Culture Secretary criticised by musicians over Brexit tour deal

07 Jun 2021

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has come under fire from musicians after announcing a new post-Brexit tour deal.

Dowden tweeted on Saturday (June 5) that the UK had taken an "ambitious approach in negotiation on touring artists," after finalising a deal to allow musicians, performers and support crews to tour more easily in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

READ MORE: 'Major flaws' in ministers' post-Brexit touring claims

The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess said "if it wasn't tragic, it would be funny", comparing Iceland's population to Wigan and Liechtenstein's population with Wilmslow.

The UK Government has been heavily criticised for its inaction since news emerged in January that it rejected visa-free touring during Brexit negotiations. 

Northern Ireland Minister hopeful of live music return

07 Jun 2021

Live music could resume across Northern Ireland from June 21, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has said.

Speaking to BBC Evening Extra, the Stormont minister fingered June 21 as the "indicative date" but said it must be considered against the current vaccination rate and Covid case numbers for the country. 

Hargey suggested the 500-person cap on outdoor events could be lifted at the same time, although there will continue to be a "level of social distancing indoors".

What can be expected during the next stage of easing lockdown restrictions in Northern Ireland will be announced next week.

Ireland to trial basic income for artists

07 Jun 2021

The Irish Government will pilot a guaranteed basic income for artists as part of its economic recovery plan.

The three year trial of the scheme is expected to cost €27.4m a year and could start as early as January 2022.

Minister for Culture Catherine Martin said she will develop a proposal for the trial by July, as well as a cross-department oversight committee.

The National Campaign for the Arts has researched and lobbied for the pilot scheme for five years and says it is delighted the pilot has been greenlighted.

It will deliver a presentation to the committee suggesting income is set at €327 per week.

Tributes pour in for trans artist following sudden death

07 Jun 2021

Tributes have been made across social media following the sudden death of trans artist, activist and musician Sophie Gwen Williams.


Williams had previously been Chair of The 343, a Belfast-based queer arts centre and co-founded 343 Radio, which became the first queer radio station in Ireland.


She also co-founded We Exist, an organisation created to offer emergency support services to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in the UK, whilst providing a platform for transgender artists to showcase their work.


Williams was a classically trained musician and had performed in galleries and arts spaces across the UK and Ireland.



Emergency funding saved 2,400 heritage jobs

07 Jun 2021

The National Lottery Heritage Fund says its speedy funding response to Covid-19 saved jobs and facilitated social distancing. But funding priorities may change as demand outstrips supply.

£3.4m to develop digital collections platform for UK libraries

07 Jun 2021

£3.4m has been invested in creating a one-stop digital platform for UK libraries' collections.

The British Library will develop the platform, named Single Digital Presence, to improve public access and online engagement, helping libraries across the country to share content and resources.

Research and consultation has been under way since 2018, but this Arts Council England funding will allow a live version of the platform to be tested, most likely in 2023.

Over the next three years of the programme, £1m will be spent on libraries' IT services so they can make the most of this new tool.

The British Library will also investigate how the platform can be improved to meet library users' needs in the future. 



Theatres to create homelessness musical for Coventry 2021

07 Jun 2021

Belgrade Theatre and Cardboard Citizens have partnered to create a new musical with people who have experienced homelessness as part of Coventry 2021.

'The Ruff Tuff Cream Puff Estate Agency' will be staged at Belgrade Theatre on July 23, offering audiences the opportunity to discuss the issues presented in the performance and suggest real-world actions to tackle homelessness.

Cardboard Citizens will take up residency in the theatre throughout June to develop the piece, and have been working with the Arts & Homelessness Network since March.

Artistic Director Adrian Jackson said "nowhere could be more fitting that the City of Culture" to present this work.



Southend event leaders push for City of Culture bid

07 Jun 2021

Cultural sector leaders in Southend are campaigning for a UK City of Culture 2025 bid after applications for the competition opened last week.

Adam Ball, Chair of biker festival Southend Shakedown, told the Southend Echo he believed the town had a good chance of winning.

"Of course we should put Southend forward for this honour, there’s no doubt about it."

Colette Bailey, CEO of leading arts group Metal, which runs the Estuary Festival and the Village Green Festival, said: “It’s exciting to think about how we can build on the region’s culture through the questions this competition throws up – whether Southend decides to formally compete or even if it doesn’t.”

Southend Pride Chair Sam Adams agreed the title would benefit the town: "It's something we'd certainly agree to be part of."

While a formal bid has not been submitted, Southend Council Deputy Leader Ron Woodley supported the possibility of a joint bid with places like Rochford and Castle Point.

"It could help add to visitor numbers, I don't see why not. What have we got to lose?"

'Black square' arts organisations follow through on diversity vows

04 Jun 2021

Many of the UK's highest-funded arts organisations promised change after George Floyd's death. While governance and programming has evolved, change in the ethnic diversity of their workforces is slow.

Venues pledge to only cast trans actors for trans roles

04 Jun 2021

The movement is part of a sea change in representation in theatre: "It's comparable to non-disabled people playing disabled characters, or even white people putting on blackface."

Ai Weiwei accuses gallery of rejecting Assange art work

04 Jun 2021

Artist Ai Weiwei has hit out at a UK gallery that rejected his work, claiming it was "too afraid to embrace my ideas".

Ai's work, 'Postcards for Political Prisoners', was not accepted by Firstsite, which faced "time constraints" in approving the exhibition.

Firstsite has also said the art work did not fit with exhibition's concept - to encourage people to make and display art in their windows.

Ai believes the work was rejected because it has an image of a treadmill given to him by Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange:

"I think the reason is related to Assange who has been incarcerated in HM Prison Belmarsh in London since his arrest on April 11, 2019, and that they don’t want to touch on a topic like Assange. Everyone is avoiding it -not just in the mainstream media, but in the circles of art and culture in general," he wrote for artnet.

There was a delay to the project as Ai confirmed a list of political prisoners who would be happy to receive postcards from the public; however, he says he was given no deadline.



Hull 2017 volunteer programme secures three years' funding

04 Jun 2021

Spirit of 2012, the London Olympics legacy funder, will support Hull 2017's volunteering programme for three years from September.

Visit Hull and East Yorkshire will host the programme, taking over from local development agency Absolutely Cultured, which has run the scheme since 2018.

The move follows a consultation that found a new host organisation was needed to increase the programme's impact in the wider East Yorkshire region.

About 2,500 volunteers have contributed to the programme since 2016, completing 53,913 days of volunteering.

Lee Corner, chair of Absolutely Cultured, said the programme will retain "its strong connection to the cultural sector, and volunteers will still have an essential role in enabling and encouraging cultural experiences across Hull’s communities".

"These are the things that make up the unique DNA of the volunteer programme and we know how important they are to our volunteers."

Kneehigh Theatre to close over 'changes in artistic leadership'

03 Jun 2021

Cornwall's Kneehigh Theatre will close, its board of trustees has announced, citing the company's artistic leadership.

It has remained financially stable throughout the pandemic, receiving nearly £250,000 in Culture Recovery Fund money.

A statement from Board Chair Hedda Archbold said it aims to close the company in "as short a timeframe as possible": 

"Recent changes in artistic leadership raised questions as to whether Kneehigh could sustain their vision going forward.

"The trustees and company reflected on a possible new future but concluded that it was better and more responsible to close Kneehigh and ensure an orderly wind down."

Kneehigh's Founder Mike Shepherd departed as Artistic Director in March, following Deputy Artistic Director Carl Grose's resignation. 

Kneehigh has been contacted for comment.

Planned shows will be cancelled. The company's costumes, sets, proprs and other assets will be gifted and it hopes its digital Kneehigh Kitchen and Cookbook will live on.

Festivals inquiry: insurance is critical, MPs say

03 Jun 2021

After months of hearings, the DCMS Select Committee has concluded that government-backed insurance is "critical" to the industry's survival.

The unsurprising recommendation was made by MPs in their final report on the inquiry. In the absensce of a time-limited insurance scheme, extending the Events Research Programme of pilot shows could also cover producers' liabilities and save the 2021 festival season, it said.

Only 8% of festivals applied to the first round of the Culture Recovery Fund, meaning the fund was "of limited benefit to the festival sector as a whole," the report said.


"Festival supply chains and freelance workers cannot sustain another year with little to no income.

"We are concerned that this will have consequences not only for the safe running of events this summer but for the talent pipeline of this important growth sector."

MPs also recommended a change in drug law in the next six months to allow organisations to conduct drug checking and ensure attendees' safety.

Two-thirds of arts fundraisers expect income to fall

03 Jun 2021

Arts organisations' fundraising activity has fallen, with half postponing revenue earning programmes during the pandemic.

A survey of arts fundraisers by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising found two-thirds expected income to fall as a result. 

They turned increasingly to trusts and foundations over individual donors and leaned more into social media - twice as many fundraisers reported using it "very often" - as in person meetings declined. However, about a third had not changed their approach to fundraising in response to Covid-19.

The researchers raised fears many would burn out under increased workloads: two-thirds of fundraisers said their workload had increased and one third did not see a long term future for themselves in the creative sector.

"Whilst resilience and innovation continue to be key skills characteristic of the profession, only with the help of substantial support – both financial and skill-based – will fundraisers be able to contribute to create a financially sustainable non-profit sector akin to pre-crisis levels," Dr Marta Herrero of the University of Sheffield Management School commented.

Council revisits theatre handover plan

03 Jun 2021

A council is revisiting its plan to hand a leaky theatre to a community group.

Bath and North East Somerset Council says transferring  Mission Theatre into the care of Next Stage Theatre Company would mean the loss of £1.5m over the course of the 99-year lease.

The decision was signed off by Deputy Leader Richard Samuel but has now been challenged by other councillors. 

While repairs, which Next Stage has already raised £30,000 for, would have cost £110,000, the council says the building's value would fall from £695,000 to £152,500 under the deal.

The Mission Theatre has received £71,000 in grants since it closed in March 2020.

MPs and public call for UCA to keep Rochester campus

02 Jun 2021

MPs and the public are calling on the University of the Creative Arts (UCA) to reverse its decision to close its Rochester campus, calling it "short sighted".

About 2000 people have signed an online petition for the school to remain "either at the existing Rochester campus or another site" in Kent.

More than 150 jobs will be lost if the campus closes in 2023 as planned, the petition claims, and remove "good quality creative education" from some of England's most deprived council wards in Medway.

This will be UCA's second campus closure, having stopped providing courses at its Medway campus in 2014.

ALRA 'stands by victims' following sexual misconduct claims

02 Jun 2021

The Academy of Live and Recorded Arts (ALRA) has opened an internal investigation after reporting by The Telegraph revealed sexual harassment allegations at several top drama schools.

Students at Guildford School of Acting, East 15, and the former Poor School say teachers sexually assaulted them or pressured them to perform naked, among other inappropriate behaviour.

ALRA says it was "heartbroken" to learn of allegations against its staff members, none of whom are still working there now.

In a statement the school said "sexual misconduct or harassment is unacceptable and we are doing all we can to stand by the victims and provide them with support".

It has opened an anonymous online complaints form and email address - However, it has pre-emptively declined all interviews with the media.

It will be the school's second major internal review in recent times after a report published last month found it had "turned a blind eye to racism" and created a "humiliating, hostile and exclusive" environment for students of colour.

Guildford has also promised to investigate, calling the allegations "concerning". 

Loans scheme offers £25k to creative entrepreneurs

02 Jun 2021

Creative England says it will help creative businesses to access government-backed Covid recovery loans.

The British Business Bank will provide up to £25,000 at a fixed interest rate of 6% per annum, with a one-to-five-year repayment term. Successful applicants will also receive 12 months of post-investment mentoring support.

The scheme, announced as part of the 2021 Budget, provides an 80% government guarantee to lenders.

£25,000 is the minimum loan size; loans of up to £10m are available for other sectors.

Creative England CFO Mehjabeen Patrick said: "Financial support and investment opportunities in the creative industries are already all too rare, with talent and ideas often not matched with the opportunities required to unlock potential.

"The impact of the pandemic threatens to widen this disconnect further." 

'No guarantee' of funding for UK City of Culture 2025 winner

02 Jun 2021

The contest will continue into 2029 and beyond, with £40,000 grants to develop longlisted applications regardless of whether they win or lose.


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