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? 

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.

Conservation costs at National Trust hit record high

21 Sep 2023

The National Trust (NT) has reported spending a record £179m on conserving its historic buildings and collections last year.

In a report published before the NT’s annual general meeting in November, the organisation detailed some of the rising costs it has had to contend with over the past year, including the doubling of its energy bill to £11m. 

Despite the challenging economic landscape in 2022-23, the NT’s workforce increased in contrast to 2020-21, when the closure of its buildings during the pandemic led to the loss of 1,700 jobs.

Last year, the NT funded 13,245 hours of work on delicate historic collections and spent £25.6m on “significant acquisitions”.

The organisation also saw a boost in visitors at pay-for-entry venues. At the same time, membership rose slightly from 5.71m in 2021-22 to 5.73m in 2022-23, with the cost of individual membership increasing by 16.5% to £84 a year.

As well as record spending, the NT received record amounts in bequeathed legacies last year, topping £70m.

Hilary McGrady, the NT’s Director General, said: “The record funds we dedicated in the last financial year reflects the NT’s enduring commitment to the beautiful historic places in its care and the nation’s enthusiasm for this.

“We were able to make this significant investment during a particularly difficult economic environment, with rising costs and continued recovery from the pandemic, thanks to the millions of people who supported our cause.”

Hollywood strike action hits UK film and TV crews

07 Sep 2023

A survey commissioned by the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (Bectu) suggests that industrial disputes in the US are having a significant adverse effect on the UK’s film and TV workforce.

The union questioned nearly 4,000 freelance film and TV workers in this country about the impact strike action by American writers and actors has had on their employment, finances and mental health.

Three-quarters of the survey respondents reported currently not working, and 80% said their employment had been directly impacted by the US industrial disputes.

Over a third of participants said that they are struggling to pay household bills, rent or mortgages, while 90% said that they were worried about their financial security, 

Nearly a quarter said they did not see themselves working in the industry in five years' time.

Commenting on the survey results, the head of Bectu, Philippa Childs, said, “Much of the rhetoric surrounding the US dispute is about the actors, but as our survey shows, the impact on crew and other film and TV workers is severe and cannot be underestimated.

“This is a workforce that has already faced incredible hardship throughout and following the pandemic and has now been hit by a second crisis in just a few years. 

“Many of our members have been laid off from productions under ‘force majeure’ clauses with little notice or pay, and with 6 in 10 respondents telling us they are struggling with their mental health, it’s clear the impact also extends beyond financial insecurity.

“For too long, we have seen a pattern of engaging crew where they are picked up and dropped again with little notice, protection or reassurances about future employment. They are often the first to suffer and the hardest hit when production is impacted.

“The government is vocal about the huge cultural and economic value of the creative industries; it must put its money where its mouth is and look after those who work in the sector. Likewise, urgent industry collaboration and commitment from employers to support the freelance workforce is critical if we want to UK to remain a cultural hub.”

Commercial art gallery closes after 15 years

24 Aug 2023

A commercial contemporary art gallery in central London has closed due to "mounting debts" made worse by Brexit, inflation and a drop in sales.

FOLD, which was founded 15 years ago by Kim Savage, has gone into voluntary liquidation and all future exhibitions have been cancelled.

Savage said that "mounting historic debts, the fallout from the pandemic lockdowns, Brexit, inflation and a general downturn in sales" had resulted in the "sudden decision" to close the gallery.

FOLD was initially a project space in Hackney, east London when it first launched in 2008.

The gallery moved to Clerkenwell and then Fitzrovia eight years ago.

Savage added: "I am deeply saddened to make this announcement and really have tried my utmost to avoid this and to make it work, but I am afraid now the tank is empty".

Artists in London reliant on income from outside sector

Artist Grayson Perry, a former ACME tenant, in his studio at Carpenters Road 1994-5.
13 Jul 2023

Survey of artists with affordable rent studios in London finds only one in three make a living from work within the industry.

Theatre and live music prices rise as inflation remains at 8.7%

21 Jun 2023

Increases in the cost of theatre and live music performances have contributed to record inflation rates for recreation and culture, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show.

Data published today by the ONS shows the UK's inflation rate stayed at 8.7% in May - the same rate as in April - and down from a peak of 11.1% last year.

The ONS said that while falling prices for motor fuel was one of a number of areas that contributed to downward pressure on inflation, this was counteracted by increases in others.

It cited rising prices for recreational and cultural goods and services as being among the "largest upward contributors".

The annual inflation rate for this category in the year up to May 2023 was 6.8%, up from 6.4% in April.  

It represents the highest level of inflation for recreational and cultural goods and services since the ONS began recording figures in their current format in January 2006. The last time it was higher was in August 1991 when annual price rises were recorded at 7.2%.

The ONS has attributed some of the rise to cultural services, where average charges for live music events and theatre admissions rose this year having fallen a year ago.

Campaign to make festivals affordable for the young 

A large crowd in front of a stage at an outdoor summer music festival in England, UK.
13 Jun 2023

Amid evidence that rising costs are preventing young people from accessing music festivals, a new campaign seeks to offer tickets for just £18.

Festival cancelled over cost of living concerns

12 Jun 2023

A music festival in Essex has been cancelled due to escalating production costs.

The BBC reports that artists including Bastille, James Bay, Clean Bandit, Texas and Freya Ridings were due to perform at the Hideaway Festival at Crix near Chelmsford.

A statement put out by the organisers said they had encountered "numerous challenges", including escalating production costs and the prevailing cost of living crisis. 

"Despite our best efforts, we are unable to meet the costs associated with delivering a top-quality event on such a large scale," the statement said.

"We also did not feel that it was the right choice to pass on expenses onto our valued customers and raise ticket prices further. Consequently, we have had to cancel this event."

The Mono Box announces closure after 10 years

08 Jun 2023

The Mono Box, a training organisation for the performing arts, is set to close later this year.

According to a statement released on its website, the organisation, which focused on supporting emerging talent and championing diverse new voices, has felt the effects of the pandemic, the energy crisis, the high cost of living and cuts to arts funding.

The statement continues by stating the organisation has engaged over 30,000 people in person and over 40,000 digitally worldwide since its launch in 2013.

Executive Creative Director Blayne George, who took over from co-founders Polly Bennett and Joan Iyiola in 2021, says the decision was not taken lightly.

“I am deeply proud of our work to be a catalyst for new ideas, an incubator for new work and a network where new connections and creative collaborations could flourish,” George added.

“I know it is through this beautiful community and all the connections made that the legacy of The Mono Box will continue long into the future.”

Ahead of its closure in September, The Mono Box will host a series of events and workshops, with details available on its website.

Perthshire festival cancels over low ticket sales

07 Jun 2023

A music and arts festival in the grounds of a historic country house in Perthshire has been cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

The organisers of the Otherlands Music and Arts Festival at Scone Palace, Perth also cited rising production costs and the loss of grant funding as reasons for pulling the plug on three-day event planned for 11-13 August.

Describing the decision as "devastating" and "heart-breaking", they said in a statement they were "absolutely gutted that we could not make the festival a reality this year".

The statement continued: "An independent festival comes with a whole host of challenges and despite doing everything we can, we are unable to deliver the show to the high standard it needs to be, and therefore it is no longer viable to continue".

The announcement comes as the Association of Indepedent Festivals says the costs associated with putting on an event are becoming "untenable" for indepedent festivals.

This year would have been the second outing for the festival, which took place for the first time in August 2022.

The festival has committed to refunding all ticket holders within 14 days.

Rising costs ‘devastating’ independent festival sector

an audience waits for an act to start at Bluedot main stage, with a telescope behind the stage
07 Jun 2023

Trade body says the risks associated with staging a festival are now 'very high' due to increased production costs and a drop in the disposable income of audiences.

Battersea Arts Centre makes redundancies in face of rising costs

The main entrance to Battersea Arts Centre
16 May 2023

Increasing costs, inflationary pressures and changes to funding have led to the National Portfolio Organisation taking 'tough decisions', including six redundancies.


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