The professional orchestra likely to disband at end of current season
Guildford Borough Council has decided to cease funding the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra, meaning that the ensemble is unlikely to continue operating beyond March 2013. The council has supported the orchestra since its inception in 1945, and the £190,000 grant the group currently receives accounts for 2% of the council’s budget.
Jen Powell, the Guildford councillor responsible for sport, leisure and culture, explained that cuts needed to be made, but also suggested that the GPO did not provide a sufficiently diverse classical music offering. The council will instead pursue an alternative policy of franchising out classical music provision to a private bidder, who will be expected to also provide events for children, a world music programme and lunchtime recitals, all for an annual budget of £60,000, less than a third of the GPO’s current grant.
The Association of British Orchestras has been campaigning to save the GPO. It has pointed out that the orchestra does far more than just symphony concerts, and also gives many chamber music recitals, as well as regularly accompanying the Guildford Choral Society.
The ABO has been petitioning Guildford Borough Council to consider a compromise solution, whereby the orchestra would become an independent trust funded jointly by public and private money. But the idea was rejected, apparently because two further years of transitional funding would be required.
“No one is quibbling that money needs to be spent wisely at the moment,” said Keith Motson, membership and communications manager at ABO, “but this is short sighted, it’s an immediate financial decision.”