Nonsuch theatre company relocates to Nottingham cinema

20 Feb 2024

Nottingham-based fringe theatre comany Nonsuch will relocate to a cinema in the city after moving out of its previous premises at the end of last year.

The charity, which was last year unsuccessful in an application for Arts Council England investment as part of the 2023-26 National Portfolio, will now be based at the independent Broadway cinema.

It took the decision to leave its previous premises due to the "ever-increasing costs of operating a venue in challenging economic circumstances".

Announcing the move, it said it will now begin the refocusing of work away from venue operations to return to its roots of producing and touring contemporary performance, working with communities across the East Midlands.

‍Edward Boott, Artistic Director and CEO of Nonsuch, said: “This is an epic move for the whole Nonsuch team as we relocate to refocus on our producing and community programme work. 

"We’re so thrilled and honoured to have been invited by the incredible team at Broadway to become residents in their iconic building and can’t wait for all the magical collaborations and partnerships our new home might bring.”

Craft Central to close due to financial pressures

20 Feb 2024

East London-based charity Craft Central will close its doors at the end of the month, citing financial pressures including high rent and rising utility costs.

Theatre to stay closed as council explores alternatives

20 Feb 2024

Harlequin Theatre in Redhill will stay shut for “some time” due to the “extensive presence of RAAC”, according to Reigate and Banstead Borough Council (RBBC).

The theatre closed its doors in September after the discovery of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC)but initially hoped it would be able to reopen within a few weeks.

RBBC decided instead to defer reopening and relocate its Christmas show to a purpose-built big, top-style tent in Redhill Memorial Park.

The local authority is now exploring alternative options for spring and into the summer, including “sharing space at alternative local venues and potentially expanding the Harlequin Outdoors offer during the summer months".

Council leader Richard Biggs said: "It has been a challenge, but the success of the Big Top panto is a testament to what can be achieved, and I'm excited about the new opportunities."

Arts Council Northern Ireland issues 10-year plan for public review

19 Feb 2024

Arts Council Northern Ireland (ACNI) has published its first 10-year strategy for public consultation.

The funding body developed the long-term plan last year following engagement with artists, arts organisations and representatives across government, businesses and the public sector.

It is now seeking responses to the proposals from individuals, businesses, and organisations via an online survey, which will run for 12 weeks until 5 April.

The ambitious strategy presents ACNI’s “unwavering commitment to championing the arts sector” and its plans to “propel it to new heights of recognition” but also acknowledges the challenges facing the arts in Northern Ireland.
 
“It is a regrettable truth that government investment in the arts sector in Northern Ireland has not always matched the incredible potential and impact it holds,” says the foreword by Chair Liam Hannaway and Chief Executive Roisín McDonough. “Opportunities have been missed, and the growth of this wonderful sector has been hindered by a lack of adequate resources and recognition.”

Summarising the key issues facing the sector, the strategy notes that while “public investment in the arts has fallen by 28% in cash terms over the last decade, from £14.1m to £10.1m, closer to a 49% reduction when inflation is considered", Northern Ireland has the lowest levels of per capita government spending on the arts in the UK, receiving £5.07 PC (2023/24), in contrast with Wales at £10.51 (2023/24) and the Republic of Ireland at £21.90 (2022).

A key proposal in the strategy would see ACNI introduce multi-annual funding, which it says will reduce administrative costs, releasing more time and resources for the council to support arts organisations. It is currently the only UK arts council not to do so “due to risks associated with annual budget allocations from the government”.

As part of its plans to develop a more financially stable sector, ACNI also said it would undertake a scoping exercise to assess how it can generate more income for the industry across private, public and philanthropic funders.

Science Museum signs deal for new Saudi hub

The Science Museum, London, as seen from Exhibition Road
19 Feb 2024

Science Museum Group said it hopes the new Riyadh hub will help it collaborate with museum professionals, researchers and educators in Saudi Arabia.

British Museum mutes social media over moai statue campaign

19 Feb 2024

The British Museum deactivated the responses on a social media post after being flooded with comments from Chileans demanding that the institution return two moai statues from Easter Island.

Comments of "return the moai" began to inundate the museum's social channels after Chilean social media influencer Mike Milfort, who has 7.5m followers on TikTok, encouraged his fans to spam the museum’s Instagram page.

The statues, which date from between 1400 and 1650 AD, were taken from the Chilean territory of Rapa Nui. They were given as gifts to Queen Victoria in 1869 by Commodore Richard Powell before being endowed to the British Museum.

The British Museum said it only deactivated comments on one post, shared in collaboration with a youth charity, as it welcomed debate but felt it had to be "balanced against the need for safeguarding considerations, especially where young people are concerned".

The museum added that it has "good and open relations" with colleagues in Rapa Nui, and there have been several visits from the community to London since 2018.

The moai campaign is the latest repatriation debate to hit the British Museum. In December, Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said Greece would not recognise the British Museum’s ownership of the Parthenon marbles, stating they “were stolen by [Lord] Elgin, abused, vandalised and sawed up to be in England”.

Medoni also said Greece “cannot accept either ownership, or possession, or jurisdiction [over the marbles] from the British Museum”.

Last week, the government confirmed that a law that would have allowed the restitution of artefacts on moral grounds would not apply to national museums and galleries.
 

Musicians accept ENO agreement with 'heavy hearts’ 

MU members protesting outside the Coliseum
15 Feb 2024

The orchestra at English National Opera has agreed in principle to a deal including seven months' guaranteed work and a minimum redundancy payment.

Future of BBC Singers secured

15 Feb 2024

A project looking at the future of the BBC’s performing groups has concluded with the announcement that a sustainable future has been secured. 

The BBC Singers will remain integral to the BBC’s classical music provision, working in partnership with The VOCES8 Foundation. 

BBC Singers staff will continue to be employed by the BBC and remain core to Radio 3 and the Proms. 

The announcement comes after the BBC revealed plans to close its in-house choir, BBC Singers, last March. That decision was overturned after a public outcry and an online petition with more than 145,000 signatures.

The BBC said: "The VOCES8 Foundation has considerable experience and expertise across music education and community engagement.

"This partnership builds on the valuable education and community work the BBC Singers already deliver across East London, as well as the commercial work already undertaken, and we will continue to identify new opportunities for additional revenue for the ensemble."

Regarding its orchestras, the BBC said it is working closely with the Musicians’ Union to consider new opportunities as work develops across broadcast, education and commercial activity.

"This will be a gradual process in which we will work closely with the Unions and our musicians, alongside a review to modernise terms and conditions making sure these are aligned with the BBC’s principles of fairness and transparency," it added.

The BBC will also pursue an Orchestral Tax Relief application, which will be central in ensuring the sustainability of the six groups amid ongoing financial challenges.

The Musicians’ Union and the BBC jointly said: “[We] have engaged in constructive talks over recent months. We are pleased that we have a strategy which secures the future of the BBC Singers, and we look forward to celebrating their centenary year." 

Paul Smith (CEO) and Barnaby Smith (Artistic Director) of The VOCES8 Foundation said: “As a global, artist-led charity dedicated to inspiring people through choral music, The VOCES8 Foundation was committed to a positive outcome for the future of the BBC Singers. The Foundation looks forward to working together with the BBC Singers to demonstrate how choral music can positively impact communities in the UK and worldwide in the 21st century.” 

First woman of colour appointed Scottish Culture Minister

Headshot of Stewart
15 Feb 2024

KAUBAB STEWART has been appointed the new Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development in a Scottish cabinet reshuffle, following the resignation of former Health Secretary MICHAEL MATHESON over roam

Equity protests Nottingham council's proposed budget cuts

Equity protestors outside Nottingham Playhouse
15 Feb 2024

Nottingham County Council is proposing to cut its entire £198k cultural budget, as part of sweeping money saving measures - proposals which have been rejected by Labour councillors.

Soho Theatre apologises for anti-Israel ‘incident’ 

15 Feb 2024

Soho Theatre, London, has issued a statement apologising for an “incident” on 10 February that is understood to have involved a comedian directing chants of "free Palestine" toward an Israeli man.

The National Portfolio Organisation said it was “sorry and saddened” by the incident that took place at a performance of Paul Currie: Shtoom on Saturday, 10 February, which “caused upset and hurt to members of the audience attending and others".

“We take this very seriously and are looking into the details of what happened as thoroughly, as sensitively, and as quickly as we can. It is important to us that Soho Theatre is a welcoming and inclusive place for all,” the theatre said.

According to a witness who shared their experience with the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), Currie became involved in a verbal altercation with an Israeli audience member who did not join in with a standing ovation, citing the comedian’s use of the Palestinian flag as a prop.

The witness claims Currie led the audience in chants of “free Palestine” and “get out”.

Soho Theatre later confirmed on social media that: "Jewish members of the audience were subjected to verbal abuse and the performer aggressively demanding they leave the theatre."

The venue said it had launched an investigation discussing the incident with that evening's audience and consulting with the police.

Soho Theatre said: "Such appalling actions are unacceptable and have no place on our stages, now or ever. We will not be inviting Paul Currie back to perform at our venue.

"Whilst we robustly support the right of artists to express a wide range of views in their shows, intimidation of audience members, acts of antisemitism or any other forms of racism will not be tolerated at Soho Theatre."

ACE warns NPOs of 'political statement' dangers

A person posting on social media
15 Feb 2024

Updates to Arts Council England's policies warn that "political statements" made by individuals linked to an organisation can cause "reputational risk" and breach funding agreements.

Pilot scheme offers children free travel to theatre

15 Feb 2024

Schoolchildren in the West Midlands will benefit from a new pilot scheme promising free travel for theatre visits.

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is offering the scheme, estimated to be available to more than 300 pupils in Dudley.

Any school in Brierley Hill, Dudley that receives a minimum 25% pupil premium will qualify for transport when booking tickets to a Grand Theatre production.

The Richardson Brothers Foundation has funded the project, which is also supported by Prospect Coaches. Grand Theatre has indicated it is seeking additional funding to expand the offer to other parts of the Black Country.

Alex Rawlings, Head Teacher of Quarry Bank Primary School, which has used the scheme, said: "For [pupils] to see a live production of a book they are studying massively supports their learning, whilst also exposing them to the magic of theatre."

Arts Council Wales consults on voluntary redundancies

Arts Council of Wales at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, Wales.
15 Feb 2024

Chief Executive of Arts Council of Wales, Dafydd Rhys, says the organisation has been forced to make "extremely difficult decisions” following a 10.5% budget cut from the Welsh government.

National museums excluded from restitution law

14 Feb 2024

A law that would have allowed the restitution of artefacts on moral grounds will not apply to national museums and galleries, the government has confirmed.

Currently, most national cultural collections in England are prohibited from deaccessioning items. However, sections 15 and 16 of the Charities Act 2022 would have allowed trustees to request permission from the Charity Commission if they felt there were moral grounds to make a voluntary transfer of property.

The government says the bill's potential consequences were not made clear when it was passed by parliament. The relevant section was suspended in 2022 to allow the government more time to consider it.

In January, Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson wrote to the Charity Commission clarifying the government's position on the bill.

Parkinson said: "The potential consequences of these provisions were not made clear by the Law Commission when the bill was introduced and were not the subject of parliamentary scrutiny or debate during the passage of the bill.

"The policy of HM Government is that national museums and galleries should continue to be bound by their governing legislation, precluding them from resolving to restitute objects from their collections other than in the limited and specific circumstances expressly provided for in legislation.

"To that end, we will specifically exclude those national museums and galleries from the commencement of sections 15 and 16 of the act."

When the full act comes into force later this year, non-national organisations will be able to make smaller restitutions without consulting the Charity Commission, except where the recipient is located outside the UK.

Under half of England’s local authorities have a cultural strategy

Suffolk County Council building
14 Feb 2024

Analysis from the start of last year found less than half of England’s local authorities have a publicly available cultural strategy.

Watermill receives extra £20k from local trust

14 Feb 2024

Greenham Trust has granted £20k of match funding to Watermill Theatre to help “secure the future work” of the former Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisation.

The support is being offered via a fundraising alliance established by Greenham Trust to support the Newbury venue following its 100% ACE funding cut announced in November 2022.

The alliance, which also includes The Headley Trust, the Bernard Sunley Foundation and Englefield Charitable Trust, has provided £78k of funding to the 200-seat theatre, pledged to match public donations to Watermill’s PROPEL campaign.

“As soon as we heard about the funding cut by [ACE], we realised there would be a need to engage a number of local funders...in helping The Watermill," said Chris Boulton, CEO of Greenham Trust.

"This was quickly put together working with their team, and I hope our £20k contribution so far will generate another matched-funding boost for their already successful PROPEL Campaign.”

Claire Murray, Executive Director at Watermill Theatre, added: “By establishing the funding alliance, Greenham Trust has gone further in securing the future work of The Watermill."

ACE: freedom of expression is ‘indisputably vital’

14 Feb 2024

Following an article AP published earlier this week, Arts Council England has issued a statement explaining its position on freedom of expression and reputational risk for its funded organisations.

Key NPOs cut carbon emissions by 40%

14 Feb 2024

A group of 30 Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) responsible for producing around a third of the portfolio's total carbon output have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by two-fifths since 2018, a new report commissioned by ACE has revealed.

The Culture, Climate and Environmental Responsibility annual report 2022-23 utilises data provided by 2018-23 NPOs covering a variety of environmental impact areas such as touring, business travel, electricity and gas use, and waste, focusing on the completed environmental reporting of 656 organisations - 79% of the current portfolio.

The report, produced by the culture and environmental charity Julie's Bicycle, includes data from 30 'Spotlight' organisations chosen because they have been identified as being responsible for around 30% of the carbon emissions created by NPOs.

Among this group – which includes the Royal Shakespeare Company, Baltic Contemporary Art Centre and the National Theatre – the findings reveal that over the five years, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been reduced overall by 40%.

This cohort also reduced gas use by 32% and electricity by 19%. However, some of the reduction in GHG emissions is due to the decarbonisation of the National Grid.

For example, the report states that in 2022/23, the actual reduction in carbon emissions associated with improved/reduced electricity usage is 13%.

Overall, the report found that NPOs have reduced their energy use by 20% over the last five years.

Examining insights provided by 562 NPOs in 2023 as part of the Beyond Carbon survey, the report found that 94% of NPOs now feature environmental sustainability in their core business strategies, compared to 78% in 2018.

Nearly three-quarters said they have either programmed or produced work that explores environmental themes. This figure was just 48% in 2018.

The upward trend is continued in several other areas, with 66% of the NPOs formally recognising environmental responsibilities in job roles - up from 44% -  and 81% having taken steps to eliminate single-use plastic compared with 64%.

While action to be more sustainable is often perceived as costly, 52% of the respondents reported financial benefits from their actions, and 55% reported creative and artistic opportunities.

In her introduction to the report, Alison Tickell, Founder and CEO of Julie’s Bicycle, called for decarbonising in the arts to become "business-as-usual", adding that "pathways to decarbonisation and regeneration are central to cultural purpose and relevance".

£500k capital funding for Colchester's Mercury Theatre

Image of Mercury theatre
14 Feb 2024

The theatre, which reopened in 2021 after a £11.9m refurbishment, will use the money to create new rehearsal and meeting room spaces.

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