Jobs go at Crafts Council as revenue shrinks

Exterior of Crafts Council Gallery, Pentonville Road, Islington. May 2021.
10 Jan 2024

National Portfolio Organisation says cultural sector 'faces one of its most testing moments in recent history'.

Plans for Vegas-style music venue in Stratford scrapped

10 Jan 2024

A US company has withdrawn its proposal to build a Las Vegas-style immersive “Sphere” venue in Stratford, calling the planning process “a political football between rival parties”.

In a letter to the Planning Inspectorate withdrawing its application, Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG) said it was "extremely disappointing" that Londoners would "not benefit from the Sphere's groundbreaking technology and the thousands of well-paying jobs it would have created.”

"After spending millions of pounds acquiring our site in Stratford and collaboratively engaging in a five-year planning process with numerous governmental bodies, including the local planning authority who approved our plans following careful review, we cannot continue to participate in a process that is merely a political football between rival parties."

MSG had hoped to build the LED-clad venue to host concerts, shows and sporting events on a vacant 4.7 acre site last used as a coach park during the 2012 Olympics.

In December, Housing Secretary Michael Gove instigated a review of London Mayor Sadiq Khan's rejection of planning permission for the 21,000-capacity venue.

Khan told BBC London that he “welcomed music venues in London” but rejected the proposal based on “consequences to [local] residents if this globe was to be built, the impacts on them in relation to light, the impact in relation to their amenities and on planning grounds”.

Hampshire Council cuts puts cultural organisations at risk

Curtis Museum, Alton
10 Jan 2024

Hampshire Cultural Trust said that four of its museums and an arts centre could be forced to shut their doors within 12 months.

Thousands sign petition against Middlesbrough museum closure

09 Jan 2024

Around 4,000 people have signed a petition calling for Middlesbrough Council to keep the town's Captain Cook Birthplace Museum open.

The BBC reports that the local authority has proposed shutting the museum or handing responsibility over to another operator as part of efforts to save millions of pounds and avoid bankruptcy.

Martin Peagram, Chair of the Captain Cook Birthplace Trust, which launched the petition, said: "In 2028, it's the 300th anniversary of the birth of possibly the most famous person to come from this area. He's internationally renowned.

"We all know councils are under pressure with budgets [but] the Captain Cook Birthplace Trust regard this [proposal] as a tragedy.

"Thousands of schoolchildren have been through there over the years, learning about Captain Cook and about countries around the world.

"We know the issues the council face are real, but the museum is critical for people's perceptions of Middlesbrough and the commercial, cultural and educational opportunities it brings."

A public consultation on the budget proposals runs until 18 January.

Performing arts workers facing ‘significant' childcare challenges

09 Jan 2024

A 'culture of silence' exists when it comes to discussing childcare issues in the performing arts sector, according to mothers interviewed as part of new research.

Equity: Arts cuts 'threaten economic growth'

09 Jan 2024

Performers' union Equity has criticised plans by Suffolk County Council to cut its entire arts budget, warning that the move could have long-term consequences for the region's economy and social fabric.

Last week, the council, which currently provides £500,000 a year to arts and culture organisations, said it needs to cut the funding because its finances have been hit hard by inflation and rising demand for social care services.

A statement issued by Equity said the move would have a disproportionate impact on Suffolk residents who rely on the arts for employment and the wider community engaged with the vital support provided by arts and entertainment organisations across the county.

Iain Croker, Equity Official for the region, said: "Equity and its members across East Anglia will strongly resist these cuts, which not only jeopardise our local identity but also threaten economic growth at a time when the area is supposed to be levelled up.

"The arts play a crucial role in Suffolk's local communities, providing employment opportunities and enriching the lives of its residents. The proposed cuts risk undermining the vibrant arts scene that Suffolk is known for, potentially leading to long-term consequences for the region's economy and social fabric.

"Local residents and supporters of the arts are urged to voice their concerns and advocate for the preservation of arts funding in Suffolk. By working together, we can ensure that the county continues to thrive culturally and economically."

The proposals are due to be discussed at a council meeting this week ahead of a final debate and vote on 15 February.

Scottish Youth Music Initiative funds 52 community projects

A Keep the Beat participant, she wears a cowboy hat, pink hoodie and glasses
09 Jan 2024

The scheme, backed by the Scottish government, provides grants of up to £30k for music-making projects delivered outside of schools.

County Durham culture programme gets £1.25m funding boost

08 Jan 2024

County Durham has received a £1.25m Place Partnership award from Arts Council England, funded by the National Lottery, for a three-year programme of events, skills development and community-led activities.

The grant supplements the £2m Durham County Council has pledged toward the project and follows the region’s bid for the UK City of Culture 2025. After making it to the final four, the county lost out to Bradford.

Running from 2024 to 2026, with a 'spotlight' year in 2025, the programme includes establishing a county-wide network of community-based cultural hubs where residents can develop their creative projects and share ideas.

The award will also support a long-term international programme with South Africa's Isango Ensemble, with the aim of developing local talent and new productions that build on the region's heritage of mining and community activism.

The programme has been developed in partnership with Beamish Museum, The Bowes Museum, Durham University, No More Nowt, The Forge, Northern Heartlands, Redhills and TIN Arts.

Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, said: "The £1.25m awarded is a huge vote of confidence by Arts Council England as we put culture at the heart of our regeneration plans for the county and the wider region.

"2022 marked a historic milestone for the county, with tourism contributing over £1bn to our economy for the first time, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

"We are committed to both culture-led regeneration and activities that directly connect culture to economic and community growth.”

Jane Tarr, Arts Council England's Director for the North, added: "The Place Partnership Fund is designed to help places make a step-change in the cultural and creative lives of the community, and I'm delighted that culture is at the centre of Durham's regeneration plans."

Vision for £33.5m Harlow cultural quarter revealed

A CGI image of the the plans for Harlow cultural quarter
08 Jan 2024

Development including new performance and exhibition spaces is part-funded with £20m of Levelling Up money.

DCMS consults public on inventory of 'intangible' culture

08 Jan 2024

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has launched an online consultation on the government's plans to ratify the UNESCO 2003 Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. 

The consultation seeks responses from the public to help it define and create an “inventory” of UK heritage that is “living and practised”. Intangible heritage can include oral traditions and expressions, including language, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe and traditional craftsmanship. 

Similar to the World Heritage List, UNESCO maintains a global list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In its endorsement of the convention, the government says it will not initially seek to nominate items to this list and instead create its own inventory. 

The government says this will “[raise] awareness of all the Intangible Cultural Heritage in the UK…to lift all rather than list a few with UNESCO”.

DCMS proposes creating inventories for the four nations and overseas territories, which will be collated into a National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in the UK.

Communities, groups or individuals can submit items to be added to the inventory, reflecting traditions from anywhere in the world and any period currently practised in the UK. Submissions will then be subject to a “light-touch approvals process”, with new entries expected to be announced quarterly.

Arts Minister Lord Parkinson, said: “The UK is rich in traditions which are passed down from generation to generation. These crafts, customs, and celebrations have helped to shape our communities and bring people together, who continue to shape them in turn.

“By ratifying this convention, we will be able to celebrate treasured traditions from every corner of the UK, support the people who practise them, and ensure they are passed down for future generations to enjoy.”

Funding boost for West Midlands cultural events

Beverley Knight and Andy Street, Black Country Festival
08 Jan 2024

Mayor of West Midlands says the investment will help attract hundreds of thousands of people to the region and boost the local economy.

Arts Council England backs Darlington live music scheme

08 Jan 2024

A scheme to offer young people in Darlington opportunities in the live music sector has received funding from the Arts Council England (ACE).

The Forum Music Studios have been awarded £36,754 by ACE for the project, alongside £1000 from Creative Darlington, which is operated by Darlington Borough Council, towards running costs.

Launched by a community benefit society, The Forum Music Studio's “Young Blood” programme will run throughout 2024 and comprise three strands: Creators, Promoters, and Live, with professional support and mentorship.

Creators will offer weekly music skills sessions to 13- to 17-year-olds, while Promoters has been designed for 16-24-year-olds and will provide the opportunity to organise a live event with a budget under guidance from industry professionals.

The programmes culminate in Young Blood Live, a monthly gig for teenagers that will be held at The Forum.

Alison McKay, Director of The Forum Music Studios, said: “The music industry was heavily impacted by COVID-19, so it’s a privilege to be able to invite future generations to get involved in the Young Blood scheme and to be able to share their passion for live music.”

Suffolk County Council to cut all arts spending

Exterior New Wolsey Theatre near Ipswich, Suffolk, England
08 Jan 2024

Local authority says it is being forced to make cuts but organisations affected warn that the move will have a huge impact on local communities.

Skills programme for underrepresented creatives to launch

02 Jan 2024

A new skills training programme to support creatives looking to break into behind-the-camera roles on scripted film and high-end TV productions made in the West of England will launch later this month.

Bristol City Council’s Film Services will run the initiative after it secured almost £300,000 from the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority, led by Metro Mayor Dan Norris.

Delivered by The Bottle Yard Studios, Bristol UNESCO City of Film and Bristol Film Office - the three departments that make up Bristol City Council’s Film Services - the year-long programme will be open to regional participants from backgrounds currently underrepresented in the industry. 

Tailored training will prepare trainees for entry-level crew positions, with the aim of strengthening the pipeline of diverse local crew talent.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris, who leads the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority, said: “The West of England is fast becoming the Hollywood of the UK. 

"Only recently, huge names like Disney+ have checked into The Bottle Yard Studios’ new state-of-the-art and West of England Mayoral Authority-funded TBY2 facility - that's a massive vote of confidence in our world-leading creative industries. 

"But to keep up the pace, we need to tap into the extraordinary wealth of creative talent we have in the West. That means supporting them with world-class training to create that new home-grown creative generation for the sector.

Former ENO leader among New Year Honours recipients

Clockwise from top left: Stuart Murphy, Ruth Hannant, Polly Payne, Dr Phil George and Elaine Bedell
02 Jan 2024

Cultural leaders, artistic directors and performers among those recognised in King's New Year Honours.

Volunteers enlist to keep arts centre open

Exterior of Artrix Art Centre, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
02 Jan 2024

Bromsgrove venue that temporarily reopened to host shows from a theatre forced to close will continue to operate with help of community volunteers.

Equity plans ENO strike ballot after talks stall

22 Dec 2023

Equity has announced plans to ballot its members in the English National Opera (ENO) chorus on industrial action in the new year after objecting to plans put forward by management to reduce the number of singers and cut the salaries of remaining members.

The union says that the changes result from plans to limit ENO's opera season in London as it establishes a new part-time base in Manchester ahead of 2029, a funding condition imposed by Arts Council England (ACE). Equity says the proposals would see the salaries of the chorus drop by 40%, with contracts covering six months of the year. 

Since ENO's relocation to the North West was confirmed earlier this month, Equity claims “management has been unable to confirm what their plans for activity in the new base will be and have refused to guarantee any involvement in Manchester for their existing artistic workforce,” adding that negotiations “have now stalled”. 

Ronald Nairne, ENO Chorus member and workplace representative for Equity, said: “There is currently no suggestion that we, the chorus, the orchestra, or the technical teams will be involved in anything at all in Manchester.”

The union's demands include that existing chorus members be given first refusal of any work in Manchester and a regular weekday off each week to plan for other work. They are requesting a seven-month permanent contract, with a paid holiday to be taken additionally.

The ballot will open on Thursday, 4 January, and includes the potential for strike action.

Previously, ENO has said that the cuts are necessary as it “reevaluates [its] employment levels” following a reduction in funding from ACE. The company also intends to reduce the size of its orchestra and introduce part-time contracts for the remaining musicians. 

Backstage staff at ENO, including Stage management, whom Equity also represents,  will similarly be affected by cuts to working hours and income.

Hilary Hadley, Equity Assistant General Secretary for Live Performance, said the current proposals were “disastrous”, adding that members had given “clear direction to ballot on industrial action”.

She said: “The ENO’s proposals short-change audiences and opera in London and Manchester. Manchester will suffer from stripped-back productions without the ENO chorus – serving Manchester audiences only half the ENO experience. At the same time, drastically reducing the ENO’s opera season in London will be hugely detrimental to providing affordable and accessible opera in the city.”

Legacy income 'growth area for arts charities'

View inside the Royal Opera House
21 Dec 2023

Only five arts and culture organisations feature among the top 1,000 UK charities by legacy income, but experts highlight potential for significant growth in this field. 

Rising popularity of arts degrees among Chinese students

21 Dec 2023

A report published by admissions service UCAS says UK universities should take advantage of rising interest in creative arts degrees among Chinese students.

In the last 10 years, Chinese students’ interest in creative arts and design subjects has more than doubled, going from 4% of UCAS acceptances in 2013 to 11% this year - making it the fourth most popular undergraduate subject for Chinese students.

Business has been the most popular degree subject among Chinese students for the past decade, but has fallen from making up 43% of undergraduate acceptances in 2013 to 26% in 2023.

China is the UK’s largest undergraduate global market, accounting for one in every four international acceptances via UCAS.

More Chinese students currently apply for degrees in the UK than students from Wales or Northern Ireland.

The UCAS report says that to remain competitive in the global market, higher institutions should proactively promote more subjects to Chinese students, such as the creative arts.

“The UK has a flourishing creative arts sector with world-leading TV and film, fashion, design and music industries so it’s encouraging to see growing numbers of Chinese students motivated to study in the UK due to the value of our vibrant arts and culture,” said Sander Kristel, UCAS Interim Chief Executive.

“This presents a significant opportunity for universities and colleges to promote the unique offering of our creative courses.”

Artistic Director of Manchester's SICK! Festival stands down

I Am, commissioned by SICK! Festival is a public exhibition in St Peter's Square, Manchester.
21 Dec 2023

Move comes little more than two months after entire board of National Portfolio Organisation quit their positions.

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