We talk with Andrew Given, Development Director of the English National Opera company in London, about the new ENO Breathe project that has taken both healthcare COVID support, and music markets by storm.
The answer to the above is yes, and no. It is not music per se but it is opera, and the deeper answer is; yes, – very possibly, and in ways that we could not have imagined.
Even more curious, is that – it is not like Opera is a household accepted musical item. It has that bourgeois middle class image which even ENO, the common man entry point for opera, inhabits. And yet here we have a project that is open for all and has to be so, regardless of musical ability or background.
ENO Breathe is a joint project that is a fully structured, thought-out, and managed collaboration, between the ENO, and Imperial College NHS Trust, that delivers a programme of breathing exercises, and participation in singing routines and soft lullabies – to help long term COVID suffers get over their condition.
It is a brilliant concept that astonishingly has no public funding – its initial pilot of 12 patients back in August was crowd-funded to the tune of £12K, by ENO Members, in just seven days. And Imperial College cover their own costs.
It is a marriage of expertise that can make, and is making such a difference already, across a divide that would not have been visible or noticed a year ago. You could say ENO Breathe was an accident, the result of perhaps an even more strange accident – where the seamstresses and costume teams at ENO – plus an increasing army of ENO staff and volunteers, produced the Scrubs for various hospitals, due to a national shortage of protective workwear.
From there, it is a short step to ask – “well, what else we can do?”
From those initial conceptual discussions in early June 2020 – ENO Breathe now has a network of regional NHS Hospitals all signed up to registering their COVID Patients into the scheme. Hospitals include all the main London hospitals, plus Liverpool Royal Infirmary, Manchester, Newcastle, and Oxford. Patient entry into the scheme has to be by referral only, from one of the above hospitals, or from a medical practitioner.
This is no singing group or roll-up choir practice. ENO Breathe is a medically based process that uses opera expertise at its highest level – for the good of patients who need help and who probably have never inhabited an opera house in their life.
And whilst Andrew would be supremely comfortable if patients in return, all became ENO Members, his more urgent need is to continue the funding process.
ENO is currently looking for corporate sponsors, who wish to be visible in their COVID support and also by implication, support for the Arts. It is a truism that every patient is somebody’s employee. You could argue there is a vested interest in corporates protecting their employees in a wider sense.
We finish our discussion. Andrew is sitting in white T-Shirt, in his pristine white lounge area at his home. He has other calls to make, One of the ENO mantras, is that opera is open to all – but I don’t think even he imagined how this would work out.
If you are interested in supporting ENO Breathe, please contact Andrew at email@example.com and if you like to know more visit https://eno.org/eno-breathe/’