Welcome to UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK

people looking at an art installation
21 Oct 2021

What happens when creative minds from different sectors and disciplines come together to imagine and design bold, large-scale events to reach millions of people worldwide? Martin Green reveals what’s in store for 2022.

How prepared are young musicians for professional life?

Rakhi Singh with students on Future Artists scheme working with Southbank's artist in residence, violinist Rakhi Singh, co-founder of Manchester Collective
19 Mar 2024

A ground-breaking initiative from the Royal Academy of Music in partnership with Southbank Centre – Future Artists - seeks to equip students to use their multiple skills, writes Jessica Walker.

ACE and National Archives extend collaboration for a further three years

18 Mar 2024

Arts Council England and The National Archives have signed a new collaboration agreement for the three-year period up to 2027. 

The bodies said the agreement outlines how they will build on their previous work together to ensure a comprehensive cultural offer for the public.

As partners, the organisations said they "aim to act strategically and practically to help communities across England engage with culture and ensure that our sectors’ collections and activities are accessible to everyone". 

Darren Henley, Chief Executive at ACE, said: “The Arts Council has many values in common with The National Archives and we have shared sector audiences particularly in museums and libraries which are fully embedded in our Let’s Create strategy. 

"We have already produced joint initiatives such as the Standard Charge and will continue to explore how we can support the sector strategically and practically through the challenges it faces. "

Jeff James, Chief Executive and Keeper at The National Archives, said: "Through this agreement, we will be able to tackle shared challenges across our sectors and make the most of opportunities to advocate, share knowledge and secure funding for arts and culture.”

University and theatre partner on skills initiative 

18 Mar 2024

Staffordshire University has teamed up with the Gatehouse Theatre in Stafford to give students a chance to get involved in productions on and off stage.

The BBC reports that under the scheme, drama students will be guaranteed an audition for the theatre's annual Shakespeare production.

In addition, students on other creative industry courses will be encouraged to try out backstage and technical roles.

Deborah Sanderson, Head of Strategic Marketing at Staffordshire University, said the scheme has the potential to "open doors" for students and graduates to get experience of the backstage environment and meet the people behind productions.

Regenerating post-pandemic partnerships with China

11 Mar 2024

It's more than a year since China reopened its borders following the pandemic with the promise of reviving its international arts scene. Alex Lalak explores what this means for UK arts organisations looking to re-forge their links.  

(Re)Generation: A love language for culture?

Heart of Hearts competition in Times Square, NY
05 Mar 2024

The urban development sector is increasingly the first choice of partner for cultural regeneration projects. But how do you find your perfect match? Sherry Dobbin has some matchmaking advice.

UK-Germany arts partnerships get £300k

23 Feb 2024

A total of 20 new partnerships between UK- and Germany-based arts organisations have been awarded funding of £310,000 for 2024/25.

The money is being provided through the third annual programme of Cultural Bridge, a collaboration between the UK and Germany with investment from Arts Council England, Arts Council Northern Ireland, British Council, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales/Wales Arts International, Fonds Soziokultur and Goethe-Institut London.

Projects receiving funding include Co-creating Across Borders: A tale of two cities, a collaboration between Brighton People's Theatre and English Theatre Leipzig, as well as work to develop sustainable models for artist-led spaces being conducted by Assembly House in Leeds and E-WERK in Luckenwalde, Germany.

“We're delighted to continue investing in Cultural Bridge with our partners across the UK and in Germany, and we are excited to see the impact of this next round of partnerships," Simon Mellor, Deputy Chief Executive Arts & Culture at Arts Council England, said.

"They will build on the work the programme has already done to create new connections between communities in England and Germany, giving artists and organisations a chance to develop ideas and projects in collaboration with their peers and to gain new insights by working across borders."

Norwich Theatre unveils community co-creation strategy

Young Cultural Leaders, first year cohort
20 Feb 2024

As part of a new creative leadership that encourages cooperative decision-making, Norwich Theatre will engage an associate company for two years to collaborate on research, skills-sharing and new work.

Nonsuch theatre company relocates to Nottingham cinema

20 Feb 2024

Nottingham-based fringe theatre comany Nonsuch will relocate to a cinema in the city after moving out of its previous premises at the end of last year.

The charity, which was last year unsuccessful in an application for Arts Council England investment as part of the 2023-26 National Portfolio, will now be based at the independent Broadway cinema.

It took the decision to leave its previous premises due to the "ever-increasing costs of operating a venue in challenging economic circumstances".

Announcing the move, it said it will now begin the refocusing of work away from venue operations to return to its roots of producing and touring contemporary performance, working with communities across the East Midlands.

‍Edward Boott, Artistic Director and CEO of Nonsuch, said: “This is an epic move for the whole Nonsuch team as we relocate to refocus on our producing and community programme work. 

"We’re so thrilled and honoured to have been invited by the incredible team at Broadway to become residents in their iconic building and can’t wait for all the magical collaborations and partnerships our new home might bring.”

Future of BBC Singers secured

15 Feb 2024

A project looking at the future of the BBC’s performing groups has concluded with the announcement that a sustainable future has been secured. 

The BBC Singers will remain integral to the BBC’s classical music provision, working in partnership with The VOCES8 Foundation. 

BBC Singers staff will continue to be employed by the BBC and remain core to Radio 3 and the Proms. 

The announcement comes after the BBC revealed plans to close its in-house choir, BBC Singers, last March. That decision was overturned after a public outcry and an online petition with more than 145,000 signatures.

The BBC said: "The VOCES8 Foundation has considerable experience and expertise across music education and community engagement.

"This partnership builds on the valuable education and community work the BBC Singers already deliver across East London, as well as the commercial work already undertaken, and we will continue to identify new opportunities for additional revenue for the ensemble."

Regarding its orchestras, the BBC said it is working closely with the Musicians’ Union to consider new opportunities as work develops across broadcast, education and commercial activity.

"This will be a gradual process in which we will work closely with the Unions and our musicians, alongside a review to modernise terms and conditions making sure these are aligned with the BBC’s principles of fairness and transparency," it added.

The BBC will also pursue an Orchestral Tax Relief application, which will be central in ensuring the sustainability of the six groups amid ongoing financial challenges.

The Musicians’ Union and the BBC jointly said: “[We] have engaged in constructive talks over recent months. We are pleased that we have a strategy which secures the future of the BBC Singers, and we look forward to celebrating their centenary year." 

Paul Smith (CEO) and Barnaby Smith (Artistic Director) of The VOCES8 Foundation said: “As a global, artist-led charity dedicated to inspiring people through choral music, The VOCES8 Foundation was committed to a positive outcome for the future of the BBC Singers. The Foundation looks forward to working together with the BBC Singers to demonstrate how choral music can positively impact communities in the UK and worldwide in the 21st century.” 

DCMS Minister in Saudi Arabia for 'cultural collaboration' talks

A landscape view of AlUla in Saudi Arabia
01 Feb 2024

Official visit by Arts Minister Lord Parkinson follows deal between France's Pompidou Centre and Saudi Arabia on major culture project.

Artwork proposed for Leeds park to make it feel safer

15 Jan 2024

Creative lighting and public art are to be designed by community groups for a park in Leeds to try to make the space more welcoming for women.

Wow Park - a co-creative public art and lighting project to make Woodhouse Moor feel safer - is being developed by the University of Leeds after a study of women and girls from across West Yorkshire found that most feel unsafe in parks in some situations.

The study, carried out by researchers in the university's School of Law, concluded that feeling vulnerable in parks is a barrier that needs to be urgently addressed to ensure that women and girls feel able to use, enjoy and benefit from them. 

Woodhouse Moor is an open space that borders the university and is used by thousands of students and local residents as a social space to walk to and from campus. Research in 2016 showed it is the city’s most popular park, hosting more than three million visits annually.   

The University’s Cultural Institute will use the study's findings to explore whether creative solutions can help transform the park to make it feel safer, more inclusive, and welcoming for women, girls, and local communities.   

Professor Ben Walmsley, Dean of Cultural Engagement and Chair of the Cultural Institute’s Steering Group said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to explore and showcase the powerful role that arts and culture can play in animating places and making them safer and more inclusive, as well as more attractive. 

“This project shows how the University of Leeds can work across its diverse Schools and Institutes to translate research into action and make a positive difference to people’s lives through sustained community engagement."

British Youth Music Theatre to relocate to Leeds

British Youth Music Theatre, Performance of Harry & Greta
15 Jan 2024

National Portfolio Organisation says Yorkshire city's location in the centre of the UK allows good access to partners in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as well as across England.

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.

Power in partnerships

Image of a man using a video camera
06 Dec 2023

In their latest collaborative research project, Euella Jackson and Jess Bunyan of Rising Arts Agency have been exploring the unequal balance of power inherent in partnership working. 

Co-creating public space: How can we thrive?

Delegates at conference
14 Nov 2023

Public art is an opportunity for collective expression of identity. In his reflections on a recent conference, Woodrow Kernohan says co-creation offers the potential to realise more equitable futures together.

Coalition forms to deliver ‘Northern Creative Corridor’

An evening view of Media City in Salford
14 Nov 2023

BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are among those to sign a charter committing them to support at least one cross-regional initiative in the North of England next year.

ACE appoints museum development partners

06 Oct 2023

Five regional providers have been appointed to deliver Arts Council England's Museum Development programme for 2024 to 2026.

ACE has said the new streamlined programme - there were previously nine regional providers - will "ensure the delivery of Let’s Create" and focus "on the cultural potential of local communities". 

A national programme - Museum Development England - will bring together the delivery partners to share insights and learning.

The partners are: Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and Leicestershire County Council; Museum of London; York Museums Trust in partnership with Tyne & Wear Archives Museums and the Manchester partnership and Cumbria Museums Consortium; Norfolk Museums Service with Brighton & Hove Museums; and Bristol City Council.

Emmie Kell, Director of Museums and Cultural Property, Arts Council England, said: “We know how important museums are to their communities and all they do to help tackle isolation, build connections, foster creativity and instil a strong sense of place. 

"The Museum Development Programme is an essential part of the Arts Council’s development offer for museums."

“All the partners within the programme have extensive skills, local knowledge and on the ground relationships, which will be vital in helping museums respond to challenges and opportunities to face the future with confidence.”

Museums in Oxford return ancestral Aboriginal remains

05 Oct 2023

A handover ceremony has taken place to mark the repatriation of ancestral remains from two museums in Oxford to Aboriginal communities in Australia.

The Museum's Association reports that the Pitt Rivers Museum and Oxford University Museum of Natural History are returning the remains of 11 Aboriginal ancestors.

The return is part of an agreement between the museums and the Australian Government to repatriate 30 ancestors in total.

Laura Van Broekhoven, director of the Pitt Rivers Museum, said: “For the Pitt Rivers Museum, ceremonies like these introduce new chapters in our history as a museum. 

"We want to thank Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders for their leadership in this process; we are pleased that the ancestors are finally able to return home. We are grateful to join this Indigenous-led process that works towards healing.”

Former NPO opens venue in London

02 Oct 2023

Theatre company Stockroom, which ceased to be an Arts Council England-funded organisation last year, has opened a new performing space in Islington through a partnership with drama school Collective Acting Studio.

The new venue, Collective Theatre, is located in a Grade II listed building primarily used for the provision of youth services for Islington Borough Council.

It will now home both the theatre company and drama school and will open to the public in mid-October with the premiere of Stockroom production Influence.

The venue features two performance spaces, as well as green room facilities, a café/bar, recording studio, rehearsal rooms, classrooms, library and office space.

“Since the loss of our NPO status we have been working hard to ensure the artists we work with will continue to have a home to express themselves and take risks,” said Stockroom Executive Producer and CEO, Martin Derbyshire.

“We have produced bold political work around the country and the world and now, having been based in Finsbury Park for 30 years, are excited to be continue that work while having a new home to present the best in the writing from underrepresented voices.”

Paul Harvard, CEO and Programme Leader at Collective Acting Studio, added: “Against the background of Arts Council cuts, and freezes in Higher Education funding, we believe that housing a drama school and a power-house new theatrical venue under the same roof is a way of creating a new collaborative, sustainable model that will allow our companies to thrive and grow in partnership”.


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