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.”

Arts universities win £1.4m for knowledge-sharing projects

Students sitting in a lecture theatre chatting
21 Apr 2020

Students will be at the heart of programmes for developing entrepreneurial skills and using theatre techniques to improve patient experience in the NHS.

Unions join forces to demand fairer treatment of freelancers

20 Apr 2020

An open letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is asking for seven key points to be addressed in the Government's plans to protect the creative economy. The Federation of Entertainment Unions, which includes Equity, the National Union of Journalists, the Musicians Union, Writers Guild of Great Britain and BECTU, is calling for more support for groups that are in most danger of falling between the gaps in the government's financial compensation package for freelance workers.

These workers include parents and carers; those with less than 50% of income from self-employment; new entrants into the industry who had no completed tax return for last year; and freelances who operate through personal service companies, paying themselves with dividends rather salary. The Unions are also seeking reassurance that compensation payments will not compromise welfare payments to D/deaf and disabled workers.


Fear of virus will deter theatregoers from returning, survey finds

20 Apr 2020

Most theatregoers will not immediately be ready to return to theatres even when they reopen, according to a survey among 2,762 people in Washington DC who attend at least two professional theatre productions in a typical year. Around half of those questioned said they are likely to wait a few months after they reopen before returning, while only a quarter think they will attend straight away. 27 percent said they would attend the theatre less often in future, but only 13 percent said they would attend more often.

Two-thirds said the availability of a vaccine was the factor most likely to prompt them to return to the theatre, while 56% said they would consider returning to theatres sooner if they take steps to clean and disinfect before each performance.

Inquiry to investigate equalities impact of government's Covid response measures

20 Apr 2020

Parliament's Women and Equalities Committee has launched an Inquiry in response to concerns raised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and other organisations that the coronavirus crisis is having a disproportionate impact on some people who have protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. The Committee is asking how people have been affected by the illness or the response to it; if there have been specific impacts on people due to them having a protected characteristic; and whether there may be unforeseen consequences to measures brought in to ease the burden on frontline staff. 

The Government will be reviewing current measures in three weeks’ time and measures in the Coronavirus Bill be voted on again in 6 months’ time, so the Inquiry wants to know what needs to change or improve, which could be acted on in three weeks’ time; and what could be acted on in 6 months’ time. The Committee aims to follow up this work in 12 months’ time to build a more complete picture of how people with protected characteristics have been affected.

Responses should be submitted by 30 April if possible, to enable the Committee to press the Government to reconsider the current measures at the three-week review.


2019 saw growing threat to artistic freedom in Europe

20 Apr 2020

An in-depth analysis of 711 acts of violations of artistic freedom that took place in 93 countries last year has found that nationalist, populist politics has led to increased censoring of artists’ voices in countries where the right to freedom of artistic expression has traditionally been protected.

Governments were responsible for over half of all acts of censorship, and criticising the government led to 42% of all imprisonments. A third of all incidents of censorship realated to music and a further quarter to visual art. The figures have been published in State of Artistic Freedom 2020, a report by Freemuse.


Grantium “impasse hell hole” unleashes Twitter storm

chickens roosting on a fence outside a barn
17 Apr 2020

Desperate pleas from those who are losing their livelihoods have revealed the stress that Arts Council England’s grant application system – known to be dysfunctional since 2016 – has placed on them.


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