and at the same time “help the ENO start planning for a new base outside London by 2026”.