New Forest set to lose cultural facility

01 May 2020

Arts groups are lobbying New Forest District Council to save a former sports and social club owned by oil refinery operator Esso from being demolished to make way for a new sports pavilion and community garden. Situated on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire, the club was home to the only large theatre space in the area and used by community groups including the musical society, the Waterside Theatre Company and dance schools. It was home to film showings, plays, musicals, pantomimes and concerts.

Christine Talbot, musical director of the Waterside Musical Society, said: "This could be the only chance the area will get to replace and develop a theatre venue. I am asking that NFDC reject the current application and ask for an amended one, showing how the current cultural facility is to be replaced.”


Crisis puts an end to plans for £4m art gallery

30 Apr 2020

Plans to build 'The Paddock', a £4m art gallery in Sherborne, Dorset, have had to be abandoned. Dorset Council approved the project last year, but the pandemic crisis has meant that "assumptions about funding and operation that were central to the Paddock business plan can no longer be relied upon". The project would have included a cafe and become home to the town's tourist information centre, but its benefactor has judged that it can no longer proceed as planned. Sherborne Arts Trust hopes ambitions for a gallery can still be realised, abeit at a more modest scale.

Lockdown sees major boost in engagement with digital culture

Mac keyboard next to a smartphone with headphones and Google Play on the phone screen
30 Apr 2020

A quarter of those who have accessed cultural content online since the coronavirus crisis began have done so for the first time, research finds.

US theatre reveals plans for managing social distancing

30 Apr 2020

Full details of how one US theatre in Pittsfield Massachusetts is planning to manage social distancing in its auditorium have been published online. To give audiences "the safest and most enjoyable experience possible", Barrington Stage Company will be introducing measures including removing every other row of seats and leaving two vacant seats between each party, which will reduce its capacity to a third of the available 520 seats. It will be disinfecting seats, armrests, countertops and other surfaces after each performance, and cancelling intervals to minimise queues for the toilets. Online purchases will be restricted to groups of 2 or 3 consecutive seats and attenders will have to bring their own masks to wear throughout.

Museums face strict re-opening rules

a young man, back to us, viewing picture in a gallery
30 Apr 2020

Museums and galleries across Europe are preparing to open, but the impact of social distancing measures and a lack of tourists raises concerns for their viability.

Scottish Government plugs some gaps in emergency funding

30 Apr 2020

A £100m package of additional grants from the Scottish Government will give a lifeline to some small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) and self-employed people. The package incudes £20m for enterprises in the creative, tourism and hospitality sectors, a £34m hardship fund for the newly self-employed who have been unable to access the UK coronavirus emergency support measures, and £45m for viable SMEs crucial to the Scottish economy which are at risk of permanent closure.

Creative enterprises ineligible for business rates relief will be able to claim up to £25k. Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the Scottish Government recognises "the particular impact of Covid-19 on our creative, tourism and hospitality sectors at what would normally be their busiest period".

London mayor steps in to support ‘at risk’ culture and creative businesses

small, dark empty music venue with mic, drums and piano
30 Apr 2020

Grassroots music venues, artist studio workspaces, independent cinemas and LGBTQ+ venues will share a fund that aims to catch those falling through the gaps in Government coronavirus support schemes.

Artists face Catch-22 as studios close while debts mount up

painting materials in an artist's studio
29 Apr 2020

As Scotland’s emergency funding is overwhelmed by demand, the Scottish Artists Union is highlighting the plight of visual artists whose landlords are demanding rent while excluding tenants, preventing them from making or selling their work.

Actors offer PPE advice to “exhausted” healthcare workers

28 Apr 2020

Clod Ensemble's Performing Medicine, the team that delivers creative training for healthcare professionals and students, has responded to a plea from University College Hospital in London to help their staff cope with “uncomfortable, hot and sweaty” Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that makes communication between team members and patients difficult. Dr Beth Thomas at the hospital said: “Many of our healthcare professionals have to be in the full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for a very, very, very long time, and this time spent is only going to increase…by the time they remove all the PPE they are exhausted. Is this something actors are used to?”

In response the team has created a sharable digital resource for those coping with PPE, featuring advice from professional performers who are used to working in restrictive clothing and equipment. Designed to be shared on people's phones, it includes tips from companies and productions such as War Horse, In The Night Garden Live, Kneehigh, His Dark Materials and Figs in Wigs.
Suzy Willson, Director of Performing Medicine, said: “We have been working with medical students and healthcare professionals for over 15 years and continue to do so over this extremely challenging period as best we can… This current pandemic presents us with a radical moment in which to imagine and implement a profound partnership between culture, health and social care - with the need to support both isolated people and healthcare professionals becoming ever more apparent.”


LEP match-funds crowdfunding campaign to support theatre

28 Apr 2020

Fareham-based  Blackbox Theatre has been among the first to receive support from a match-funding initiative launched by Solent LEP. The LEP is allocating £100,000 from its local growth fund for micro and small businesses to Crowdfunder’s 'Pay it Forward' campaign, which helps organisations pre-sell their services to ensure continuous cash flow.

Blackbox Theatre received a match fund pledge of £1,000 from the LEP, helping it beat its £2,000 funding target. The money will enable it to entertain audiences through the lockdown by recording The 39 Steps for radio audiences. Theatre director, Chris Hawley said: "This extra funding allows us to keep going as a company during these tricky times, try out something new, employ some local artists during lockdown and carry on entertaining audiences."

Public nervousness could slow economic recovery, research shows

28 Apr 2020

A poll of more than 28,000 people across 14 countries has found that people in the UK and Canada are the least likely to believe businesses should reopen if the coronavirus has not been fully contained. Three-quarters of respondents in each country expressed this view. 7 in 10 also said they would be nervous about leaving their homes even if businesses are allowed to reopen and travel resumes. This is in sharp contract with some other countries: those less nervous include Russia (37%) and France and Australia (32%). Researchers have concluded this suggests "the turnaround in the economy might not be quite so fast as hoped for.”

Arts and media stars join campaign to support creative sector workers

28 Apr 2020

One in seven practitioners working in the creative industries have said their finances will run out by the end of April, and half of over 2,000 respondents to a recent survey said they could only last until the end of June. The Creative Industries Federation, which conducted the survey, said: "We cannot allow the UK to lose half of its creative businesses and become a cultural wasteland... we must act, and act fast."

More than 400 high profile figures working in the cultural and creative sectors have co-signed an open letter, drafted by Caroline Norbury, CEO of the Creative Industries Federation and Creative England, calling on Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to provide urgent funding for organisations impacted by the fallout of Covid-19.

Digital delivery at the forefront of Wales’ drive to embed arts in schools

a group of children working together in a creative workshop
24 Apr 2020

Funding for creativity has been renewed in the run-up to a new cross-disciplinary curriculum in Wales that will see Expressive Arts become a main pillar of the learning framework.

Up to £1 billion income losses face Arts Council England NPOs

Southbank centre with statue situated in front of a wall displaying the words 'making a future for the theatre'
24 Apr 2020

The £90m emergency fund earmarked to support ACE’s National Portfolio Organisations and Creative People and Places consortia is no more than a drop in the ocean against the vast income streams they are losing as a result of the shutdown.

‘Protect us or lose us’ warn artists

an artist's studio with paintings all around
24 Apr 2020

Leading representative bodies have set out their concerns for visual artists, telling the Chancellor of the Exchequer why coronavirus financial support systems are failing to support them and leaving the nation’s cultural life in jeopardy.

Record number of viewers chose subtitles for live-streamed musical

23 Apr 2020

A record 12.8 million people around the world watched a free live stream of Phantom of the Opera, 2.5 million of them using the accessible subtitles provided by Stagetext, the UK charity that provides and promotes accessible captions and subtitles for theatres and museums. The production was one of a series of free broadcasts of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals being streamed each week on The Shows Must Go On!, a new YouTube channel set up in a deal involving the composer’s Really Useful Group and Universal. Stagetext will be subtitling the rest of the series to make them fully accessible to d/Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing audiences.

Melanie Sharpe, Chief Executive of Stagetext, hopes the move to provide subtitles is a lasting one. She said: "2.5 million people decided they needed subtitles for the spoken and sung dialogue in Phantom Of The Opera. Not all of these people will be d/Deaf but it proves the demand is there. Subtitles aren’t a luxury, they are a necessity for the 11 million d/Deaf deafened and hard of hearing people in the UK today."

Glasgow art students 'shortchanged' by online degree show

23 Apr 2020

Students at Glasgow School of Art (GSA) are calling for a refund of their £8,000 fees following the cancellation of their degree show - described as “one of the biggest incentives” for joining the course. When the health crisis forced the closure of the campus, GSA management asked students to submit examined work online and hold their degree show on the web. But students feel shortchanged, having also had workshops cancelled during a six-week lecturer strike and their studio time interrupted by building work.

DCMS rejects furlough pay top-up for museum staff

22 Apr 2020

Bosses at England's national museums and galleries are being told by DCMS officials that instead of topping up staff wages with the 20% they lose through the Government's furlough scheme, they should save the money to ease other cost pressures. Unions are urging their members to reject the job retention scheme if employers are intending to cut their wages, and Jo Stevens, Shadow Culture Secretary, has called for an explanation, saying that low-paid workers had to be supported.

Organisations join forces to secure a future for the cultural sector in the West Midlands

Centenary Square – a cultural hub in Birmingham at dusk
22 Apr 2020

A coordinated focus on strategy, planning, communication and campaigns will enable a region-wide response to the current situation.

Artists’ fears laid bare in baseline survey before the Covid lockdown

21 Apr 2020

As the crisis took hold, 60% were expecting their income to be more than halved, and over one-third were predicting to lose more than 76%.

A Covid-19 impact survey examining artists’ fears immediately before the coronavirus lockdown shows that 82% had already had upcoming work cancelled and 59% had taken the decision to cancel their own work.

4,070 respondents, mainly among the 25,000-strong membership of a-n, the Artists Information Company, responded to its survey, which was open for five days between 19th March and 24th March, the first day of the full lockdown.

During this period, Government guidance to social distance and self-isolate was already in place and concerns about artists’ livelihoods were severe.

The most significant and immediate impact was income reduction – reported by 96%. The majority indicated the main mechanisms through which they earn a living, including exhibitions, selling work and employment which supplements their artistic practice, had been affected, and 65% were losing funding. At that stage, 60% were expecting their income to be down over 50% in 2020, and over one-third were predicting the fall to be more than 76%.

Other outcomes were also expected, with 69% citing an immediate impact on their studio space. Loss of networking opportunities was mentioned by 92%.

Julie Lomax, a-n’s CEO, commented that the research provides a “stark reminder of precarity in the arts”. She said: “Artists have long been asked to navigate and shape-shift through a complex set of structures, relationships and arrangements that are both global and local, often for little to no pay. What starts in the studio as a mostly solo creative practice is reliant on a thriving visual arts sector, audiences, relationships and connections. When these break down so does the ability to sustain creative practice.”


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