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Does it really cost £4.5m to run Ulster Orchestra?

THE board of the Ulster Orchestra (News, November 8) make a compelling case for the preservation of that institution. A number of questions present themselves, however.

The media have recently reported that it costs £4.5m to run the orchestra. A decade ago it was reported (in A Study of the Economic and Social Impact of the Ulster Orchestra, Executive Summary, April 2005) that the orchestra cost circa £3m to run, which, if both of these figures are correct, implies that the Ulster Orchestra has seen a 50% uplift in its income and running costs over the last decade.

Seen in light of this data, are the recent alleged cuts reported by the board really that bad?

This same report also observes that: "The U(lster) O(rchestra) enables musicians to develop secondary income streams... 82% of all musicians employed by the UO within the past 12 months had one or more additional income streams.

"Key sources of additional income are private tutoring; performing in a classical music ensemble; teaching in the City of Belfast School of Music; playing in a band."

Are musicians in the Ulster Orchestra still able to supplement their income from double-jobbing? And if so, how is this justified by the board?

While I'm sure that we all wish the Ulster Orchestra every success in future, the last question is whether £4.5m might not usefully support far more people in other strands of the arts?

And, finally, should the orchestra not be charging more for its services and ticket sales, so that it no longer diverts much-needed taxpayer funding from other arts organisations?

BERNARD J MULHOLLAND

Belfast

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