Creative Scotland awards £2.3m in small grants

25 May 2021

More than 100 projects will share £2.3m in small grants from Creative Scotland's Open Fund.

The programme, which aims to "sustain creative practice in a changing world", is funding works in all areas of the country.

These include 'The Coven and the Drowners', a new Gaelic and Scots novel by playwright Alan Bissett, Artists Into Immersive, a pilot training programme by the National Film and Television School and Glasgow School of Art, and the Freedom of Mind community choir in Falkirk.

The choir's Co-Director Mariot Dallas commented: “This past year has been challenging for everyone - and in particular for those living with poor mental health or social isolation due perhaps to poverty, age, ill health or other personal circumstances."

"This vital funding means we can continue to welcome everyone to the Freedom Of Mind Community Choir, and keep tapping into the transformative potential of singing and music making, boosting well-being for our current and future members."

Ticket sales recovering faster in the regions, study suggests

25 May 2021

An upward trend in ticket sales over March and April is being driven by the regions, data collected by TRG Arts and Purple Seven indicates.

Smaller markets are recovering faster. In the South West for example, ticket sales are 52% of April 2019 levels - double the UK average.

The revival is strongest in venues that present touring work, the largest of which are attracting 45% of their pre-Covid sales.

TRG Chief Executive Officer Jill Robinson said: "While this analysis does give some grounds for optimism, the recovery so far in the UK is partial and uneven."

"With such a reliance on a tourist market, it is not a great surprise that the recovery in London is slower than other
parts of the UK, but it is also clear that many regional organisations that have worked consistently to deepen their relationships with their customers during the pandemic are now being rewarded with strong sales.

"Organisations that have effectively hibernated for the past year will find re-engaging with their audiences far more challenging."

DCMS revives £42m Culture Investment Fund

25 May 2021

Grants of up to £5m are available for capital works outside of London, while libraries and museums are also eligible for a slice of the resurrected suite of funds.

Free Word to close after 12 years

24 May 2021

The first National Portfolio Organisation lost to the effects of the pandemic will close its doors next week, leaving a gap in support for writers, artists and activists.

Royal College of Art students mull court case over damaged works

24 May 2021

The Royal College of Art says it will offer "limited compensation" to students who can prove their art works or equipment were damaged or lost in studio clear outs last summer.

The RCA students' union has counted 132 students who could be eligible but some students are considering legal action to recuperate full costs.

Students were asked to search through hundreds of boxes to find their items in September. The students say no inventory was taken, with items from different studios mixed together and some students sent the wrong work.

RCA says it is working with the "small number of students" who have contacted the institution.

Arabella Hope, who is leading the campaign to hold the university to account, an estimated £20,000 work of work created over 14 years. 

“The whole thing has been utterly depressing,” she said. “I feel so sad and listless because it’s so much work, and all my materials for making work.”


Trowbridge Museum reopens after two-year revamp

24 May 2021

Wiltshire's Trowbridge Museum has reopened after a £2.5m redevelopment.

With Lottery funding and support from Trowbridge Town Council and the Friends of Trowbridge Museum, the museum has expanded its collection into an empty floor of the Grade II listed Home Mills above the museum. 

The new exhibition space profiles the role of technology and weaving over the wool-producing town's 2000-year history.

Initially due to reopen last year, the works were delayed due to the pandemic.


Ministry of Justice rejects culture plans for Reading Gaol

23 May 2021

Plans to turn Reading Gaol into an arts and culture hub have been rejected for a second time by the Ministry of Justice, which says the £2.6m offered by Reading Borough Council is too low.

To "seek best value for taxpayers", it will put the building back on the market. Money raised from the sale will be “reinvested into the justice system”.

Its first attempt to sell on the open market failed when the property developer behind the winning bid pulled out in November.

READ MORE: Banksy steps in as plans are revived for a cultural centre at Reading Gaol

The council’s new bid on behalf of the community emphasises the heritage and cultural value of the former prison, which “does not appear to have been given due consideration," it said.

The council's development blueprint for the site includes a heritage centre, a rooftop café, an innovation hub and space for theatre, dance, music, cinema and outdoor exhibitions, as well as new homes.  



'Dead-end courses' comment provokes culture war complaints

21 May 2021

The Education Secretary's remarks have added fuel to the firestorm of criticism sparked by plans to cut universities' arts funding. Do we need to be worried?

Call to defund arts centre after board quashed 'futile' revisioning project

21 May 2021

Artists contracted for the ill-fated project want the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art closed, alleging a lack of appropriate representation and racist attitudes at the board level mean it is "not fit for purpose".

Choirs remain in limbo as guidelines limit indoor gathering

20 May 2021

Hopes that amateur choirs could start rehearsing indoors again from May 17 have been dashed.

New guidance for England permits non-professional performing arts activities indoors and outdoors, but limits gatherings to 30 people outdoors. Indoors, that limit falls to a group of up to six people or two households.

The Association of British Choral Directors is lobbing for the unexpected restrictions to be relaxed and clarity around why the limits are being extended. 

READ MORE: Confusion over ongoing ban on amateur performance

The Musicians’ Union is objecting on behalf of its members who work with amateur choirs. These include choir leaders who have paid to book venues for May and must now bear the brunt of cancellation costs. 

Research has revealed that singing presents no greater risk than many indoor sporting activities which face no such restriction on numbers. Phil Kear, MU Assistant General Secretary, said: “Organised amateur sport can go ahead with unlimited numbers indoors, subject to building capacity, and we are at a loss to understand why choirs have been singled out under the guidance at this time.”


EU to benefit from record-breaking support for culture

20 May 2021

MEPs have approved a €2.5bn investment in the EU cultural and creative sectors until 2027, with more support for live music, greater focus on inclusivity and promoting female talent.

In adopting the Creative Europe programme, the European Parliament has agreed the biggest ever financial commitment to culture and creativity. The budget has almost doubled from the €1.4bn allocated between 2014 and 2020.

The new programme includes an obligation to support women’s artistic and professional careers.

Culture and Education Committee Chair Sabine Verheyen said: “Around 3.8 % of Europeans work in European cultural and creative sectors. However, this sector has always faced challenges such as competition with big commercial productions and the very fragmented transnational cultural market."

"This significantly better funded programme recognises the added value of culture to our European way of life and is a first step towards helping it stand up to the challenges of globalisation and digitalisation."

Hyslop loses the culture portfolio to Angus Robertson

20 May 2021

A ministerial shake-up in the Scottish Government has handed the culture portfolio to new Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Angus Robertson.

As well as culture, his work will cover constitutional policy and coordinating European and wider external relations, including post-Brexit relations.

Formerly SNP Leader in the House of Commons, the pro-independence MSP lost his Westminster seat in 2017 but successfully contested Scotland’s Edinburgh Central constituency in the Scottish Parliament election earlier this month.

An interview with Huffpost revealed him to be a “huge heavy metal fan” who “likes nothing better than to bang out a few tunes on his electric guitar.”

Robertson replaces Fiona Hyslop, a longstanding voice in Scotland's cultural sector. Her knowledge of the culture brief dates back to 2009 when she became Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, making her the UK’s most experienced politician to work with the arts and cultural sector.

Employment guide to 'eliminate barriers' for disabled people in music

20 May 2021

The handbook aims to improve representation of disabled people in the music industry as a survey finds half have withdrawn job applications over accessibility concerns.

Fairfield Halls revamp leaves council £69m out of pocket

19 May 2021

A multimillion-pound cost overrun on Fairfield Halls' refurbishment has left Croydon Council with a £69m bill.

The ill-fated project, budgeted at £30m and expected to take two years, was meant to be funded by development profits from a neighbouring site. That development has been cancelled.


Building work on the arts venue overran by a year, with total costs escalating to £69.3m and more expenditure ahead. The council says this either relates to work that was not fully specified in the contract, or work that is beyond the original scope of the refurbishment.

Consultants have been appointed to survey the building, review the contract documents, assess the works needed and estimate the likely costs.


BBC Shakespeare archive opens to the education sector

19 May 2021

Hundreds of hours of BBC Shakespeare programmes will be made free to schools, colleges and universities across the UK.

Organisations that hold a licence with the Educational Recording Agency can access radio and TV productions, interviews and programmes ranging from material suitable for primary school pupils through to post-graduate students.

The collection spans more than 70 years and includes classic productions in the BBC Television Shakespeare series, comedies like Monty Python and Upstart Crow, Russel T Davies’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Horrible Histories.

Nearly 1,000 items will be available in a searchable archive initially, with more content added as it becomes available.

The move to share them is driven by the BBC’s second purpose, set out in its Royal Charter, to promote education and learning.

Wales appoints new Deputy Arts Minister

19 May 2021

Dawn Bowden has been appointed Wales' Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, replacing Lord Elis-Thomas.

A former unionist, Bowden has been the Welsh Labour candidate for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney since 2016, citing the constituency as her reason for entering politics at age 56.

Judging by her social media presence, Bowden may be more interested in the sport aspect of her role - many posts are about football. She has no known arts affiliations.

She said taking the oath to be a Welsh Government minister was "a proud moment indeed".

Science Museum targeted by climate change protesters

19 May 2021

The Science Museum is under fire once again over oil giant Shell's sponsorship of its climate change exhibition.

A youth protest is planned for Sunday by demonstraters calling for a boycott of "Our Future Planet".

Speakers at the event will include Asad Rehman from Wretched of the Earth, an indigenous peoples' collective of climate activists, and Lazarus Tamana from Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People.

The Science Museum has continued defending oil company sponsorship in the arts as other institutions cut ties for ethical and reputational reasons.

It has set itself a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

'Major flaws' in ministers' post-Brexit touring claims

19 May 2021

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says "some paid touring" is possible in 17 of 27 EU member states as renewed campaigns for a bloc-level deal seek legal advice.

Venues aim to be dementia friendly upon full reopening

18 May 2021

Forty London arts organisations have signed up to a new charter as other initiatives promote the arts in care homes across the UK.

Government 'stands ready' to insure festivals if commercial market won't

17 May 2021

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says the Government will consider insuring festivals if it is the "final barrier" to them going ahead.

It will step in under two conditions: restrictions on the industry are relaxed on June 21 as planned and commercial insurers remain reluctant to offer coverage.

Dowden said: "If it's the case that events still can't go ahead as planned because of the lack of insurance and a failure of the commercial insurance market, we stand ready to look at government intervention, exactly as we did for the film industry."

"It has to be the case first that we know, can something go ahead?... I don't think it's reasonable to expect the taxpayer to provide a full indemnity for these events if it's not possible for them to happen.

"It's a different proposition if they can happen but the only thing holding them back is the commercial market won't insure them because we're risk averse.

"I think it's better to get that clarity of exactly where the gap lies once things are open and then determine the extent to which government intervention is required."


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