The real Big Bang

Poet Scarlett Ward leads a poetry workshop in conjunction with About Us and UNBOXED
22 Feb 2022

About Us* is a dazzling free show combining projection mapping, animation, music and poetry. At its heart, says Maggie Aderin-Pocock, is a simple message: we are all connected. 

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.

Little moments of joy

Projection on cargo truck
09 Jun 2021

While audiences are most comfortable returning to outdoor events, organising a festival that can flex around ever-changing restrictions is still no mean feat. Penny Mills and Jonathan Goodacre have been looking at what’s working.

Coventry 2021: City of Culture is open for business

Coventry city of culture shop
19 May 2021

Despite all the difficulties of the past year, Jake Bartle and Emily Coleman are confident that this year’s festival will be a celebration of artistic achievement.

Belfast music festivals provide £31m economic boost

08 Apr 2024

Two of Belfast’s biggest outdoor music events generated £30.8m for Northern Ireland's economy, a study has found.

According to an independent report, the 2023 editions of Belsonic Festival at Ormeau Park and Emerge Music Festival in Boucher Fields, also created nearly 6,000 paid employment opportunities.

Northern Ireland's Economy Minister Conor Murphy said: "Events such as Belsonic and Emerge are considerable economic drivers providing a much needed boost for our local tourism and hospitality industry.

"Employing thousands of people each year, they also engender a feel good factor and a sense of pride that shouldn’t be underestimated."

Edinburgh Fringe artists' funding scheme extended

04 Apr 2024

An initiative which financially supports UK-based artists and companies taking work to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has been extended by two years as a result of £1m capital funding to the Fringe Society from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said the funding would "protect this talent pipeline and nurture the next generation of British artists [by] improving the festival’s accessibility". 

Launched last year, the Keep it Fringe fund saw more than 670 artists apply for 50 bursaries. 

Across 2024 and 2025, the extended programme will offer 360 bursaries -180 each year - of £2,500 each. Of this, £ 2,000 will be paid upfront, with the remaining £500 to support admin and reporting to be paid after the festival.

Applicants will be assessed by "external specialists" to identify those that demonstrate "the greatest need and the boldest ideas".

The Fringe Society says £900,000 of the £1m from DCMS will go directly to support artists over the two years, with £50,000 per year used to support administration and payment to freelance assessors involved in the process, as well as accessibility and event support for funded artists at during the Fringe.

The announcement comes after the Fringe Society revealed it has been turned down for support twice in the space of a month by national funding body Creative Scotland.

Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Fringe Society, said: “We recognise that for many, the financial challenges of putting on a show can prevent some artists from coming to the festival. This funding will enable the Edinburgh Fringe to be more accessible than ever to artists from across the UK.”

Honorary Fringe Society President Phoebe Waller-Bridge added: “To have the government support this fund is to feel the sun come out from behind a cloud. Thank you to the Fringe Society for endlessly campaigning for artists, and thank you to those in government for recognising the cultural importance of the Fringe and the artistic freedom that defines it.”

Glasgow literary festivals cancelled

02 Apr 2024

Two literary festivals in Glasgow have been cancelled after a funding application to Creative Scotland was unsuccessful.

Glasgow Life, the charity that runs the Aye Write and Wee Write festivals, said the events will not take place this year after it failed to secure financial support from the public body.

"While bids from events for funding support continue to exceed monies available—especially during the current difficult economic climate—some events will inevitably miss out, and we recognise that decision-making around funding award recipients is extremely challenging," the charity's website said.

"Unfortunately, our 2024 funding application to Creative Scotland was not successful, so Aye Write and Wee Write will not be able to take place as festivals this year."

The charity added that it will organise some pop-up events during 2024 and develop its funding application for next year.

Scottish authors have been among those raising concerns about the situation.

Val McDermid said it was “profoundly depressing” that Glasgow “cannot sustain a book festival”, while Stuart called it “unacceptable”. O’Hagan said the cancellation is “savage, and it shouldn’t be happening”.

Douglas Stuart also said there was “righteous outrage” over the cancellation.

“I have watched in horror, as Scotland has haggled over funding for the arts, has closed her libraries, and now has allowed the cancellation of a major literary festival in her largest city,” he posted on X.

Edinburgh Filmhouse to reopen after receiving £1.5m grant

Edinburgh Filmhouse
25 Mar 2024

The independent cinema, which closed in 2022, will use the grant to modernise its facilities, offering improved access and facilities.

Croydon allocates £850k for Borough of Culture legacy

Croydon city centre 2017
18 Mar 2024

The money will go toward projects in the city centre, including an annual festival event and new signage to promote cultural venues.

Vault Festival closes after funding for new venue falls through

14 Mar 2024

London's Vault Festival of theatre and performance has announced its closure after funding for its new venue fell through.

Growing number of UK music festivals announce cancellations

28 Feb 2024

The Association of Independent Festivals urges government action after at least 10 UK music festivals say they will not go ahead as planned this year due to rising costs. 

Manchester festival commits to supporting grassroots venues

21 Feb 2024

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has announced an agreement with RADAR Festival for a percentage of every ticket to go towards supporting grassroots music venues via the charity’s Pipeline Investment Fund. 

RADAR Festival, the contemporary indoor music festival in Manchester, is the first festival to agree to donate to the Pipeline Investment Fund which has awarded more than £260,000 to 61 UK Grassroots Music Venues since it was founded in 2022.

Co-organiser Catherine Jackson-Smith said: “If we don’t protect the smaller venues then there isn’t a pipeline for the next [festival] headliners, and this ticking time bomb is something that the music industry can, and must, take action on.” 

MVT CEO and founder Mark Davyd said: “We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to RADAR Festival, for taking this bold step as the first festival to champion the Pipeline Investment Fund. 

"Their support is a strong commitment to the heart and soul of the UK's music scene, nurturing its roots through the vital network of Grassroots Music Venues."

Attendance at Manchester International Festival tops 300,000

07 Feb 2024

Last summer’s Manchester International Festival (MIF23) attracted more than 325,000 visitors to the city, according to a new report.

The report, by Manchester City Council’s Economy and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee, found the amount of money spent by attendees at the ninth edition of the biennial festival totaled £39.2m.

Almost half (47%) of visits to MIF23 were by first-timers to the festivals, compared with 36% in 2019 and 40% in 2021.

A total of 428 volunteers contributed 9,000 volunteer hours during the 18-day event. Meanwhile, 178 artists benefited from a development opportunity at MIF23, and more than 1,164 children were involved in creative activities.

The council’s report also found more than 300,000 visitors have passed through the doors of Manchester’s Aviva Studios since it opened last summer, with almost a third (32%) from Manchester.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Manchester City Council Deputy Leader, said 2023 "was without doubt a stand-out year for culture in Manchester and MIF23 had a big part to play in this".

"From visitor spend and audience numbers, to volunteer hours and the number of amazing opportunities for local artists, residents and young people to get involved, together with a world-class programme of new work to see and enjoy, the festival delivers on every front. 

"And now with the opening of Aviva Studios, the country's landmark new building for the arts, it's very clear that Manchester is the cultural place to be."

Edinburgh Fringe: Accommodation boost for performers

Exterior shot of Queen Margaret University
06 Feb 2024

Partnership between Fringe Society and local university forms part of efforts to double number of affordable rooms available to performers for the 2024 festival.

Cultural festival awarded £30k from ACE

24 Jan 2024

A new cultural festival in Broxtrowe, Nottinghamshire, has received £30,000 of Arts Council England (ACE) funding. 

Running throughout June, the festival will offer indoor and outdoor events, including a mix of theatre performances, art workshops, film screenings and live music.

The bid to ACE was made through a Community Committee comprising Broxtowe Borough Council members and officers as well as local people with experience in the culture sector.

Chair of the Community Committee, Councillor Teresa Cullen, said: “This is such a significant amount of funding and such an exciting opportunity for us in Broxtowe. The festival will bring the best of Broxtowe cultural groups and artists to venues across the breadth of the borough. 

“It will also be a really important way for us to break down barriers between areas of our local community, raise awareness of issues like disability and mental health through cultural performances and be accessible for people for all backgrounds."

Can fungi boost festival sustainability?

Crowds around a stage at Glastonbury Festival
24 Jan 2024

An Arts Council England-backed project has been exploring whether mycelium, a material made from the root network of fungi, can be used to construct sustainable temporary structures at festivals.

Fringe festival chiefs call for regular government funding

16 Jan 2024

Leaders of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society say the city’s status as host of a leading cultural festival is in jeopardy unless the Scottish government offers a new funding approach.

Study on future of arts festivals launches 

15 Jan 2024

British Arts Festivals Association (BAFA) will undertake a UK-wide research study to assess the future of arts festivals.

Supported by Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales and Creative Scotland, BAFA is commissioning BOP Consulting to research issues including sustainability, equality, diversity and access. 

The data will be used to benchmark the sector, quantifying its contribution to the economy and the places festivals serve. BAFA said it hopes the findings will demonstrate the challenges and opportunities for the sector in the wake of Covid and Brexit.  

Fiona Goh, Director of BAFA, said: “There’s never been a more critical time for BAFA to be able to capture the size, scale and impact of this extraordinary range of cultural events in the arts festivals sector, taking place across the UK.  

"This vital research will not only help us understand the scope of work currently happening in the sector, and to pinpoint the impacts of the pandemic and Brexit, but also help us see how festivals are responding to the challenges of sustainability, the cost of living crisis and social justice movements. 

"We’re delighted that investment from three national arts councils will provide the data that we need to support the sector in shaping a better future together.”

Findings from the survey, which can be accessed here, are due to be shared in the autumn.

My Gurus: Culture at its best

Kersten England
11 Jan 2024

With Bradford City of Culture 2025 just one year away, its Chair Kersten England reflects on the people who have helped pave the way in her career.

Edinburgh Deaf Festival 'facing funding crisis'

Chief Exec of Deaf Action Philip Gerrard with Edinburgh Deaf Festival Ambassador Nadia Nadarajah at the 2023 festival launch
11 Dec 2023

Organisers say losing the festival would mean fewer opportunities for deaf artists to fulfil their potential.

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