Coventry City of Culture kicks off

17 May 2021

The 2021 UK City of Culture showcase is off to an unplanned but successful start, with a launch video drawing 55,000 viewers. 

'Timeless Words Made New' was posted on the festival's website on Saturday. Creative Director Chenine Bhathena said the response was promising: "It's so exciting; we've waited so long for this day."

The original opening event, 'Coventry Moves', has been postponed from May 15 until June 5. The event has been conceived of as "a city wide spectacle that audiences can enjoy from a distance", across the UK and from home.

Rival campaigns fight over Derby Assembly Rooms demolition

17 May 2021

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has refused to intervene in a planning application by Derby City Council to demolish the 1970s Derby Assembly Rooms.

A fire in an adjacent car park seven years ago closed the Assembly Rooms, and it recently lost its listed status.

A decision to refurbish the building was abandoned when estimated costs escalated from £23m to £33.5m. The council plans to build a £43m, 3500-capacity performance venue in the Becketwell area of the city instead.

Its built environment team, Derby's Conservation Area Advisory Committee, the national Twentieth Century Society and several prominent architects were among those who opposed demolishing the brutalist building, and Historic England has serious concerns on heritage grounds.

Campaigners believe the “ready-made theatre” could be reopened for upwards of £25m.

A separate public campaign to accelerate the demolition of the “very ugly” building advocates replacing it "with something we can be proud of".

The Tron loses confidence in 2021 panto

17 May 2021

Glasgow’s Tron Theatre Company has called preparations for its annual panto to a halt, rescheduling the production for Autumn-Winter 2022.

Contracting for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz would normally be well under way by now, but social distancing rules have left the theatre in "an impossible position".  

The 230-seat producing venue has to sell more than 90% of tickets across across 60 performances to break even.

Scotland's two-metre social distancing rule for theatres reduce Tron's auditorium capacity to 16 people at most, with a maximum of five people on stage. Even with one metre distancing, it could only seat 60.

Without an indication as to how long level zero restrictions might last, Executive Director and Joint Chief Executive Sam Gough said the economics of a full-scale panto “simply don't stack up"

"The risks, financial and experiential, are just too high.”

Revamped North Kesteven arts centre to open following merger

17 May 2021

Sleaford’s National Centre for Craft & Design has merged with arts development agency artsNK.

The North Kesteven centre will reopen in a refurbished building under the new name The Hub.

An Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, The Hub will also be also home to Design-Nation, a portfolio network for designers and makers.

The £1.2m upgrade has created a new multi-use dance and conferencing studio, craft workshop, a cafe and bar and new gallery space, alongside the centre’s main gallery and shop.

It was renamed in responde to local feedback, reflecting the organisation’s commitment to being a cultural hub for its community as well as a national centre for craft and design.

Visual arts lobby defends arts education against 50% cut

14 May 2021

Arts universities have joined the sector in protesting the Government's "counterproductive and contradictory" funding proposals.

PRS sets 10% interim livestream tariff against objections

14 May 2021

The royalties society says the rate, already more than double that levied on in-person shows, is "discounted" from a permanent rate it is yet to announce.

Eid to act as first test event for Wales

14 May 2021

Wales has announced nine pilot events to trial the safe reopening of the cultural sector.

Following England's lead, attendees will be required to take a Covid-19 test before the events.

Cardiff's Eid at the Castle was the first trial event, welcoming up to 500 people this week.

Other events include Tafwyl Festival, a show at Theatr Brycheiniog and the Swansea City AFC championship play-off at Liberty Stadium.

Former principal dancer guilty of assaulting students

14 May 2021

Yat-Sen Chang, a former English National Ballet dancer, sexually assaulted students at the school, a court has found.

The 49 year old was convicted on 13 counts and cleared of one offence against four students aged 16 to 18. A jury heard he abused his position as a "famous and revered" dancer at the company, where he worked for 18 years.

Chang has denied all the allegations.

He will be sentenced in June.


New London theatre to be city's biggest in 45 years

14 May 2021

A five-storey, 1,575-seat theatre will be London's biggest since the National Theatre opened in 1976.

Trafalgar Entertainment has announced a 70-year lease on the new Olympia Theatre as part of its ambition to "create a venue of national stature as the UK emerges into a new era".

The company acquired HQ Theatres at the end of March, expanding its hold over the commercial theatre business. It has quickly become the UK's second biggest theatre company behind Ambassador Theatre Group.

It says it has "shown no signs of slowing down" and expects to move into the US market in the coming year.

Currently under construction, Olympia Theatre is scheduled to open in 2025.

'Creators Council' mooted to help workforce and assist recovery

13 May 2021

A parliamentary report into writers' experience of Covid-19 says "a clear line of communication between the Government and the creative workforce" would address gaps in support - and save an £11bn industry from a cliff edge.

West Midlands Police appoints artist in residence

12 May 2021

Poet and playwright Kay Rufai will interview young people about their experiences with police and spend time with local officers for a film.

The 37-year-old has been appointed as part of Barriers to Bridges, a project co-funded by Coventry City of Culture and the West Midlands Police.

Rufai has previously worked with gangs, refugees and formerly incarcerated people.

"When I came across this opportunity to take on a creative residency and work with young people it stood out as a perfect opportunity to learn more about the structures and practices that already exist and use my creative skillsets to bring about care-based approaches to policing."


Cultural organisations faced 'challenging behaviour' during lockdown

12 May 2021

A survey of 500 decision makers at UK museums, galleries, theatres, stately homes and castles indicates a third of visitors have refused to follow social distancing rules or wear masks.

Galleries surveyed by insurer Ecclesiastical seemed particularly affected by "challenging behaviour", with four in five the target of a crime since the first lockdown in March 2020. This is, however, a decrease on the 90% that experienced a crime before the pandemic.

Those which had experienced a crime during Covid-19 had suffered an average loss of more than £90,000.

Anti-social behaviour is likely to be a concern when many reopen next week, the survey suggests. About a quarter of galleries said they struggled with rude or aggressive behaviour from visitors over the past year, some of whom show up even if they have been unable to book tickets.

Two thirds said their organisation is more concerned about crime since Covid-19 and 94% had introduced new anti-crime measures such as cameras, alarms or security patrols.


'Very good news': Huge optimism as partial venue reopening confirmed

Sadiq Khan at London's Pride Festival, 2016
12 May 2021

London launches a massive domestic tourism campaign as England progresses to the next stage of the reopening roadmap.

5G Festival planned for UK in 2022

12 May 2021

A hybrid fesitval experience will use ultra-fast bandwidth to "produce immersive live collaborative performances across multiple venues".

Digital Catapult is leading the 5G Festival alongside Warner Music, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, the O2 and other partners.

Initial trials in March tested audio latency; a second trial is planned for June, with the final showcase expected early in 2022.

The festival aims to have physically distanced artists performing live in synch, responding to the expected demand for digital experience post-pandemic.

"In practice, this means musicians can perform together from different venues at the same time, completely in-sync with one another, and audiences can have a wider choice of where and how they can experience live music."

Funding for the showcase comes from a £200m Government fund for trialling new 5G initiatives.

Cinema Museum faces closure amid developer's silence

12 May 2021

The organisation has received repeated assurances but no answers about what happens when the lease on its home of 22 years expires next month.

Mendoza to host corporate-cultural sector talks

11 May 2021

Roundtables featuring senior cultural and corporate sector leaders will "consider innvoative models for sustainable cultural recovery" from the long-term effects of the lockdowns. 

DCMS has established the series of talks with consultancy Boster Group, which specialises in partnerships between global corporations, world class arts institutions and social impact foundations.

Cultural Recovery Commissioner Neil Mendoza will host the events: "These roundtables with Boster Group will bring together cultural and business leaders to ensure the continued recovery of our world-renowned arts sector."


Creative clusters could act as national pilot, UKRI says

11 May 2021

A programme bringing together academics and creative businesses could act as a pilot for a national research and development (R+D) network.

UKRI Challenge Director Andrew Chitty floated the idea at a recent forum on the £54m Creative Industries Clusters Programme, which has made almost 30,000 connections between researchers and the creative industries since 2018.

Chitty said the scheme has been "enormously valuable", increasing the creative sector's capacity and capabilities. Against initial expectations it would generate £40m in co-investment, businesses in the scheme have attracted £140m in match funding.

"The one thing we want to do over the year is explore better alignment between our innovation clusters and R+D, and access to finance and investment.

"Now that we can see that these clusters accelerate development of new intellectual property and new products and services, we need to rope that into the finance offer.

"If we want to have a world class sector to drive recovery from the pandemic then we could do a lot worse than expanding this R+D focus."

Fringe venues seek up to £14m bailout

10 May 2021

Edinburgh Fringe venues are asking for up to £14m to fund outdoor spaces so shows can go ahead this summer.

The four biggest - Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and Underbelly - are among an alliance calling for Scotland's two-metre social distancing requirement to be relaxed, warning they may fail otherwise.

A dossier from the group says venues "do not underestimate the size of the financial demand"on the government, but cannot operate sustainably without financial support.

“Any August 2021 event cannot cover its costs, let alone generate surplus, under the current two metre social distancing requirements.

"To ensure they can retain staff and freelancers with years of accrued knowledge and experience from leaving the industry forever, there is a need for significant financial support."

Former Shadow Culture Secretary wins mayoral election

10 May 2021

Labour's Tracy Brabin has been elected the first ever Mayor of West Yorkshire and first female mayor of a metropolitan area in England.

The victory has forced Brabin, the Shadow Culture Secretary until April 2020, to stand down as MP for Batley and Spen. A by-election is expected in July.

Brabin was most recently Shadow Minister for Cultural Industries. She took up the new role shortly after publishing a paper 'Culture for All', in which she argued for a more equitable distribution of culture: "My 30 years' experience as an actor, writer and freelancer in the creative industries has shown me first-hand that when you give working class people and opportunity to shine, the cultural life of our nation is richer as a result."

As part of her mayoral campaign, Brabin pledged to lead a Creative New Deal for West Yorkshire, create a biannual Town of Culture award for the region, and appoint a Night Czar to drive the night time economy.




Reprieve for Lincoln’s Drill Hall

09 May 2021

Lincoln College Group is taking over the historic Drill Hall from the Lincoln Arts Trust and has pledged to maintain the venue’s cultural importance in the city.

Faced with the loss of all its £187,000 annual council funding, the trust closed the building in March last year due to the pandemic.

All 19 staff were made redundant in October 2020.

The building will reopen in the autumn this year. The college has committed to upgrading it, partly as a live entertainment venue but also as a training venue that offers opportunities for hands-on experience to students and apprentices in the performing and production arts, catering, hospitality and business.

A programme of public events begins with a pantomime in December.



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