Green light for West of England cultural programme

20 Dec 2023

A cultural programme covering Bath, Bristol, North and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire is set to go ahead after securing investment.

Bath Spa University partnered with the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority (WECA) to secure funding through Arts Council England’s (ACE) National Lottery Place Partnerships Fund for Culture West, a two-year, region-wide programme aiming to enable every child and young person access to cultural experiences.

It plans to commission two new festivals, support and provide work for 425 creative freelancers and engage over 109,000 people in arts and cultural experiences with live audiences of more than 270,000.

Other initiatives include a new residency scheme for low-income artists and makers at Bath Spa University’s creative practice studio, while a new arts space will open in Radstock early next year.

Bath Spa University will also support the delivery of a new regional Creative Agency, creating employment guidance and networks for those entering the creative industries.

WECA has invested £1.5m in the programme, ACE has provided a £1m grant and local partners have given a combined £640,000.

Professor Sue Rigby, Bath Spa University Vice-Chancellor said the shared ambition is “to create a step change for the region by increasing access to arts and culture in every place for all communities and creatives.”

“Through this, we aim to improve lives, support local economies, help regenerate neighbourhoods and bring people back into work in the creative industries, post-pandemic.”

Scottish culture budget to rise by £15.8m

Interior of the Scottish Parliment building
20 Dec 2023

The Scottish Government has previously pledged to invest an additional £100m in arts and culture by 2028/29.

Theatre Green Book joins forces with national theatres

19 Dec 2023

The Theatre Green Book has announced a partnership with the UK’s three national theatres.

Together, the coalition will form an association to drive change and push for net zero across the sector.

Part of the work includes the formation of a steering group featuring the national theatres, the Association of British Theatre Technicians, the Society of London Theatre, UK Theatre and the Theatres Trust. 

The steering group is involved in work on the second edition of the Theatre Green Book, scheduled for release next summer.

The first edition, which was published during the pandemic, is now used by all large subsidised theatres, the UK’s three national theatre and all UK opera houses.

Paddy Dillon, one of the Theatre Green Book’s authors, told The Stage the second edition is “our chance to accelerate theatre’s momentum even further”.

Lisa Burger, who co-authored the book, added: “We’re excited that the Theatre Green Book is now permanently rooted in Britain’s theatre community. 

“Alongside the dramatic progress of sustainable working with the Green Book across the world, theatre is making real progress towards net zero.”

Peers support return of Parthenon sculptures

19 Dec 2023

Former Brexit negotiator is among those calling for artefacts to be returned, arguing it should be on the condition of a new cultural partnership between the UK and Greece. 

Royal Albert Hall box goes on the market for £3m

19 Dec 2023

A  private box at the Royal Albert Hall (RAH) has been listed for purchase at £3m.

Marketed by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, box 14 in the hall’s grand tier has been in the same family for several generations and has 843 years remaining on its lease.

When the hall opened in 1871, it was part-funded by people who were allocated seats in return for their initial investment. Today, 319 people own 1,268 of the hall's seats on 999-year leases. 

A new bill, debated by the House of Lords in October, would give the hall’s governing body the authority to sell an additional 52 seats to investors.

Seat holders must also support the hall financially by paying an annual levy called the “seat rate”, which for box 14 will cost £13,795, including VAT. They must also forgo their tickets for some 100 days each year, known as exclusions, so the hall can sell more commercially to non-seat holders.  

Seat holders who do not wish to use their seats for a concert or event can return them to the hall’s box office for the face value of the ticket less 10%. But it’s widely understood that some resell their tickets through third-party websites for profit.

The practice was recently condemned by Ed Sheeran after tickets for his November show at RAH were listed at up to £6,000 on the resale website Viagogo, prompting him to write a letter of complaint to the board of trustees.

During a debate on the second hearing of the Royal Albert Hall Bill, former Charity Commission Chair Baroness Stowell reiterated the Commission's long-held objection that more than 75% of the organisation's board of trustees are seat holders who can lawfully profit from ticket resales, should they wish.

British Museum signs controversial £50m deal with oil giants BP

BP petrol station sign
19 Dec 2023

New 10-year partnership with BP will support transformation described by museum as 'one of the most significant cultural redevelopment projects ever undertaken'.

Music projects receive support for UK and Ireland touring

19 Dec 2023

Seven music projects will receive funding for collaborative commissions that will tour the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

The support comes from the PRS Foundation’s Beyond Borders programme, run in partnership with Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Arts Council of Ireland.

Established in 2010, Beyond Borders aims to support co-commissions and tours that “stimulate collaboration between composers, performance groups and music organisations” across the UK and Ireland.

Funded projects in the latest round include a commission for new music performed by brass bands all over the UK commemorating 40 years since the miners' strikes. 

Elizabeth Sills, Grants & Programmes Manager at PRS Foundation, said: “It's great to see the fantastic collaborations between organisations across England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to bring these exciting new music projects from talented music creators to audiences across five nations.  

“I know all the Beyond Borders partners are very much looking forward to each project coming to life next year and seeing the impact these supported projects will have on the music creators, musicians and organisations involved.”

Scotland to consider £1 music ticket levy

19 Dec 2023

Cross-party MSPs voice support for adding £1 tax to arena and stadium tours to raise money for struggling grassroots music venues.

Dance not taught at one in three primary schools

19 Dec 2023

A third of UK primary schools are not teaching dance, despite it being part of the National Curriculum, a report has found.

Ofsted’s latest subject report on PE also found that in two-thirds of the schools, dance is not taught to all pupils or that the dance content is “not well organised”. 

In its recommendations, the regulator advised schools to include “carefully sequenced and taught” dance lessons in both primary and secondary schools.

Eve Murphy, Founder and CEO of Dance to School, said: “Dance is a statutory requirement of the National Curriculum at both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, yet a worrying proportion of primary school teachers identify dance as an area for development in their school."

A survey conducted by Dance to School has found that 83 per cent of teachers lack the confidence, subject knowledge, and resources to deliver dance as part of the curriculum.

“We know from research that dance is linked to and can impact wider cross-curricular themes, as well as helping children to build confidence, creativity, and relationships," said Murphy.

"I see some incredible examples of dance in practice and the joy it brings to children. However, in those schools that aren’t teaching dance, it’s a negative spiral with teacher confidence continuing to waver.”

National Theatre Wales appeal rejected

A Proper Ordinary Miracle by National Theatre Wales
18 Dec 2023

National Theatre Wales said it was “shocked and dismayed” at the ruling.

Cultural project for North Yorkshire gets ACE funding

18 Dec 2023

Three towns in North Yorkshire have been awarded £350,000 in funding from Arts Council England (ACE) to stage cultural events over two years.

The BBC reports that the Now Then! project will see arts events and activities staged in Selby, Tadcaster and Sherburn-in-Elmet between April 2024 and March 2026.

North Yorkshire Council's Executive Member for Culture and Leisure Simon Myers said it was an "exciting and ambitious" project that would focus on people's pride in where they live.

"Visitors will see our towns as places of singular cultural experiences, and local people will see where they live through fresh eyes," he said.

In Selby, new commissions will be based in the town's abbey and its surroundings, including music, dance, writing and performance.

In Tadcaster, members of the community arts company ARCADE will work with children and young people to create a programme of new work, while in Sherburn-in-Elmet, the community will select creative practitioners they would like to work with to co-devise and deliver activities there.

The programme has been given a Place Partnership award from ACE through the National Lottery.

Pete Massey, ACE's Director for Northern Economy and Partnerships, said they were delighted to fund the project.

"It's great to see so many partners working collaboratively on a project that will tell the stories of places and people as well as offer children and young people in Selby, Tadcaster and Sherburn the opportunity to get involved and develop their artistic skills," he said.

Contact's Artistic Director steps aside amid financial concerns

Exterior of Contact Theatre, Manchester lit up at night
18 Dec 2023

Iconic theatre sets out plans to tackle rising costs and place it on sustainable financial footing.

Nearly half of councils cut culture spending

18 Dec 2023

Almost half of local authorities have made cuts to culture, events and tourism since 2010, according to data gathered by the New Statesman.

Polling of councillors in English local authorities found 45% had made cuts to culture, events and tourism over the period.

That's in addition to the four in 10 that said their council had made cuts to library services in the same period. 

The survey also revealed a quarter of councillors think their council will soon go bankrupt.

The figures come in the wake of several local authorities, including Nottingham, Birmingham and Woking, issuing Section 114 notices, halting non-essential spending.

Last week, Nottingham City Council proposed cutting its entire cultural budget from next year as part of efforts to plug a £50m deficit.

Facing stretched budgets, other councils such as Coventry and Bristol have also proposed reduced cultural spending.

Council extends museum lease to secure its future

14 Dec 2023

Worcester Council has extended the lease of a historic museum in the city to 999 years to help secure its long-term future.

Officials hope that the “unusual” extension will allow staff at the Tudor House Museum to make long-term plans.

A report for the authority’s policy and resources committee warns that the extension can not be used to set a precedent for other council leases.

Paul Griffith, chairman of Worcester Municipal Charities, which will hold the new lease, said the extension would give the two charities that run the museum, Worcester Heritage and Amenity Trust, the confidence to continue investing time and money.

"We already have plans to build a new visitors and education centre behind the museum and need to start raising the funds to pay for it," he added.

'Revolutionary' employment scheme for artists launches

The four LABA artists. From left to right: Ed Patrick, Munotida Chinyanga, Viv Gordon, Jamaal O’Driscoll
14 Dec 2023

Gloucester-based National Portfolio Organisation wants to see a 'step-change' in how artists are supported so they can work without pressure.

Media museum cinema remains closed over RAAC concerns

14 Dec 2023

The main cinema in Bradford's National Science and Media Museum will remain closed for "at least six months” because of structural safety concerns.

The presence of reinforced aerated autoclaved concrete (RAAC) was discovered in the museum's main auditorium, Pictureville, in September, with a subsequent survey leading to its closure the following month. 

RAAC was used extensively in the construction of public buildings between the 1950s and the 1970s. It is described as “much weaker” than traditional concrete by the Standing Committee on Structural Safety, with a lifespan of about 30 years.

A spokesperson for the museum said: "Since 20 October, scoping work on remedial options has been ongoing, and both remedial and permanent fixes are being investigated.

"[We are] working with partners to explore off-site programming options".

The museum has two further cinemas, both already closed for refurbishment, financed by a National Lottery grant.

Peers urge greater opportunity to study creative subjects

13 Dec 2023

A cross-party group of life peers call for accountability measures to be reversed to help buck the decline of exam entries in creative subjects.

Fresh hope for Octagon Theatre project

13 Dec 2023

Stalled plans to remodel the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil could be funded by selling off one of Somerset County Council’s commercial investments, the council's former Leader has suggested.

In October Somerset County Council put the £30m project on hold due to rising costs, saying that the current business case for the theatre's regeneration could "no longer be met" and "a revised business case would be necessary".

The Somerset County Gazette reports that the local authority, which declared a financial emergency in early November, is currently exploring ways to plug a £87m funding gap for next year – including the sale of surplus land, property and commercial investments.

During a meeting of the council's executive, former Leader David Fothergill said the sale of an energy storage facility near Taunton could be “recycled” back into the Octagon project.

The council's Deputy Leader Liz Leyshon said work to re-examine the scope and cost of the Octagon project is ongoing, with a view to the council publishing its preferred option for moving forward early in the new year.

“There is a great deal of work going at the moment in the back offices between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Arts Council England South West and our officers on the possibility of a revised option for an Octagon project that would ensure its future as a flagship venue for Somerset," she said.

“That is very delicate work and it is being pursued with all the partners, including Yeovil Town Council."

Jewish Museum London gets funding for community work

13 Dec 2023

The Jewish Museum London has received more than £200,000 to work in the community ahead of a move to a new building.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund will provide £231,000 for the "Jewish Museum London on the Move" project which involves the development of learning and collections programmes around the UK to new and existing audiences after it left its premises in Camden in June this year.

Learning programmes will be adapted for outreach in London schools, along with virtual programming and broadcasts about Jewish festivals. In person schools workshops will begin again in partner venues from spring 2024 and plans are in place to develop the schools offer for 2025. 

Meanwhile, community and heritage partnerships will host family days around London and reminiscence sessions with the museum's collections will take place in Jewish care homes.

Chair of Trustees, Nick Viner said: “The trustees of Jewish Museum London are very grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for this investment which will enable our ongoing transition towards a future museum. 

"We’re delighted that our objects can already be seen around the country, and this support will enable us to expand further our programme of loans and displays, alongside our education work. Jewish Museum London exists to celebrate the UK’s diverse Jewish community and heritage. Now more than ever we need to foster understanding between all cultures.”

The museum, which receives £224,000 a year from Arts Council England as part of the National Portfolio for 2023-26, hopes to reopen in a larger new home within the next five years.

Call for review of City of Culture governance arrangements

Caribbean reggae fever part of Coventry City of Culture 2021
13 Dec 2023

Coventry City Council says it wants to ensure future events do not suffer similar issues following the collapse of the trust that ran Coventry City of Culture 2021.

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