Lockdown is prompting engagement with classical music, research finds

09 Apr 2020

Research conducted in late March for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) among over 2,000 adults found that six out of seven British households with extra time on their hands were planning to broaden their musical horizons, with a third of these saying they want to discover more classical music. One in five of the under-35s and over a third of over 65s in isolation said they wanted to learn more about the genre.

Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, the RPO has seen a three-fold increase in its website traffic and a seven-fold increase in engagement on its social media channels. Its online activities are being presented through a new programme, RPO at Home, which includes its first streamed performance, videos of players in their own homes, an RPO at Home YouTube playlist and a card game through which audiences can get to know the RPO’s musicians better. 

RPO Managing Director James Williams commented: “Music is often seen as a good tonic to cope with stress and uncertainty... it will continue to surprise and delight for far longer than the time we will be in isolation."

Committee invites evidence to support a review of Covid-19 emergency measures

09 Apr 2020

Urgent letters to the Chancellor of the Exchequer are already highlighting the plight of arts workers and businesses falling through the financial safety nets in place for employed and self-employed workers.

Developers propose arts space for Peterborough property renovation

09 Apr 2020

Property developers are proposing "arts related uses" for the ground floor of a project to revive the derelict Whitworth Mill on the the banks of the River Nene in Peterborough. An area of external space would be used as an arts performance space within the development, which, if planning permission is approved, will include office space and a boutique hotel.

Users of audio description invited to 'think big' about better technology

09 Apr 2020

Audio description charity VocalEyes is inviting users of this technology to tell them what the characteristics of a "perfect audio description system" would be. Various different systems are currently used to broadcast audio description in theatres - all with limitations for some users. Respondents are being encouraged to assume money and technology are no barrier, with a research and development fund "in the tens of millions of pounds". VocalEyes hopes the responses could for the basis of a brief for a technology company interested in pursuing the ideas.

Gift Aid rules to be relaxed for cancelled performances

09 Apr 2020

The Government has indicated that it will enable theatres and other cultural venues to keep Gift Aid on payments made for events cancelled due to coronavirus. The Charity Tax Group and others, including Arts Council England, are lobbying for the tax relief to be applied to any refund donated to charities in lieu of cancelled tickets or debts not to be collected.

CTG said: "While Gift Aid would not ordinarily be eligible on such gifts this would help to recognise the generosity of the British public and incentivise them to not seek refunds from charities, which are already struggling with cashflow issues... There is precedence for such a mechanism through the Retail Gift Aid scheme and this would be a quick and effective measure in support of charities and donors.”

CTG is now liaising with HMRC and DCMS to confirm the details.

Artrix falls victim to Covid-19 trading losses

Artrix Arts Centre image
07 Apr 2020

The Bromsgrove arts centre was returning to financial health following local authority cuts, but the coronavirus crisis has proved fatal for the organisation, which needs £10,000 a month to lie dormant.

Council loses bid to save Reading Prison as an arts venue

06 Apr 2020

Reading Borough Council's bid to buy Reading Prison from the Ministry of Justice and convert it into an arts venue has failed. The derelict prison costs more than £250,000 a year to maintain and was put up for sale to the highest bidder for development. The Council’s bid depended on securing significant external fundings to manage the risk of taking on the historic property, which sits next to The Abbey on a site of national significance, offering "huge potential for heritage-led regeneration".

The Council's planning restrictions mean any site development will have to include a cultural or historical element that draws on the significance of the prison, which was immortalised by Oscar Wilde's poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. They will be working with the as yet unnamed successful bidder to ensure the prison's historical and cultural value is recognised in the future.

The campaign group Save Reading Gaol has expressed sadness at the failure of the Council's bid, saying they will now try to persuade the new owners to apportion part of the heritage site for the community.

Theatre becomes field hospital for patients with coronavirus

06 Apr 2020

Venue Cymru in Llandudno has been requisitioned by the local Health Board and turned into a field hospital for patients with coronavirus respiratory problems. The theatre, which will house 350 patients, was offered by Conwy County Borough Council to ease the pressures on North Wales’ three main hospitals in Bodelwyddan, Wrexham and Bangor. It has been renamed Ysbyty’r Enfys – the Rainbow Hospital - to reflect the rainbow signs displayed in homes across the country as a symbol of hope during the lockdown.

Costume makers turn their hands to protective clothing for healthcare workers

06 Apr 2020

A team of Hastings-based costume makers who normally work in the performing arts have come together to make protective clothing for healthcare workers free of charge. RX Scrubs has ordered more than 1,000 metres of fabric and been working on an initial 100 sets of scrubs to fulfil orders from local GP practices, a hospice and a hospital. A fundraising drive to cover the cost of the fabric has already raised almost £5,000.

Visitor figures for 2019 withheld as musuems deal with closure

06 Apr 2020

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) has withdrawn its annual figures, released last week, showing large increases in visitor numbers at UK visitor attractions in 2019.

Director Bernard Donoghue said: "In the light of the Prime Minister's statement... and the severe restrictions on leaving home, we feel that to issue the results of last year's bumper year for visitor attractions would be inappropriate when all of our members are closed and are facing challenging times. We will issue the data later in the Spring."

ALVA members are some of the UK's most popular museums, galleries, palaces, castles, cathedrals, zoos, historic houses, heritage sites, gardens and leisure attractions. Its 70 members manage nearly 2,200 tourist sites and attract over 119 million domestic and overseas visitors each year. In 2018 Tate Modern overtook the British Museum to become the most-visited attraction in the UK.

ALVA has been asking the Treasury and DCMS to divert £120m earmarked for the so-called ‘Festival of Brexit’ to support organisations now facing cashflow problems.

Heritage emergency fund invests further in digital skills

06 Apr 2020

The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) is making a £50m Heritage Emergency Fund available for stabilising operations and managing unforeseen risks over the next 3-6 months. It is also investing a further £1.2m in digital skills to support digital fundraising, use of social media and communications, and running online events and activities.

The emergency funding will be diverted from planned new grants, with all new grant applications halted with immediate effect. For the 2,500 organisations where funding of £1.1bn is already committed, NLHF is being as flexible as possible to allow for delays or changes in the way projects are delivered, relaxing normal grant conditions and bringing forward payments if necessary.

The new arrangements are in response to a survey asking what support heritage organisations will need during the coronvirus crisis. Among more than 1250 heritage organisations 75% wanted ‘greater flexibility for existing projects/grants’ and 53% needed ‘emergency funding’. 82% of respondents reported a high or moderate risk to their organisation’s long-term viability; 35% said their financial reserves will be depleted within four months; and 46% of organisations can survive for no more than six months.

North and Midlands bear the brunt of gig cancellations

06 Apr 2020

Data compiled by events guide The List suggests Wigan - where the live music scene represents a quarter of the town's events - will be disproportionately affected by gig cancellations and music venue closures due to the pandemic.

Research based on over 45,000 live events and more than 600,000 scheduled performances has found that other towns and cities in the Midlands and North of England have also been more seriously affected than others, with Leeds, Leicester, Dudley, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester coming in behind Wigan.

Campaigners fight for fairer deal for artists in Ireland

06 Apr 2020

The Covid-19 Crisis Response Award of €1 million for Irish artists to create online work has been met with dismay by Ireland's National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA), which is accusing the Department of Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht of having a "lack of vision shown in relation to the arts" because the fund "does not apply to many kinds of artistic practice".

The money is earmarked for Irish-based professional artists to provide access for the public to new and original art during the period of coronavirus isolation. But the campaigning body says the Arts Council fund "represents a small investment in individual artists" and other initiatives "do not address the real damage that has been done to the sector through the ongoing crisis".

NCFA said: "Yet again, Ireland’s place at the bottom of the pile in terms of investment in culture and arts in Europe is demonstrated", and are calling on Government to add significantly more funding to the Arts Council scheme and open up the restrictive conditions attached to the scheme.

Culture Ireland and Facebook Ireland have also announced a new scheme - Ireland Performs - to support the live presentation of professional artists' work on online platforms.

UN proclaims value of artists – but no payment

Russian dolls with Covid masks
03 Apr 2020

Creative practitioners are being told “you have the power to change the world” but responses to its creative brief will be rewarded with profile and exposure, not cash.

Edinburgh faces jobs crisis as festivals announce cancellations

02 Apr 2020

Jobs in the wider tourism sector that rely on income from visitors to Edinburgh's festivals are now in jeopardy as Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the Tattoo, and the book and art festivals decide jointly to cancel their events. Around 5,000 jobs in the city are thought to depend on the Festivals. Four or five times as many jobs are at risk in tourism and hospitality as in the arts and cultural sector itself. The festivals are worth over £300m to the local economy.

North Somerset to benefit from Performing Arts Centre partnership

02 Apr 2020

Valley Arts and a Multi-Academy Trust in the Chew Valley are submitting a two-stage plan to Bath & North East Somerset Council for developing a new Performing Arts Centre - a flexible 250-seat auditorium costing £1.7m, together with a cafe, box office and dance studios costing a further £1.5m.

The design also allows for breakout areas, cinema facility and visual arts exhibition spaces. The building will be owned by the school, which will use it during the day for arts activities, while Valley Arts will have the facilities outside of school hours, at weekends and in the school holidays.

Economic downturn threatens legacy fundraising

02 Apr 2020

Pessimism over house prices and share prices for the rest of 2020 has led Legacy Foresight to revise its forecasts for legacy fundaising in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

During this period, legacy income to charities could fall by between 3% and 9%, with economic slowdown primarily responsible. Uncertainly over death rates will add to volatillity. Predictions for 2021 onwards are much brighter though, and legacy income to charities is expected to grow 14%-19%, from £3.2bn to as much as £3.8bn by 2024.

Covid-19: Funders reveal plans for the survival of the sector

02 Apr 2020

£11m for Scotland, £7m for Wales and £1m for Northern Ireland as their arts councils announce plans to support organisations and creative workers.

Call for major Covid-19 public art project

31 Mar 2020

The Government should support a multimillion-pound public art project during the coronavirus outbreak, Hans-Ulrich Obrist has said.

The Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries said the idea, which was used to great effect during America's Great Depression in the 1930s, could support cultural organisations and artists financially impacted by the crisis.


Covid-19: Charities face £4bn 'black hole'

31 Mar 2020

Thousands of arts, culture and heritage charities improve communities, wellbeing and isolation – "functions that are particularly important during this crisis".


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