‘It’s OK to be me’

Primary school children seated on the floor in a circle
05 Oct 2022

Safeguarding young people has become a live issue in schools. Scottish Ballet’s Safe to Be Me® programme is tackling the issue head on, as Catherine Cassidy explains.

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.

Museum leaves online platform after trans rights 'Twitter storm'

A phone showing social media apps including X (formally Twitter)
15 Nov 2023

As cultural organisations address divisive issues in an increasingly challenging social media landscape, some are choosing to leave certain platforms after experiencing controversy.

AI: Why the arts should choose playfulness over fear 

Jo Burnham surrounded by balloons
01 Nov 2023

The cultural sector is wary of AI. But Jo Burnham thinks a change of mindset can accelerate learning, confidence and innovation with emerging tools.

Consultation on culture strategy for Manchester launches

31 Oct 2023

Manchester City Council is calling on residents and cultural organisations to have their say on a new decade-long plan for culture.  

The local authority has said it is keen to understand what types of creativity residents are interested in. It is seeking "ideas big and small" across everything from art, performance, galleries and museums to more hands-on art and craft opportunities.

The current 10-year strategy runs until 2026. The consultation on the new strategy will be open until 30 November 2023.

Luthfur Rahman, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Manchester has a global reputation for arts and culture, bolstered in no small part by the opening of Aviva Studios recently. 

"We are renowned for our nightlife, music and museums and we want to make sure that culture is an integral part of our communities over the next 10 years.  

“This conversation involves everyone – your ideas could be big, they might be small. But they will all help guide culture in our city."

First venue purchased under community ownership scheme

John Whittingdale MP and Mark Davyd CEO unveiling a plaque for The Snug
04 Oct 2023

An initiative dubbed the 'National Trust of Music Venues’ confirms purchase of the freehold of its first grassroots music venue.

Community is the foundation of culture

Etruria museum
11 Sep 2023

Heritage Open Days returns with thousands of free events and experiences. The National Trust’s Tom Freshwater reflects on why people venture out to participate in these community experiences.

Interest in orchestral concerts at five-year high

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
31 Aug 2023

Researchers find non-traditional programming is attracting newcomers to performances.

Project to explore Shakespeare's 'hidden' women

23 Aug 2023

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) has announced the launch of a three year project exploring the role of women in creating and maintaining the playwright’s legacy over the centuries.

“Prompted by the 400th anniversary of the death of Anne Shakespeare (nee Hathaway) earlier in August, we are embarking on an ambitious, multi-year project that will explore the sometimes hidden, often ignored, erased or forgotten stories of the many women who have influenced, as well as secured Shakespeare’s legacy,” said Professor Charlotte Scott, the trust’s Director of Knowledge and Engagement.

The SBT has committed to ensuring all the activity will be devised and led by women and female-identifying people. 

The project will focus on the lived experiences of the women in Shakespeare’s life, including his mother Mary, his sister Joan, his daughters Susannah and Judith and the extended networks of friends, neighbours and country women who maintained those relations.

The trust, which is responsible for maintaining the family homes, documents and artefacts relating to Shakespeare and Stratford-upon-Avon, will share stories and events for every family and an exhibition at Shakespeare’s New Place in Spring 2024. 

In 2025, the focus of the project will be the female gaze and the female characters who have contributed to Shakespeare’s place in theatrical history, including “lovers and Queens, witches, mothers, murderers, politicians and powerhouses”. 

The final year will centre on the women who made and continue to make Shakespeare famous, from actresses to artists, writers, readers and creatives who have brought his characters to life.

“We are approaching Shakespeare not as a single genius, but as the figurehead of a community and network of people who enabled and secured his place in the canon of western literature,” Scott said.

“He wrote at a time when society was highly patriarchal and socially stratified. However, his own life and much of his career was one which was ruled by women, from the monarch to his homelife.” 

English Heritage to introduce ‘dress up’ for adults

02 Aug 2023

Historical ‘dress up’ costumes aimed at adult visitors are due to be introduced at 11 English Heritage sites this summer.

The move is in response to research commissioned by the charity and conducted by the University of Kent that found adults have more active imaginations than children.

The study “directly refutes the commonly held belief that we become less imaginative as we get older”, the charity said.

Researchers from the university’s School of Psychology asked more than 470 people aged between four and 81 to imagine how unfamiliar historical objects could have been used. 

The answers were assessed based on characteristics including the number of unique responses and how close the guesses were to the object’s actual function.

As age increased, people were more likely to imagine uses that were closer to the actual function of the objects, but they were also more likely to give original answers and to provide more detail.

Meanwhile, adolescents and young adults came up with a larger number of suggestions spanning a wider range of categories than other age groups, suggesting that different age groups have different imaginative strengths, researchers said.

The research “shows that our imaginations continue to grow and change, even throughout adulthood, with the over 60s actually showing the most originality,” said Dr Angela Nyhout, Assistant Professor at the University of Kent’s School of Psychology, who led the research team.

“Adults’ imaginations can be just as vivid as children’s, but what they already know about the world constrains their imagination in some cases and enhances it in others. We just need the freedom of the right environment and opportunity to explore the limits of our imagination, and historical places are a perfect place to do this.”

English Heritage has used these findings to inform its One Extraordinary Summer events programme, for which it will introduce both hands-on history sessions and historical adult dress-up opportunities, with costumes including Roman togas, Medieval chainmail, Victorian suits and Tudor gowns, as well as WWII uniforms. 

At Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire, which inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, adult visitors will be invited to don vampire capes and accessories.

The 11 sites offering the costume will be Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire, Boscobel in Shropshire, Corbridge Roman Town in Northumberland, Dover Castle in Kent, Eltham Palace in London, Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, Osborne on the Isle of Wight, Pendennis Castle in Cornwall, Witley Court in Worcestershire, Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire and Wrest Park in Bedfordshire.

Central School and New Earth Theatre announce associateship

25 Jul 2023

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and New Earth Theatre have announced an associateship that will see the organisations work together to promote equity, diversity and inclusion.

The formalised associateship will solidify the close working relationship between the two organisations, which has previously seen delivery of the New Earth Performer’s Academy and Academy Plus London. 

Together, they aim to inspire and expand the platforms available for East and South East Asian (ESEA) theatre artists, actors, writing, directors, makers and practitioners.

Current plans include the development of events focused on the work of ESEA artists, the exploration of research and fellowship opportunities, and the delivery of masterclasses, workshops, guest lectures and other teaching opportunities for ESEA artists.

“This associateship marks a key moment for the company as we seek to reimagine how theatre companies can continue to grow and thrive in these relentlessly challenging times,” said Kumiko Mendl, Artistic Director of New Earth Theatre.

“By working together with a world class drama school we can begin to create new pathways of learning and sharing, of knowledge exchange that will in turn inform the work of our company and of ESEA artists. 

“The opportunities that this associateship presents are rich and varied and I look forward to embracing them in our shared goal of supporting and empowering ESEA artists and practitioners of the future.”   

Spotlight on new NPOs: Back to Ours

'Back to Ours' company photo. A diverse range of people photographed from the inside of a bus. There are people sat down and stood up. Some are performing, others are smiling and gasping.
28 Jun 2023

In our series of articles spotlighting new National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), Christina Lewis explains how Hull-based Back to Ours works with local communities to engage new audiences in the arts.

Bradford 2025 plans 'iconic' travelling performance space

13 Jun 2023

A temporary arts space named Beacon will form part of Bradford City of Culture 2025 plans, it has emerged.

Organisers are looking for architects to design a performance space made from sustainable materials, that can be dismantled and easily transported and re-installed at a number of sites. The project has a budget of around £500,000.

"The intention behind Beacon is for it to have sustainability at its heart, to celebrate Bradford’s cultural heritage and to reflect its diverse, cosmopolitan communities," competition documents issued by the Royal Institute of British Architects on behalf of Bradford 2025 state. 

"The venue will facilitate and promote meaningful interchange between communities."

While specific locations for Beacon have not been finalised yet, organisers are looking at parks in the heart of communities, where residential areas butt up against perimeter of the green space.

Shanaz Gulzar, Creative Director of Bradford 2025, said: "It’s crucial that our year as City of Culture reaches every corner of Bradford district and Beacon will be just one of the ways we do that. 

"This new peripatetic venue will be an incredible space for people to get together, to show off the creativity of our district as well as taking spectacular events and performances to a wider Bradford audience."

Building trust in policing

On duty police engaging with a public art event
07 Jun 2023

Police collaboration in arts and culture projects improves their engagement with communities, building trust and confidence, as Jacqueline Hodgson and Rachel Lewis argue in their new report.

London art school to become Tate Modern's neighbour

06 Jun 2023

An independent art school is relocating to a new building adjacent to Tate Modern as part of plans to increase access to art education.

The Art Academy London has announced that it will be moving from its current home on Borough High Street to the new Triptych Bankside building in Southwark.

The new site designed by Squire and Partners architects will provide 13,940 square feet across two levels.

It will include nine studios, two galleries, an auditorium, and workshop spaces for local artists and communities.

There will also be a cafe and art supplies shop that will be open to the public.

Art Academy principal Rob Pepper said: "This move will enable us to create many more free places for local children on our Young Artists courses, to scale our support for art teachers nationwide through free professional development courses and to extend our open-access tuition to local charities working with disabled artists.

“On top of all this, we will be able to provide subsidised exhibition spaces and low-cost studios for artists in Zone 1.”

Dr Frances Morris, outgoing director of Tate Modern, added: "What Rob and the team have done with the Art Academy is to take the art school model, which has in many ways become tired and conventional, and create something with enormous potential for lifelong learning that is open and inclusive."

Spotlight on new NPOs: Family Arts Campaign

Children in a library throwing newspapers into the air
05 Jun 2023

Connection, communities and collaboration are essential ingredients for working with families, writes Anna Dever, Director of a new Investment Principles Support Organisation within ACE’s National Portfolio.

What are patrons for?

Contact Manchester
31 May 2023

Many arts organisations list patrons on their website but do we really understand their role? Megan Bennett shares her work building a patron portfolio at Contact.

Theatre apologises for ‘encouraging poor etiquette’

30 May 2023

Norwich Theatre has apologised for “inadvertently encouraging poor theatre etiquette” after sending a newsletter with the subject line “Something to sing along to”.

Subscribers to the theatre’s mailing list received the email this week as part of promotion efforts for the venue’s upcoming musicals, including Heathers, Blood Brothers and Annie.

After recipients expressed concerns that it might encourage people in the audience to belt out the songs themselves, the company sent a follow-up email apologising.

“In trying to emphasise the fun and joyous nature of the musicals, we inadvertently appeared to endorse poor theatre etiquette,” the email said.

“Of course we don’t mean for people to literally sing along while they are in the theatre (just when booking their tickets or in the car on the way home!).

“We’re really sorry for any misunderstanding, upset and the careless language.”

The apology coincides with an ongoing debate within the theatre sector about the appropriateness of live audiences singing along to musicals.

Last month police were called to a performance of The Bodyguard in Manchester last month when audience members refused to stop loudly singing and dancing, resulting in the show being stopped 10 minutes early.

Actor, playwright and director Ben Elton, who penned the script for Queen musical We Will Rock You, weighted in on the debate on BBC Breakfast, saying that audiences “should apply good taste and good manners”.

“Nobody’s paid to sit next to somebody [singing],” he said.

Theatre's planned 'Black Out' performance proves divisive

An external photo of Theatre Royal Stratford East
23 May 2023

Stratford East attracts criticism for designating a performance for a Black audience, prompting messages of support from the theatre community.

New programme to boost disabled and neurodiverse leadership 

16 May 2023

A team of learning disabled and autistic creatives from Access All Areas have banded together to create a new national arts programme to train other learning disabled and autistic people working in the arts, as well as training staff at venues and organisations in inclusive leadership.

The team underwent two years of leadership training as part of Access All Areas’ Transforming Leadership programme, which finished in 2022.

Working with seven other disability arts companies, eight UK venues and leadership development organisations, they will launch the new programme on 19 June, to coincide with Learning Disability Week.

The new programme aims to counter the historic exclusion of learning disabled and autistic people from the UK workforce and shake up the landscape of arts leadership by involving them in strategic decisions and discussions around the art being made and the stories being told.

Creatives from Access All Areas will co-deliver leadership training for 14 other learning disabled and autistic creatives from seven UK companies. The training will focus on directing skills, how to lead community arts programmes, governance and advocacy skills.

Access All Areas will also train staff at eight UK venues and seven organisations in inclusive practice, to help overcome structural obstacles to inclusion for learning disabled and autistic at executive and board level.


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