Weathering the cost-of-living storm across the UK

Storm clouds and lightning
08 Dec 2022

Research rings warning bells about the potential effects of the cost-of-living clouds rolling in across all four nations. Anne Torreggiani asks how we can brace for impact and support communities? 

Theatre launches £4 tickets for low income households

12 Apr 2024

Bolton Octagon has announced that it will offer £4 tickets to local residents on Universal Credit, Pension Credit or living in low-income households who want to attend the theatre.

Launching this month, the scheme will see 1,000 tickets each year made available at £4, in addition to the venue's existing offer of £15 tickets on 10% of seats for Octagon shows.

“Our audiences tell us what fantastic value for money the Octagon is, but we know that for some people, the price can still be a barrier and especially during the cost-of-living crisis,” said Octagon Chief Executive Roddy Gauld.

“With this new scheme, fantastic seats will be available for just £4. We want as many people as possible to enjoy the magic of live theatre, and this is just one of the many ways we’re working to enrich our communities with fun, creativity and excitement.”

Museum warns of closure risk over energy costs

08 Apr 2024

A museum in Wales has launched a public appeal to help it remain open in the face of soaring energy bills.

Llandudno Museum says its costs have quadrupled, and the grant funding it receives does not cover the rise.

"It is definitely a threat because at the moment our energy bills are in the region of £35,000 a year, which is astronomic," Director Dawn Lancaster told ITV News

"We can't turn everything off because we have to have stable conditions to maintain the artefacts in the building."

The museum reopened in 2022 after a £1.6m redevelopment scheme partly funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, with the remainder of the money coming mostly in grants from other charitable bodies, and an annual grant from Llandudno Town Council.

It says it needs to raise £80,000 by October.

Liverpool museums remain shut as union rejects pay offer

03 Apr 2024

Museums across Liverpool are expected to stay closed after the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) rejected a pay offer from National Museums Liverpool (NML).

In a post, Laura Pye, Director of National Museums Liverpool, said that "with a heavy heart", NML's five venues will remain mostly closed until at least 14 April, when the current strike period is due to end.

More than 200 NML staff began a two-month strike on 17 February in a dispute over a cost-of-living payment after 94% of employees balloted by PCS backed a walkout.

The union says NML is the only government employer not to pay its staff an agreed-upon £1,500 cost-of-living payment. The government introduced the retrospective payment for civil servants as part of a pay deal for 2022-2023 following a campaign by PCS to help its members cope with soaring inflation.

However, in her post, Pye said, “NML has never promised this payment. In fact, we were very clear when the government announced that unless an additional grant in aid payment was given to us to cover this, we would be unable to pay it.

“National government has also been very clear that the payment was promised to civil servants, and because NML colleagues are not civil servants, they were not in scope.”

She also claimed that of the 15 National Museums services, NML is one of 10 that has not been able to pay the £1,500 in addition to the additional pay awards agreed upon.

The latest offer made to PCS Union members on 20 March included a £750 one-off non-consolidated payment, an increase in annual leave to 30 days plus Bank Holidays, a commitment to shut down the venues every Christmas Eve, and the provision of complimentary tea, coffee, and milk in staff rooms.

English Heritage to offer food bank users free days out

28 Mar 2024

English Heritage and the Trussell Trust have announced a new initiative to provide free days out for people who access food banks. 

Following a successful pilot scheme last summer, people on the lowest incomes will be able to receive a voucher for a free visit to their local English Heritage site alongside their emergency food parcel.

More than 100 food bank centres in the Trussell Trust network and 25 English Heritage properties across England will be taking part in the 2024 partnership. 

English Heritage sites participating in the 2024 scheme include Stonehenge in Wiltshire, Osborne—Queen Victoria’s seaside home—on the Isle of Wight, Corbridge Roman Town on Hadrian’s Wall, and Clifford’s Tower in York.

Nick Merriman, English Heritage’s Chief Executive, said: “As a charity, one of our key aims is to ensure that as many people as possible can enjoy the great historic sites in our care. 

"And although we’ve seen our visitor and member numbers increase, we know that for some, the opportunity of a day out is simply out of reach. 

"We’re really delighted to be teaming up with the Trussell Trust to help those who are often most in need of some time out with their family and friends.”

The offer will be valid until 3 November 2024 and is available to anyone receiving emergency food and support from one of the participating Trussell Trust food banks.

Activists arrested after Kelvingrove protest

04 Mar 2024

Two climate activists have been arrested following alleged vandalism at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

Climate activist group This is Rigged said protesters staged a demonstration on 3 March to raise awareness about rising food insecurity in the UK. They are calling on the Scottish Government to implement a community food hub for every 500 households in Scotland.

In footage posted on social media, protesters were seen pouring porridge and jam on a bust of Queen Victoria and graffitiing its plinth.

In a statement, the group said: "We refuse to be dragged back to the Victorian era. Diseases such as rickets, which once haunted Victorian slums, are now on a sharp rise in Scotland, with 356 diagnoses in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area last year."

Police Scotland said officers were called to the attraction in Glasgow's West End at about 11:55 on Sunday and that two women, aged 23 and 30, were charged following the incident involving a Queen Victoria bust.

They were released to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court at a later date.

Museum’s £4.7m extension paused due to rising costs

26 Feb 2024

A £4.7m extension to Nuneaton Museum has been paused after a council review of capital projects said the expenditure in the 2019-2020 business plan had not accounted for soaring interest rates and costs.

As a result, the project to add a double glass extension on either side of the building has been put on hold indefinitely.

However, the museum will still get a new lift and a steel bridge over the River Anker to improve access for visitors.

Craft Central to close due to financial pressures

20 Feb 2024

East London-based charity Craft Central will close its doors at the end of the month, citing financial pressures including high rent and rising utility costs.

Museum workers to strike over cost-of-living payment

Clockwise from top left: Museum of Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, International Slavery Museum, Lady Lever Art Gallery
06 Feb 2024

National Museums Liverpool said it is facing a £2m shortfall, making it "impossible" to pay employees the £1,500 payment agreed on by the Cabinet Office for all civil servants.

Museum struggles to attract visitors after revamp

30 Jan 2024

Dorset Museum and Art Gallery needs to triple its current footfall to meet increased running costs following a £16.4m expansion.

Speaking to the BBC, Executive Director Clare Dixon said the organisation was facing a “critical time” as it has struggled to attract enough visitors to meet its costs since it reopened in 2021 after a two-year-long major reconstruction.

Dixon said Covid, the cost-of-living crisis, Brexit and the war in Ukraine had all impacted the museum’s finances.

She added: "The museum reopened in an unpredictable climate, with tourism plummeting and people not going out, so the impact that we hoped the transformation would have had obviously just didn't come to fruition.

"The building is incredible, the displays are beautiful, but the running costs are high.

"When you increase the size of a building, and you increase running costs, you need more people in to make it sustainable. This year is critical."

The museum was recently awarded a grant of £250k from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and a further £150k, spread over three years, from Dorset Council. The money will be used to boost marketing and fund a rebrand, underpinning exhibition costs and supporting learning and events.

V&A Dundee halves its major exhibit output to cut costs

18 Jan 2024

V&A Dundee will reduce the number of major exhibitions it stages each year as part of “mitigating measures” to cut costs.

The move means the Scottish design museum will host only one annual paid exhibition.

A new report sent to the Scottish government by the organisation confirmed that the programming change, first introduced on a trial basis in 2022 in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, will become permanent for the foreseeable future.

The reduction in exhibits is part of a range of measures designed to financially bolster the venue in what it describes as a “volatile operating environment”. Other actions include covering operational costs from financial reserves and cutting overall spending.

In comments to the Scottish parliament last week, V&A Dundee director Leonie Bell said that over the previous five years, the museum had endured “year on year of mitigating measures”, leading to difficulties “to plan beyond a year ahead”.

An independent report published in September 2023 estimated that V&A Dundee had generated £304m for the Scottish economy in the five years since it opened.

The venue receives most of its funding from the Scottish government, which recently increased its grant for 2024/25 by £800,000, taking it to £3.8m.

Renowned Bath music venue closes

05 Dec 2023

A music venue in Bath that has hosted some of the biggest names in UK music has closed with immediate effect.

The Music Venue Trust said that the city's Moles venue has filed for insolvency, stating that the rise in costs and overheads and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis have made it impossible to continue.

Since opening its doors in 1978, the 220-capacity venue has hosted acts including Ed Sheeran, The Killers, Fat Boy Slim, Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, The Smiths and Idles during the early stages of their careers.

Tom Maddicott, co-owner of Moles, said: "Massively increased costs of stock, utilities and rent compounded by our customers also feeling the impact of the crisis has made it impossible to continue. 

"It’s obviously an incredibly difficult decision to have to take, for our team, the staff, the local community, and the artists that over the years have created such an incredible history of music.

"But the reality is that live music at grassroots level is no longer economically viable, and we will not be the only grassroots music venue forced to close. 

"There needs to be a major shake-up of the live industry with the big players supporting the grassroots where it all begins to secure that pipeline of talent."

Council commits to future of arts venue

Morecambe Platform Railway Station
27 Nov 2023

Lancaster City Council has launched a new membership scheme for The Platform and vowed to continue running the art venue, which was facing the threat of closure.

Arts leader calls for boost to Welsh arts funding

21 Nov 2023

Artistic Director of Wales Millennium Centre, Graeme Farrow, has warned of a “crisis” in the Welsh cultural sector and urged politicians to consider a 10% boost in arts funding to "steady the ships".

Speaking to BBC's Politics Wales, Farrow said there was "panic" throughout the industry amid cuts to the arts. "We've got Michael Sheen in a big show next May about Nye Bevan, and I'm genuinely thinking 'How are we going to sustain talent like that into the future in Wales?'

"People are going to be making less shows, there's going to be less opportunities for young people to be creative and gain skills, there's going to be less opportunities for people to participate in the arts, and gradually that's going to erode what the culture of the nation is."

In 2023-24, the Welsh government committed £33.3m to Arts Council of Wales, making up 0.2% of the government's total budget.

Farrow said the yearly cost of "just opening the doors and running” Wales Millennium Centre has increased by £1m since 2019.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, Tom Giffard, said: "We are known as the land of song, our people go on to be world-famous actors - we should be nurturing and growing this talent, not throwing it away."

The Welsh government said: "We are committed to working with the cultural sector during these challenging times and recognise the valuable contribution culture makes to the economy and wellbeing of people in Wales."

Staying warm this winter

Man working in library
20 Nov 2023

As winter approaches, with energy bills remaining stubbornly high, Libraries Connected Chief Executive Isobel Hunter says the Warm Welcome Campaign is more relevant than ever.

Affordable creative coworking venue opens in London

07 Nov 2023

Arts charity Artists Studio Company (ASC) has opened a creative venue in London providing affordable workspaces to creatives.

The Handbag Factory in Vauxhall opened in October with an official launch event planned on 23 November.

ASC says it opened the space in response to the cost-of-living crisis and changing creative working practices.

It will welcome creative practitioners working in fields such as the visual arts, fashion, print, design, photography, film, writing and illustration.

The venue features dedicated and coworking desks, meeting rooms and two hire galleries substantially below market rates.

It is also home to the ASC Gallery, a free public art gallery focused on supporting new talented artists and makers.

ASC CEO Peter Flack said the cost of an arts education and the cost of living in London is affecting the capital's global cultural status.

“London is literally being culturally hollowed out. For art and culture to thrive, it has to include people from all walks of life. If art excludes people and becomes the voice of only the privileged few, it will simply be irrelevant,” he added.

“ASC aims to address this problem brick by brick. The Handbag Factory will not solve the problem, but it will help.’’

Financial climate for museums to 'get worse before it gets better'

04 Oct 2023

The cost-of-living crisis continues to impact museums across England, and the situation is expected to get worse before it gets better, according to a new report.

Funded by Arts Council England and produced by South West Museum Development, the Annual Museums Survey gathered data on 700 accredited non-national English museums. It found while visitor numbers in 2022/23 were higher than the previous year, they were down 18% on pre-pandemic levels.

Museums also reported increased expenditure of 10%, mainly on energy bills, materials, staff costs and travel. At the same time, visitor spending was down overall and some organisations had also experienced a drop in donations.

After a slight increase in reported income during 2020/21 and 2021/22, overall income for museums dropped by 3% in 2022/23.

The report found museums attempting to balance the need to generate more revenue by increasing ticket prices with a desire to keep admission fees low to encourage visitors.

Respondents said schools were struggling to fund museum visits for pupils, especially the transport costs. The report concluded that museum visitor demographics and behaviour are increasingly difficult to predict.

The cost-of-living crisis has also significantly impacted museum staff and volunteers, according to the survey, as some employees departed for higher-paid jobs or moved to new roles closer to home.

Seasonal staff and lower-paid positions in retail, catering and cleaning proved challenging to hire, while some volunteers returned to paid jobs or could not afford to travel to perform their roles.

Despite this, the number of volunteers increased last year by 11%, only 5% fewer than pre-pandemic levels.

Victoria Harding, Programme Manager at South West Museum Development, said: "A range of factors, such as free entry and geography, have influenced the degree to which museum visitors have returned to pre-pandemic levels.  

"However, across the sector, irrespective of how successfully museums have generated increased income through a variety of new, or enhanced, ways this progress is outstripped by the increase in expenditure reported by 64% of museums."

Performing arts among fastest growing sectors of economy

A woman performing on stage holding a skull
28 Sep 2023

Government figures reveal the economic value of music, performing and visual arts is outperforming the rest of the economy, but sector leaders warn individual venues continue to struggle.

Wildcard Theatre Company closes due to financial climate

27 Sep 2023

Wildcard Theatre Company has announced its closure after eight years of operation, citing financial difficulties. 

“Having taken this time to consider our options after the closure of our Wildcard Studios at the end of last year, we feel as a collective we’re not in a position to achieve our aims as effectively and dynamically as we previously have in the current financial climate,” the company said in a statement.

“This has led to the difficult decision to close this wonderful chapter in our lives. It will take us a few months to complete this process.”

Wildcard Studios, the company’s four-storey West End venue offering subsided rehearsal space and free study space, was launched in 2019 and closed at the end of last year.

During its three years of operation, the space engaged with over 1,200 individual companies and artists and had more than 4,000 booking, despite restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the company said.

Wildcard Theatre Company was formed in 2015 by a group of graduates from the Oxford School of Drama with a mission to champion unknown talent.

It eventually evolved into a charity that “aimed to engage new audiences and provide a home for emerging artists”, the statement said, as well as developing “stories that promoted positive social change”.

The company “will no longer be creatively contributing to the theatre landscape” but will be working with the Pleasance Theatre to set up a Wildcard grant in support of their Associate Artist scheme.

More information about the grant is expected to be released in the coming months.


Grassroots music sector in ‘full-blown crisis’

Band playing in front of a crowd at a small venue
26 Sep 2023

Research conducted by Music Venues Trust finds 125 grassroots music venues across the UK have been lost in the last eight months.


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