Preparing for the post-lockdown, post-Covid world? Read here about what everyone else is doing - and beg, borrow and share great ideas with others facing the same challenges as you. Robert Sanderson and Margaret Levin provide a regular round-up of what's new.
Diego Jimenez on Unsplash
Friday 10th July
Art is back at Salford Quays with ’Box on the Docks’ from the end of July. MediaCityUk has teamed up with agency Hemingway Design to create a new outdoor dining experience with public art at the heart of the digital and creative hub. Thirty self-contained dining pods, taking the form of sheds and greenhouses and decorated by Salford-based artists and creatives, will wind through the gardens and along the waterfront.
The National Centre for Writing (NCW) has launched a new online community space to help readers and writers to connect, as well as setting up a virtual NCW Book Club. Join the free book club now to discuss Attica Locke’s award-winning crime novel set in Texas, Bluebird, Bluebird.
A series of online events will examine how the arts and creative sectors can help society recover from the effects of Covid-19. The Edinburgh Culture Conversations will bring together members of the public, artists, academics and cultural leaders to debate the future shape and purpose of the culture sector. The 10-week series, hosted by The University of Edinburgh, begins on Monday 13 July, with the first conversation considering the question ‘How can we keep the Festival spirit of internationalism and interculturalism alive?’
Six museums and galleries across England are taking part in a new project celebrating the work of security staff during lockdown. Launching 13 July, a new six-part audio series ‘The Caretakers’ will offer the public a glimpse into life for UK museum and gallery security staff and those maintaining buildings and collections. The participating museums and galleries are: Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery; Kettle’s Yard; Museum of London; Royal Museums Greenwich; Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford; and Southend Museums. Delivered by contemporary artist Eloise Moody, and supported by arts organisation Metal, each episode will be broadcast daily. @caretakertales @MetalCultureUK
Wednesday 8th July
The My Primary School is at the Museum project (MPSM) is to scale up a programme that enables schools and host venues across the UK to establish partnerships allowing teaching to take place in local museums and other cultural and natural settings. The programme has provided an opportunity for museums, botanic gardens, and other cultural spaces and natural settings to support schools post-lockdown by providing additional space and teaching resources for classes under social distancing. The programme was initiated with the support of King’s College London, and has placed around 500 primary, nursery and pre-school children into museums, galleries and botanic gardens for up to 11 weeks at a time, where they have received full-time, fully cross-curricular education. The projects have ironed out logistical problems including safeguarding; toiletting; refreshment; play-times; travel etc. through risk assessments and careful pre-project planning. They have been qualitatively evaluated in a formal report. An MPSM ‘toolkit’ is available to support cultural and heritage organisations that want to build strong partnerships with the schools and communities in which they are situated, and new enquiries about the project are welcome.
Understory, an initiative to support the future careers of a new generation of dancers, presents a series of informal chats from people who work in dance, focusing on the times when they had to navigate the unexpected in their career. These chats come in written, podcast and video form and will be released in groups each week, while a resources page offers additional support. The project is aimed at anyone entering the field of dance, including but not limited to dance graduates, those who are self-taught and people learning outside of normative structures, at whatever stage in life. Dance professionals who have gathered behind the project include Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Seeta Patel, Seke Chimutengwende, Maxine Doyle, and Oona Doherty, all from different backgrounds and on different paths, offering some hope, inspiration, and humour whilst exploding the myth of a straightforward path through a dance career. The initiative is artist-led, independent and volunteer-run: contact them for further information.
A partnership between MelodyVR Group, creator of virtual reality entertainment content, and concert promoter Live Nation, has created Live From O2 Academy Brixton, a series of pioneering new live concerts connecting artists and fans in 360° virtual reality. Fans have the choice of watching each performance from multiple vantage points around the auditorium including on stage with the artists themselves. Performances will be available in both 360° and virtual reality and tickets are available from Ticketmaster and in-app via the MelodyVR platform.
Tuesday 7th July
COMMENT: Drive-In a tent or Stand-on a platform ?
Photo: Jeremy Keith on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Outline details of two fairly extraordinary developments in the industry’s overnight conversion to Drive-Ins have just appeared, one involving driving your car inside a giant marquee and the other involving family-size viewing platforms spread over a racecourse.
Firstly the allegedly “Covid-safe venue”, which is being created by Paul Levin with the immersive theatre company Beyond Theatre. This is planned to open in Manchester, titled “Drive Inside”, and the centrepiece is a 70,000 sq ft giant marquee with a raised stage in the middle, surrounded by cars each with allocated spaces alongside for picnic chairs and tables.
Audiences of 800 are envisaged, presumably averaging four people to a car so up to 200 cars. They say that the sides of the tent will be opened up to allow air to come in, which would be just as well given the exhaust fumes generated at the beginning and end of the show. Further detail of shows, dates, and prices are to be revealed, as are plans to bring the concept to London and Edinburgh as well.
Paul Levin said: "People love live music, ballet, opera and theatre, but they need to be completely confident that a venue is absolutely, rather than probably, COVID safe. This virus has affected the future of our creative arts and we are excited that Drive Inside will allow the industry to start getting back to some sort of normality and audiences to begin enjoying live performances again."
It's an interesting interpretation of normality, even if our industry is always being extraordinary.
The second development is for what is claimed to be the UK’s first large-scale socially-distanced music venue, the Virgin Money Unity Arena, opening this summer at Newcastle Racecourse in Gosforth Park. This will be open from August until mid-September and features 500 separate viewing platforms overlooking an outdoor stage. Each platform can accommodate a household of up to five, all standing presumably, which means a maximum capacity of 2500. The arena has been conceived by SSD Concerts, a major promoter in the North-East, and MD Steve Davis said “we think even in these hard times the people of the north-east will come out in their thousands to see ther artists they love”. Councillor Ged Bell of Newcastle City Council has hailed it as “a brilliant innovation where people will be able to enjoy top bands in a safe, responsible and socially distanced way”. Whether rock fans, used to enjoying crowded sweaty dancehalls and arenas, will see it that way remains to be seen. There’s no mention so far of the logistics, such as where the cars go, what about the usual facilities such as toilets and catering, what about accessibility, can you come on a bike, what about public transport, but presumably all will be revealed before it goes ahead.
Wednesday 1st July
Art in the public space is integral to cultural Wales, and this week Articulture has announced ‘Create in Public Space’, a new six-month programme that seeks to strengthen outdoor arts in Wales, and inspire action through training, live zoom events and podcasts. Sign up for a free online course.
Parents & Carers in Performing Arts is hosting a webinar in association with SOLT UK to help organisations adopt a more flexible approach to supporting their workforce. The Theatre Means Business webinar will help to identify practical strategies and solutions, appropriate and effective for organisations irrespective of scale and remit. Thursday 9 July from 15.30 – 16.30pm. Tickets are free or ‘pay-what-you-can’. Book here
Responding to findings from a recent survey, the Audience Agency is providing resources to help organisations anticipate and respond to changes ahead, looking particularly at what audiences and communities want next; how to harness digital; when and how to re-open; and new business models needed for the future. Informed by its work on resilience, the package of accessible support and insight will help innovate in the face of new challenges: to bounce, not just back, but forwards.
The Roundhouse, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, has launched a new series of work as part of Round Your House. The programme looks at how the Roundhouse can support young people, artists and those working in the sector with their careers, and help young people to use their voice for change.
Tuesday 30th June
Culture Centre, which offers a collective voice for Arts and Culture in the West Midlands, is hosting a briefing and discussion on cultural education recovery working with schools. The purpose of the session is to support the recovery planning of artists and cultural organisations who work extensively in schools. Monday 6 July, 16.30 – 17.30.
Indigo’s new survey is updating the findings from After the Interval, research that ran during the period of lockdown to 27th May to find out how audiences were feeling about returning to events, booking tickets now and in future, and missing out on live events. The new survey began on 1 June, as lockdown restrictions in England began to ease, and Katy Raines will share the first wave of results on Friday 3rd July at 10.30am, followed by a discussion about the new expectations of audiences and the implications of these for the sector. Register here.
The International group of the North East Culture Partnership have organised an annual event for the region each year since 2016. This year they are hosting a series of online conversations where a selection of international colleagues discuss their plans for recovery and growth. The ‘Thinking International 2020’ webinar series start on Weds 15th July, 2pm, when Ros Rigby will explore how organisations might develop their international working in a post-COVID-19 world. Three very different North East arts and heritage organisations with a history of international working will share both the impact of Covid-19 on their international work in recent times, and how they plan to work internationally in the coming months and years. Further Thinking International events will be on Weds 22nd and 29th July
As the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the vulnerability of the performing arts sector, a new €2.5m European support scheme for theatre, dance, circus and street arts will focus on the cross-border circulation and digital distribution of performing arts works. Bids to the Platform for the Cross-border Distribution of European Performing Art Works will have to include measures to mitigate the sector’s carbon footprint, take advantage of digital tools, and include live recording and streaming of the performances to reach a broader audience and make touring more sustainable. For some it will be the last chance to take part in the European Commission’s Creative Europe programme.Friday 26th June
Freelancers Make Theatre Work is a new group set up to highlight the importance of freelancers to the theatre industry, where they make up 70% of its workforce yet have no representative organisation. The priority is to give them more of a voice, as well as to provide a network and support systems. One of their first steps is to conduct a survey in order to create a representative picture of who the freelancers are and how are they affected by the pandemic.
I Am At Home Festival, organised by A New Direction, is running from 29 June to 3 July, celebrating creativity with SEND settings and disabled-led organisations. Then as schools and cultural venues consider reopening and begin to map out their creative programmes for the next academic year, on 1 July, 9.30am-11.30am you can take part in the Big Change session, which offers a chance to reflect on models of good practice, share experiences, and discuss how models of work can be rebuilt around access and inclusion.
Thursday 25th June
A New Direction is inviting London-based arts, cultural and heritage organisations to join them at their next Big Change session exploring disability, access and inclusion in the cultural sector on Wednesday 1 July 9.30am – 11.30am. As schools and cultural venues consider reopening and begin to map out their creative programmes for the next academic year, it is an opportune moment to consider how models of work can be rebuilt around access and inclusion. Book your free place here.
ActionSpace, a London-based visual arts organisation that creates projects for people with learning disabilities to engage with the visual arts, has launched ActionSpace Connected to provide an evolving record of how its artists, artist facilitators, volunteers and staff are responding this unique and unsettling moment in time.
COMMENT: So you think you might run a drive-in...?
One of the most remarkable results of the pandemic has been the growth, or birth, of ‘live’ Drive In events in the UK. It seems to have started in Europe, with live rock concerts, but now it’s very much over here with recent announcements of Drive-In movies, opera, rock & pop music, comedy, classical music, and children’s shows. Let’s take a look at what a couple of promoters are doing.
The largest series so far, Live Nation’s ‘Utilita Live from the Drive-In’, takes place in venues ranging from shopping centre car parks to racecourses, football stadia, agricultural showgrounds, and airports. Acts range from Gary Numan to Kaiser Chiefs, via Sheku & Isata Kanneh-Mason, Brainiac, and Bjorn Again, all backed by full concert production. Pricing is per car and the number of passengers but work out at around £50 for two. You get an outside area to put your own chairs, maintaining social distancing, but a picnic would be expensive as you’re not allowed to bring your own food, nor alcohol (intriguingly “unless for medical reasons” !?) and only one (“sealed”) 500ml bottle of water per person. This will be very difficult to enforce, as they can search a person but they can’t thoroughly search through every car. Food and alcohol will be for sale, payment to be contactless as is the ticketing. No umbrellas allowed.
The Drive-In Club is based at the Brent Cross Shopping Centre in North West London and is promoting a summer Drive-In ‘festival’ from 3rd July to 9th August. They’re running both day and night so for example you can enjoy (?) The Sooty Show in the morning, Dick and Dom in the afternoon, Jason Manford or 1917 (15) in the early evening, with Bill Bailey or DJ on late. A car with 2 people costs up to £66 and you also have your own designated area alongside so you can sit outside. Again you’re not permitted to bring any food or drink, which will be available at the venue for ordering online. Sound is blue-toothed direct into your car’s own sound system. Contactless ticketing and payment for food & drink.
My first question is “…and when it rains?”, which given the Uk’s variable and unreliable ‘summer weather’ is a worryingly important question. For the Utilita events they say that concerts are only ever cancelled due to the weather ‘if the conditions become dangerous”, however umbrellas are banned, as is running your car engine while parked up so your heating and air-conditioning won’t function. The Drive In Club don’t ban umbrellas, and sitting in your car should be ok as the sound comes through your own car stereo system. They would “prefer” that you switched your car engine off.
The second question has to be around the finances because, given the costs of the artists plus the cost of production and infrastructure and a capacity allegedly around the low hundreds, how can this be financially viable, let alone rewarding given the risks involved ?
Live Nation alone are promoting 24 different artists across 12 outdoor venues, which is 288 performances adding up to a significant risk, banking on the UK suddenly fancying Drive-In events.
There are several other promoters already advertising, so we’re bound to end up with too many events, and some will be poorly organised as the usual suspects are joined by ‘fly by night’ inexperienced promoters trying to make a quick buck, as happens with every ‘new’ concept.
There’s also an environmental and accessibility issue in that pedestrians, those on public transport, cyclists etc are not allowed on site: all the events are firmly car drivers only. On site, both of the above promoters promise accessible facilities and the disabled are welcome, as long as they drive or can be a passenger.
Once this summer is over, once people start going back into venues, once we get to next Spring, will these same Drive-In promoters still be launching summer seasons? I have to doubt it.
Wednesday 24th June
‘Moving Out’ is a free online symposium for artists, performers, producers, programmers and funders working in outdoor arts and events, providing a platform to bring together professionals making art in public spaces to learn from each other as they develop strategies in response to COVID-19. Professionals working in outdoor arts and events have devised work practices that make artists, crew and audiences safe in a range of situations outside the confines of traditional venues, so find out more by joining the session on Saturday 4th July from 1pm – 5pm, with contributors from around Europe, breakout workshops, Q&A session, and artists’ presentations.
Belfast City Council is hosting a free online webinar focussed on community recovery from COVID-19. Dedicated to the community and voluntary sector, and the general public in the communities they serve, the event will focus on future strategies as people work together to rebuild and recover following the pandemic. The event is on Tuesday 30th June at 4.30pm, and questions for the panel and registration request can be submitted in advance.
Tuesday 23rd June
A consultation around a potential domestic alternative to Creative Europe‘s Culture sub-programme has been launched by the DCMS, aiming to collating sector views and insights on the benefits of the programme to-date, and aspirations for a future culture sector funding alternative to Creative Europe once the UK leaves the EU. They would like to understand more about current ambitions for international and collaborative working in the UK cultural sector, particularly in light of the Covid-19 crisis and its impact on the sector. These insights will inform ideas for consideration in the next Spending Review.
Liveurope, the live music platform for new European talent, highlights how 16 venues across Europe are resorting to creativity and strengthening their ties with their communities to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. They deal with the challenges ahead for the circulation of European talent and call for a boost in EU funding for the cultural and creative sectors.
On Thursday, 25th June at 6pm, musical theatre star Rebecca Caine, creator of the role of Cosette in the original production of Les Misérables and Christine Daaé in the original production of the hit musical The Phantom of the Opera, will talk to the National Student Opera Society (NSOS) via Zoom. Her talk is part of NSOS’ effort to debunk myths surrounding opera and its intersection with musical theatre. The Society hopes to engage both those in the musical theatre industry and the opera industry and to show that it is possible to succeed in, and enjoy, both. To join in, send @NSOSuk a message on Facebook.
The St Ives School of Painting is embracing online learning to bring a snapshot of its short art courses to an international audience. Housed in Porthmeor Studios overlooking the beach in St Ives, Cornwall, the School was forced to close in March for what is thought to be the first time since it was founded in 1938. It had been taking tentative steps into the world of online learning when embracing digital opportunities suddenly became essential and, beginning with a series of webinars in March led by Alice Mumford, the digital programme has gathered pace with Naomi Frears leading sessions attended by a growing international audience of aspiring artists. These have proved extremely popular: hundreds of people from all over the world have taken part, courses with restricted numbers sold out within minutes, and one session caused the system to crash due to high demand. Sign up to the School’s newsletter to be part of its new online art school.
Monday 22nd June
Making Little Theatre Big is a one-stop, free online hub to watch performances from offwestend, offBroadway and fringe theatres from all over the world. It is also available to showcase your work.
Audience Outlook Monitor is an international collaboration between researchers, funders and service organisations and hundreds of cultural organisations who want to make informed decisions about how and when to re-start programming based on research data. Visit the site to source information on research findings, scenario planning and critical thinking about audiences and programming. Sign up to the ebulletin to receive regular updates.
The Octagon Theatre Bolton was due to re-open this Summer following the biggest transformation in its 50-year history, with greatly improved facilities front-of-house, in the auditorium and backstage. The opening has now been postponed until late 2020, creating severe financial difficulties, so the theatre has launched Future Fund, its own crowdfunding appeal, where every donation will be doubled with match funding by the Oglesby Charitable Trust. Donor rewards are being offered, from backstage tours to receptions with the cast .
Having cancelled their entire 2020 Opera Festival, Glyndebourne, https://www.glyndebourne.com/ have announced a range of public activities and events. For the first time the grounds and gardens will be open to the public, starting from from 1st July https://www.glyndebourne.com/garden-events/ and visitors will be able to explore the gardens, take a stroll round the lake, and enjoy a take-away afternoon tea. Timed entry and limited capacity will ensure that there will be plenty of space. Later in July, music will return in a series of short outdoor opera performances and less formal concerts in the gardens. There’ll be a dedicated area for each household and social distancing measures in place. Finally, every Sunday evening at 5pm offers a moment of escape to watch Glyndebourne Open House throw open its doors to everyone online.
Friday 19th June
The Audience Agency has created a new Digital Audience Survey to to help organisations understand their online audiences better - who they are, their behaviours and their motivations. The core survey is free to use as part of The Audience Agency’s COVID-19 support package, with further options available to gain you additional insight. As well as enabling you to explore your own audience, there will also be be free benchmark reports and insights as the research progresses.
Are you a music or dance artist involved in teaching, creating, delivering workshops, collaborating or performing online? Trinity Laban is inviting you to join their new Thinking Space. Two groups will meet via Zoom for three free online sessions that will provide an opportunity to explore challenges, be inspired, develop a peer-to-peer network and reflect on professional needs moving forward in the online world. The sessions will be guided by experienced facilitators and take place on June 30th, July 14th & 28th. (You need to be available for all three dates.) Contact Trinity Laban for further details L&Penquiries@trinitylaban.ac.uk.
In support of independent dance artists, The Place is launching Webinar Wednesdays, a series of free hour-long Zoom sessions for professional dance artists. The session will run weekly, running from 24th June to 29th July, and will focus on areas of learning and innovation that are particularly relevant, creative, and useful in this period of crisis and social upheaval. Booking is essential, plus each session will be recorded and made available as a subtitled video resource on The Place website.
The ArtWorks Alliance is the strategic network for participatory arts, describing itself as a common meeting ground for knowledge exchange and collaborative action. Now everyone in participatory arts who wants to share information, learn from each other’s experiences and create new ideas, projects and partnerships that otherwise wouldn’t happen, can join the Alliance for free until the end of October.
Thursday 18th June
As part of its Road Map to Re-Opening, the Association for Cultural Enterprises is offering free webinars looking at cultural enterprises in a Covid-19 world. The next one, A Green and Sustainable Recovery? is on Friday 26 June at 3pm and will cover the environment, with experts from the arts and heritage sector discussing their experiences and offering advice on what to do next. Submit questions live during the event or send them in advance. Other webinars in the series can be accessed on the website.
Art Fund is inviting applications for grants to help museums, galleries and cultural organisations respond to the immediate challenges connected to the Covid-19 crisis and offer support to adapt and reimagine ways of working for the future. Priority areas for support are audiences; collections; digital; and workforce.
Innovative models of business support are needed now more than ever, especially to tackle the structural inequalities that continue to hold back Black artists and new entrepreneurs. Punch, based in Birmingham's creative quarter, has launched the The ‘P’ Word, a nine-month leadership and business development programme, for under-represented artists and entrepreneurs. Through bespoke training and intensive mentoring, The ‘P’ Word will address the roadblocks holding back the productivity of creative businesses.
Shapeshifter Productions, a performing arts charity, has created weekly Smiling Remotely Singalong Sessions with on-screen lyrics, for use in care homes and sheltered housing schemes during the pandemic. These are released every Monday as downloadable links and mp3s, and are now available on a new app.
Wednesday 17th June
Bloomberg Philanthropies has produced an online guide to ‘Reopening the Cultural Sector in U.S.Cities’, which is of significant interest to UK venues as it collates headline data and surveys from around the world, including the UK, and case studies from venues in Germany and Shanghai. The guide also looks at international practices covering issues such as Capacity Limits, Venue Hygiene, Ticketing & Reception, and Visitor Requirements. What emerges is that public attitudes to when they might individually return, concerns about the measures they would need to see in place before doing do, and arrangements being made to welcome them back, are almost identical whether in San Francisco, Shanghai or Salford. What there is no agreement on is timescale nor reopening dates - which are being set nationally - and the guide doesn’t venture into the more tricky area of public psychology and human behaviour, which may vary considerably from country to country and may not reflect a Government's position. Some populations are clearly being more obedient to their Government's instructions than others. The report makes very interesting reading especially alongside Indigo’s UK-focused report ‘After the Interval’.
Tuesday 16th June
Greenwich Theatre have announced GET CONNECTED, a new series of micro-commissions for artists and theatre companies interested in engaging with audiences in a new way online. They’re seeking expressions of interest from artists or companies with innovative ideas for reaching audiences online but don’t have the resources to try it out. Three successful applicants will be supported to trial their idea as part of 'Greenwich Connects' - a programme that includes the creation of a new consortium of artists looking to move their work online, a programme of play-readings streamed for free, a festival of online theatre for children and families, plus artist mentoring and training for actors currently forced to audition online.
Monday 15th June
Drive-In movies were having a bit of revival before Covid-19 but are now being explored by countries around the world, with plans for not just Drive-In movies but also Drive-In rock concerts (Czech Republic) and even Drive-In opera (English National Opera). Now Pub in The Park have launched Drive & Dine Theatre – the combination of an award-winning movie (think La La Land or Mamma Mia, or alternatively the ‘Mark Watson Carpool Comedy Club’ with a range of top comedians) plus every night an exclusive menu curated by Michelin-starred Chef Tom Kerridge, and meals served contactless, direct to your car. The event is touring from mid-August to St Albans, Bath, Marlow, Tunbridge Wells, Warwick, Chichester, London’s Syon Park and Selhurst Park. Health and safety measures will be in place, including safe and sanitary toilets.
Friday 12th June
Concert halls, music venues and theatres will be some of the last institutions in the UK to reopen, but they are reopening in Europe and concert halls around the world have started to implement social distancing policies.Who’s doing what? Classic FM has found examples from around the world.
The Dundee Partnership Cultural Development Group, which includes the city council, V&A Dundee, Dundee Rep Theatre and the city’s two universities, has agreed to develop a new Cultural Recovery Plan for the city. With strong links to the city’s Tourism Strategy and Tourism Recovery Plan and with the city’s Cultural Agencies Network (CAN) at its heart, the Culture Recovery and Resilience Plan will lay out a path for the next two years, from lockdown to renewal. The group, which was the driving force behind Dundee being named a UNESCO City of Design, was already working on a five-year strategy but has changed course to focus on the short-term recovery of the sector. Read more.
Welsh National Opera is launching a new podcast - The O Word in English and Cipolwg in Welsh – aiming to give an insight into a touring opera company working on an international scale, and highlighting the relevance of opera today. The series will take a ‘chat show’ format, and include interviews, facts, features and behind-the-scenes insights and anecdotes from the world of opera and beyond. Episodes will be available weekly from 11 June.
Thursday 11th June
CINARS is inviting artists to an international webinar on Wednesday 17 June 4pm (BST) led by 19 professional speakers from Europe, Asia, Oceania and America who will be sharing various initiatives aimed at maintaining the vitality of the performing arts, and of its encounter with the public, in these times of confinement and deconfinement. The meeting will be translated simultaneously into English and French. Register here.
Southampton City Art Gallery will still host its 2020 biennial Open Exhibition ‘In Search of a New World’, now in a new digital format as part of the Mayflower 400 programme. Artists are invited to respond to the themes of journey, migration and the sea in ways that will encourage communities and cultural leaders to explore Southampton’s unique position as Gateway to the World. The exhibition is open to residents of Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Wiltshire and Dorset and successful entrants will be showcased in the new digital exhibition format. More details here
Wednesday 10th June
Members of the public can now create their very own online art exhibitions, choosing from over 250,000 artworks by 46,000 artists drawn from 3,367 UK galleries and museums, thanks to Curations, a new digital tool being launched by Art UK, the online home for the national art collection. Free to use, it allows anyone anywhere to create an online exhibition, and museums and other public collections can also mount digital exhibitions of physical shows that have closed or imagine exhibitions they would like to stage in the future. Curations can be kept private or published publicly and can be shared on social media using the hashtags #CurateYourOwn and #ArtUKCurations.
Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s building may be closed, but The REP’s creative team are keeping the conversation going with the launch of REPurposed, a series of free conversations, insights, and masterclasses offering artists, creators, actors and audiences a chance to exchange ideas, discover new skills, ask questions, provide answers, and find out more about The REP. These open conversations will be hosted on Zoom by Artistic Director Sean Foley and Deputy Artistic Director Amit Sharma, with special guests from the theatre’s group of Associate Artists. Taking place on Tuesdays from 5.45pm to 7pm, each week will focus on a different theme. Sign up to as many as you want.
English Folk Expo (EFEx) have launched new initiatives to support the folk, roots and acoustic music sector during the pandemic. Lockdown Live is a collation of live-streamed performances from folk, roots and acoustic music, allowing you to discover new music and find artists to support by ‘liking’ their social pages, subscribing to their YouTube channels or buying merchandise and CDs direct from them. Some of the best artists in the industry are offering paid personal online instrument lessons via EFEx’s professional Tuition and Masterclasses page. Musicians wanting to learn how to live-stream and collaborate with other artists can access EFEx’s video series on Producing Video Content at Home; and there is an opportunity to learn more about the industry from the industry, through EFEx’s Folk Talk video series covering subjects such as ‘How I Write Songs’ by Sam Carter and ‘How I Look After My Mental Health’ by Matt Hill.
The Royal Danish Opera has become the first opera house in Europe to welcome orchestra, chorus, soloists and audiences back into its theatre, coming back to life on Sunday 7th June. It had promised a new season beginning on August 30th but Sunday’s concert was a surprise ‘dress rehearsal’ for their new arrangements. The Orchestra were spread around the stage, and there were 500 in the audience with upper levels closed and alternate seats sealed off with a red ribbon to satisfy Denmark’s 1-metre social distancing regulations. The audience were instructed to arrive 30 minutes in advance, taking their seats in groups. The Nordic region has emerged rapidly from the pandemic. Orchestras have played in Norway and Finland in recent weeks, and in Sweden some never stopped.
The musicians in the London Mozart Players are planning to resume live music making with ‘LMP Live!’, a series of three concerts in unusual locations over the summer months, with some star guests performing with the orchestra. The concerts will take place in Westfield London, Shepherd’s Bush – to celebrate the first day of trading; St Giles Cripplegate – to observe the re-opening of churches to congregations; and Mansfield College, Oxford – to mark the last official day of home-schooling. They will be filmed for broadcast via Classic FM’s Facebook page.
Tuesday 9th June
Lambeth Council has announced details of its new relief fund designed to support the borough’s arts and culture organisations hit by the coronavirus crisis. Grants worth £10,000 and £25,000 are available, and the £300,000 fund will be open to not-for-profit organisations, and artist workspace providers, including charities and social enterprises. It seeks to target those where there is a demonstrable risk of failure and where organisations have a proven track record of delivering social impact in the borough, providing opportunity to residents experiencing inequality, but whose survival is now at risk due to Covid-19.
Glastonbury’s Shangri-La has reinvented itself in response to the pandemic by teaming up with VRJAM and Sansar to create LOST HORIZON, the world’s largest independent music and arts festival in virtual reality. This is a real festival in a virtual world, a fully interactive and multi-stage event to explore via PC, VR or mobile app or streamed live and direct via Beatport and Twitch. It features superstar DJs, underground acts and visual artists, all raising money for The Big Issue and Amnesty International.
Panto plans are being drawn up at Kings Theatre Southsea. Dick Whittington will run from 28th November until 31st December with seating capacity reduced from 1600 to 400 and all tickets priced at £20. Customers can choose whether they want to sit in the Stalls, Dress Circle or Upper Circle and buy the number of seats for people in their party. Two weeks before the show the theatre will email customers allocating them seats, giving them their arrival time and saying which door to enter. The venue will be deep cleaned before reopening, and once open will operate an increased daily cleaning programme with hand sanitisers and free face masks for audiences. There will be non-contact temperature checks for all staff, performers and customers, and crowd control measures will include audience entrance, exit, and flow through the venue.
Steven Brown Art, known for its colourful McCoo Cows, characterful animals and bold abstract prints, has experienced a 30% uplift in online business during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the artist’s work seeming to tap into the UK’s primal love of colour that has also seen people decorating windows, trees and pavements. The company has also been offering free downloadable colouring sheets for children and adults alike.
TicketSource, the Cardiff-based online ticketing platform, has launched a new social distancing feature for seating plans to help event organisers and theatres deliver safer events post-lockdown. The new feature gives event organisers the option to automatically block out the seats surrounding a customer's booking, keeping audience members a safe distance from one another during a performance.
A new venture from Playbox Theatre, 'Chatterbox', will feature actor and writer Calum Finlay in conversation with fellow actors, directors and artists from across the industry about career choices, advice for young actors, and how we’re experiencing a changing world. Youth Theatres will co-stream the interviews live to their Facebook pages as their members are given the exclusive opportunity to be among 100 people taking part in the interviews, pitching questions to and directly engaging with the guests.
RADA Business, the commercial subsidiary of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, has launched Virtual Stage; a suite of online performance and coaching programmes supporting business leaders and their teams. In the wake of Covid-19 it has fast-tracked development of its Virtual Stage programme, allowing business professionals to access its courses from home and helping with the unprecedented challenges leaders and organisations are facing at this time.
Friday 5th June
Fuel Theatre is part of a sector-wide initiative to set up a Freelance Task Force to strengthen the influence of the self-employed theatre and performance community. It aims to create ongoing connections between freelancers, organisations, funders and government, to amplify the voice of the self-employed in conversations about the response to and recovery from the Covid-19 crisis in the performing arts sector. To join, apply by Monday 8th June.
A New Direction is offering a new suite of free online events and resources to help you, your families and your colleagues explore wellbeing, balance, leadership and creative connection through the arts. They offer participants a safe, facilitated space to talk about what’s happening for them in the arts and education.
The Association for Cultural Enterprises has launched Road Map to Re-opening, a series of free webinars looking at the issues currently affecting cultural enterprises, what can be learnt from colleagues in other organisations, and how to approach re-opening in a Covid-19 world. Ask questions live during the Q&A, or submit them in advance.
The Association of Art & Antiques Dealers / LAPADA have launched a new free webinar series featuring conversations with figures from the worlds of museums, design and curation. They will share their predictions for what the future holds for the art and cultural worlds as they emerge from the Covid-19 crisis.
ACAS have released new advice and resources for employers, managers and employees. They cover a range of issues and situations arising from the Coronavirus pandemic, such as wellbeing and mental health, furlough and pay, redundancy, and returning to the workplace.
Thursday 4th June
The Royal Shakespeare Company says ‘social distancing’ is simply not financially viable. It’s lost 75% of its income and says that reopening with social distancing, with capacity reduced to 20%, would just not provide enough income to pay for productions, given that they need to be close to 100% capacity to get their financial model to work.
An immersive production of The Great Gatsby will reopen in the West End this October, despite fears that theatres won’t be able to reopen until 2021. The show’s producers have reimagined the original show to incorporate the restrictions of social distancing, setting it in a 1920s masquerade ball where masks and gloves are worn. Evening Standard reports.
Wednesday 3rd June
Shetland Arts’ chief executive says he is confident the organisation will manage to come through the coronavirus crisis – despite it losing 100 per cent of its commercial income while venues remain closed. The priority for recovery is to “focus as much of our effort and funding as possible to supporting the creative sector in Shetland” rather than compete with “cultural content made available online by much better resourced organisations”. Full story here.
A diverse group of fifteen of London's leading cultural CEOs and Artistic Directors were interviewed on why we need to act now to save our stages. Read more here
Bolton’s Octagon Theatre has been central to Bolton’s cultural life for over 50 years and this year should’ve been launching its brand new stage, but instead it’s launching a crowdfunding campaign to help it survive losing over £0.5m income. This week the theatre was told every donation made will be matched by the The Oglesby Charitable Trust, reports The Bolton News
Chris Marcus and Damien Stanton, colleagues working backstage, set up the Theatre Support Fund in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve managed to raise more than £125,000 so far with ‘The Show Must Go On’ t-shirts, notebooks, and other special merchandise.
Tuesday 2nd June
A national survey on the measures taken by Singing for Health Groups and Community Choirs to keep singing during the lockdown is gathering information on how online platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts have been used. Led by Canterbury Christ Church University’s Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, the research is collecting and analysing different approaches to delivery, to inform best practice in the future. The survey is open for four weeks from 18 May 2020, with results to be published in July.
Europe’s art world is welcoming back visitors albeit it will be a matter of limiting visitor numbers, intensifying cleaning procedures and insisting all tickets be bought online in advance.
Live music has at last returned to the capital as pianist Stephen Hough played Wigmore Hall in the first of 20 live lunchtime concerts every weekday in June. There was no audience in the 545-seat hall except for a sound engineer and a producer plus a presenter in the auditorium and one member of the Wigmore Hall staff on duty, all more than two metres apart throughout. The featured artists, exclusively soloists or duos, are all based in the capital and will travel in on foot or by bike, rather than public transport.
Performers are joining the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 9 – 18 July from their homes across the world as this year’s event goes online and free of charge for the first time in its 18-year history. Artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers will be taking part from Ramallah, Kuala Lumpur, Beirut, Liverpool and elsewhere in an expression of togetherness during the coronavirus pandemic. The festival will also include an exploration of ‘Writing the Palestinian City’ and a celebration of Arab Cinema.
Monday 1st June
What is to be gained when hands-on approaches to teaching and learning theatre move into the digital world? What are the challenges of teaching theatre online? Shouldn’t actor training in the studio remain in the studio? On Fri 5th June, 3pm-4pm, in a free online lecture, Prof. Jonathan Pitches and Dr Amy Skinner will reflect on five years of experience of running a theatre training course on the online platform FutureLearn.
The independent charity Help Musicians has launched a second phase of Covid-19 Financial Hardship Funding to support those self-employed musicians ineligible for government emergency safety nets or who are experiencing significant financial hardship. The fund will open with a total of £2.55m, made up of £2m from the charity’s reserves plus donations of £500k from music licensing company PPL and £50k from the Lightbody Foundation. The application process for this new fund will open on Friday 5 June 2020.
Friday 29th May
Birmingham Rep has launched REPurposed, a new series of conversations, insights and masterclasses to be hosted on Zoom by Artistic Director Sean Foley, starting Tues 2nd June, 6pm-7pm. It's a chance for artists, creators and audiences across Birmingham and beyond to exchange ideas, discover new skills, ask questions, provide answers, find out more about The REP or take a moment to chat about what matters to then. Free but book in advance.
The Institute of Fundraising’s Fundraising Convention will take place online from 6th to 8th July, with more than 80 on-demand sessions delivered by expert speakers and curated by fundraisers. RAISE is offering 30 bursaries for BAME fundraisers working for small arts sector charities. Alternatively, book your ticket by 5pm on Monday 1 June and get free access to the June online event programme.
Thursday 28th May
ArtWorks Cymru is capturing the learning and thinking beyond the lockdown for the participatory arts. A range of partners have been discussing how the performing arts can deliver participatory arts effectively and Zoom meetings will be taking place soon, to capture the learning from organisations and artists who are currently delivering projects. They will be exploring what methods are working well, what is being learnt from these experiences and how to adapt working practices. Thinking beyond the lockdown, they will also explore what the future may hold, what might be kept from the online experiences and how to live with an uncertain future.
A cross-sectoral working group of the National Museum Directors’ Council is developing good practice guidance on museum reopening, supported by the DCMS. Their approach is guided by the safety of visitors and staff, and financial sustainability. The guidance will acknowledges the complexity of the sector, where each museum will be working within a unique set of circumstances and responding to local contexts. It should be ready to share in early June.