Government complacency 'jeopardising creative industries'

A seated woman using a VR headset
17 Jan 2023

Inquiry into the future of UK's creative industries calls for government to place sector at the heart of its growth agenda and fix 'incoherent' policies.

Gallery plagued by racism accusations relaunches

Exterior of esea contemporary's building in Manchester
10 Jan 2023

Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art relaunches as 'esea contemporary' following critical audit that found it had lost sight of its mission and purpose. 

Union launches campaign against Creative Scotland cuts

22 Dec 2022

Performing arts and entertainment trade union Equity has launched a campaign against the Scottish Government’s decision to cut funding for arts and culture, labelling the move "economically illiterate".

The Scottish Government plans to cut Creative Scotland’s budget by £7m – a 10% decrease – in 2023/24. 

Creative Scotland has responded by saying it will go into its reserves in order to maintain the current levels of financial support it provides arts and culture organisations in Scotland.

Equity is calling for the cut to be reversed and is asking supporters to write to their local Member of Scottish Parliament to raise the issue in parliament.

“Lets be clear, with inflation into double digits, this isn’t a 10% cut to arts funding. It is much worse than that,” National Officer for Equity Adam Adnyana said.

“These cuts should not be used to justify low pay offers, or the end of stable work for performers and creatives. We call on the Scottish Government to revisit these economically illiterate cuts.
“And we also give fair warning to employers that we will not allow you to use this as an excuse to degrade terms, conditions, or pay offers. No tactic will be off the table.”

Creative Scotland uses reserves to maintain arts funding levels

billboard outside the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh
19 Dec 2022

Creative Scotland pledges to support arts and culture organisations at current levels for further year despite 10% cut by Scottish Government.

Call for 'immediate action' to safeguard local culture

16 Dec 2022

Urgent action is required to protect local cultural services in the face of the cost of living crisis, a Local Government Association (LGA) report has concluded.

The Commission on Culture and Local Government, set up earlier this year by the LGA, found that the cost of living crisis, combined with the prospect of recession, and pressure on public services pose "new challenges".

"Under these circumstances it would be tempting to dismiss investment in cultural services as a luxury we can’t afford," the report states.

"But for the same reasons, these services have never been more important. 

"Cultural services, organisations and practitioners bring people together at times of crisis and celebration, they provide support and social connection, create jobs, develop new adaptive skills, and underpin empathy and critical thinking."

The report calls on local government, regional bodies, cultural arms-length bodies and national government to work together with cultural organisations and communities to "take immediate action to safeguard the future of local cultural infrastructure".

It says this should be followed by a longer-term action plan to deliver a series of outcomes including targeting regional inequalities and enabling local authorities to develop and deliver meaningful place-led strategies for culture, and a "power shift" towards place-led approaches to enable communities, cultural providers and practitioners to shape local decision making.

Baroness Lola Young, Chair of the commission, said: "Access to culture and creativity provides hope and inspiration and enriches people’s lives. That access must be fair for all.

"I hope our findings and recommendations will help councils, regional bodies, cultural arm's-length bodies and national government to work together with cultural organisations and communities to weather the latest storm and secure the future of this vital community infrastructure.”

ACE refuses to publish 'sensitive' ENO letters

The interior of the London Coliseum, home to English National Opera
13 Dec 2022

Arts Council England rebuffs move to have discussions with English National Opera over possible relocation to Manchester published, claiming doing so could 'jeopardise the commercial viability' of National Portfolio applicants.

Henley: 'Many cities interested in hosting ENO'

External view of the Coliseum in London
09 Dec 2022

Arts Council England Chief Executive Darren Henley highlights future possibilities for English National Opera while facing questions from MPs on National Portfolio funding decisions.

Arts Council Northern Ireland supports first-time digital artists

06 Dec 2022

Five artists have been awarded a total of £40,000 by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for new digital art projects.

Aimed at artists making digital work for the first time, the artists who have received Individual Artists Digital Evolution Awards are: Csilla Toldy, Michael McEvoy, Michael Speers, Peter O’Doherty and Rueben Brown.

The funded projects include McEvoy's contemporary dance-based project, A Kiss for a Kiss.

The project will feature a duet between a real-world dancer and a digitally-animated avatar.

Movement will be captured through motion-capture suits, with the data transferred using augmented reality technology.

Gilly Campbell, Director of Arts Development at Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: "The programme will support these artists in the creation of art using digital and immersive technologies, and will also help them develop skills in new technologies."

Leeds 2023 signs fair pay union agreement

05 Dec 2022

Leeds Culture Trust has agreed that all creatives working on the LEEDS 2023 cultural programme will be paid fair wages and have safe and secure working conditions.

The agreement forms part of a Memorandum of Understanding between Leeds Culture Trust and trade unions TUC Yorkshire and Humber, Equity, Artists’ Union England, BECTU and Musicians' Union.

The trust says it will encourage partners and stakeholders to also “engage with appropriate unions to create agreements for the creative sector workers they employ”.

A similar agreement was signed ahead of Coventry’s stint as City of Culture 2021 and in Birmingham for the cultural programme that coincided with this year’s Commonwealth Games.

“At a time when precarious engagements and poor pay are threatening to overshadow the UK’s cultural strength, again Leeds is leading the way by putting the terms and conditions of the creative workforce at the heart of what it means to have a year of culture,” Equity General Secretary Paul Fleming said.

“Great art thrives when artists have dignity at and in their work, which is exactly what this Memorandum of Understanding aims to assure.”

DCMS 'overstated' economic value of UNBOXED festival

Image of light installation projected onto a building
02 Dec 2022

Investigation of government's flagship UNBOXED festival finds it was given go-ahead despite an 'overstatement' of its value to the economy by DCMS, but broadly met its audience targets.

Westminster Council pledges £1.8m funding for arts

02 Dec 2022

Westminster City Council has announced it will set aside £1.8m for arts and culture funding over the next four years.

The council said the money will help fund a range of projects to make culture more accessible to residents and visitors.

It added that it hopes to break down social and economic barriers by extending free cultural opportunities to those facing financial hardship, young people, over-65s, ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities and those experiencing social isolation.

Within the budget is a new annual Culture and Community Grants Programme, which invites local organisations and schools to bid for up to £10,000 of funding to help deliver community-based projects. 

Tim Roca, Deputy Leader at Westminster Council and Cabinet Member for Young People, Learning and Leisure, said: “I’m very excited to announce this new cultural budget that will fund a range of projects across Westminster. 

"This new funding will bring culture directly into our communities and provide a boost for Westminster’s thriving arts scene which attracts so many visitors each year."

Coventry reports City of Culture boost

02 Dec 2022

Coventry’s visitor economy recorded a large increase in its economic value in 2021, while the city was UK City of Culture, new research indicates.

Research commissioned by destination management organisation Destination Coventry calculated the economic impact of tourism in the city using a model that takes into account attractions footfall, car park usage, festival and event statistics, and hotel market data.

It found Coventry’s visitor economy increased to a value of £495m in 2021, an increase of £265m compared with 2020.

The city attracted 8.2 million visitors during 2021, a 103% increase on 2020 levels. Wider figures for the West Midlands Combined Authority region found a 72% year-on-year increase in visitors for the area.

“It is easy to forget that at the start of 2021 we were still in Covid-19 restrictions, as a matter of fact the first UK City of Culture event was held when restrictions were still in place,” Destination Coventry Managing Director Paul Jones said.

“So, to have recovered to this extent is excellent and the figures featured in this latest economic impact report are certainly something the tourism sector in Coventry should be proud of.”

Corin Crane, Chief Executive of Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, added: “Events such as City of Culture have set the foundations for success here in Coventry and now it’s up to us to capitalise and keep that momentum going.”

MPs to investigate Arts Council England funding decisions

Arts Council England Chief Executive Darren Henley
27 Nov 2022

Department for Digital Media and Sport Select Committee will hold an evidence session with Arts Council England's Chief Executive Darren Henley next week.

Fewer than three million visited Unboxed in person

22 Nov 2022

A £120m celebration of British creativity attracted a total of 2.8 million visitors, newly published audience data shows.

As well as 2.8 million people visiting free live events for the Unboxed festival, 13.5 million accessed digital and broadcast content and 1.7 million took part in learning, volunteer and community participation activities, organisers claim.

The headline figure includes the television audience of a special edition of the BBC programme Countryfile broadcast last month, which featured a 15-minute segment of content created by Unboxed.

The figures fall significantly short of a “stretch target” of 66 million set by the festival’s chief creative officer, Martin Green, who recently left Unboxed to run next year’s Eurovision song contest in Liverpool.

The National Audit Office is currently conducting an official probe into the value for money provided by the government-funded festival - widely dubbed 'The Festival of Brexit' - following a critical report by the DCMS Select Committee which concluded that the investment was "an irresponsible use of public money".

Stuart Andrew, the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Civil Society, said the festival had “taken culture to the doorsteps of millions in communities right across the UK” and “inspired people who attended events, got involved online or watched on TV”.

Since February, 10 free Unboxed projects have opened across the UK. These include a decommissioned gas platform called See Monster in Weston-super-Mare and a trail through the solar system called Our Place in Space in Northern Ireland, Liverpool and Cambridge.

ENO Chair warns of closure if forced to move

21 Nov 2022

English National Opera (ENO) will close permanently in April next year if it is forced to move out of London, its Chair has warned.

The organisation was one of the most high-profile casualties of Arts Council England's latest investment decisions having been dropped from the National Portfolio, through which it was provided £12.5m a year.

ACE has offered it up to £17m over three years to relocate, potentially to Manchester, but The Stage reports that, speaking at an All-Party Parliamentary Group for opera last week, ENO Chair Harry Brünjes said the idea of moving the ENO out of London needed to be "flattened".

"There is a lot of discussion around relocation to Manchester, and we have got to flatten that immediately. There is no relocation," Brünjes said

He criticised ACE’s decision, insisting supporters should not be distracted by the word "relocation", as he argued that, unless the cut was reversed or additional funding found, it would be the end of the ENO.

He added: "This is closing ENO down. This is losing 600 jobs from London of talented and devoted and able people across all departments – so let’s get this clear."

"Manchester is the final scene of The Wizard of Oz – you pull [back] the curtain, and there is a bloke turning a wheel and puffing smoke in the air.

"So as it stands, ENO will close in April after nearly a century, and that’s the end of it."

Henley defends ACE funding decisions

16 Nov 2022

Amid protests against Arts Council England decision to cease funding a range of organisations through the National Portfolio, Chief Executive Darren Henley stresses the importance of 'taking culture where it hasn't been before'.

ACE National Portfolio 2023-26: Decision day

21 Oct 2022

With less than a week to go until the details of the new National Portfolio are announced, Arts Professional looks at what organisations can expect on the day and what they need to do next.

ACE chooses Bradford to announce National Portfolio

18 Oct 2022

Decisions on which organisations will be chosen for the National Portfolio for the next three years will be announced next week in Bradford, the host of UK City of Culture 2025, Arts Council England (ACE) has revealed.

The announcement will take place at 11am on Wednesday 26 October at a live-streamed press conference with the organisation's Chair Sir Nicholas Serota and Chief Executive Darren Henley.

The pair will announce the organisations that will be funded through its Investment Programme for 2023-26. 

A total of 1,730 applications have been made to the programme, requesting just over £2bn over the three-year investment period.

ACE has said that the record-breaking number of applications is more than double the number of NPOs it currently invests in, making it the most over-subscribed investment round in its history.

National Audit Office to scrutinise Unboxed

11 Oct 2022

An official probe into the value for money provided by the £120m Unboxed festival will be conducted by the National Audit Office (NAO).

In a letter published today the Comptroller and Auditor General of the NAO, Gareth Davies, said he expects to produce a report on the costs and benefits, management and planning of the project by the end of the year.

The move follows a critical report on the government-funded festival by the DCMS Select Committee which concluded that the investment was "an irresponsible use of public money" given the government’s own admission that it does not know what it is for.

It was reported last month that visitor numbers for four of the 10 events of the festival have been 238,000, compared with a "stretch target" of 66 million.

Chair of the DCMS Select Committee Julian Knight said: “That such an exorbitant amount of public cash has been spent on a so-called celebration of creativity that has barely failed to register in the public consciousness raises serious red flags about how the project has been managed from conception through to delivery. 

"The NAO’s investigation will bring welcome and thorough scrutiny and help get to the bottom of how so much tax-payer money could be frittered away for so little return.”

DCMS has said that it "[does] not agree with the select committee's views", adding that more than four million people have engaged in Unboxed programming so far, with numbers set to rise further.

Orchestras face calls to improve repertoire diversity

10 Oct 2022

Study on gender and race diversity of composers played by orchestras sees UK fare better than global average, but sector figures say there's more work to be done.  


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