British Museum locates further stolen items

21 May 2024

The British Museum has found a further 268 items that went missing or were stolen from its storerooms.

The Guardian reports that the latest batch of recovered items brings the total to 626. George Osborne, the museum’s Chair, said the number of items recovered so far was a “remarkable result”.

“Few expected to see this day, and even I had my doubts," he said. 

"When we announced the devastating news that objects had been stolen from our collection, people understandably assumed that was it – we were unlikely to ever see more than a handful of them again. That’s usually the history with thefts like this,” he said.

“But the team at the British Museum refused to give up. Through clever detective work and a network of well-wishers, we’ve achieved a remarkable result: more than 600 of the objects are back with us, and a further 100 have been identified – in total almost half the stolen items that we could recover.”

Around 2,000 items were found last year to be missing or lost, some of which had been sold on eBay.

Arnolfini statement criticised by Israel support organisation

16 May 2024

A group of lawyers that supports Israel has criticised a statement made by the Arnolfini last week in which the art gallery apologised for cancelling an event as part of the Bristol Palestine Film Festival last November.

Arnolfini's apology condemned "the ongoing devastation and loss of life in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel" as "abhorrent". 

“The International Court of Justice has described Israel’s actions in Gaza as plausible acts of genocide," the statement said.

UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) have claimed that the statement is "inaccurate, political and outside its charitable objects".

The group says it has written to the Executive Director of the Arnolfini Gallery, Gary Topp, claiming that the statement "demonises Israel"and "is likely to incite violence against Jews around the world", urging the organisation to "take action immediately to correct this dangerous untruth".

It’s the second apology the Bristol gallery has issued over its decision to cancel a screening of the coming-of-age film Farha, followed by a panel discussion and a live poetry night as part of the festival. However, its first statement, issued on 16 January, was criticised by campaigners for not containing the word “Palestine”.

In contrast, Arnolfini’s latest statement from its Board of Trustees and Senior Leadership Team explicitly denounces the “overwhelming humanitarian crisis" and apologises for not providing "a platform for Palestinian voices". 

Explaining its original reasoning for dropping the events, Arnolfini cited the “difficulty for arts charities hosting events that might be construed as political activity”, adding it "could not be confident" the event would not "stray into political activity".

Arnolfini's cancellation of the event was widely criticised and prompted a boycott led by the activist group Artists for Palestine, as well as a series of sit-ins that forced the venue to close.

UKLFI’s Sam Green commented: “The Arnolfini’s so-called apology is an abrogation of its duty to remain non-political. It favours a certain view, a certain sector, giving in to the clamour of a highly organised political movement and only listening to certain voices.

"The Arnolfini’s apology embeds itself in one viewpoint and fails to  recognise the rights of Jewish people in Bristol and beyond, the vast majority of whom will support the right of Israel to exist and to defend itself.”

Contact seeks 'financial resilience' after posting £1m deficit

Exterior view of Contact in Manchester
08 May 2024

Annual accounts filed by the Manchester theatre show its reserves dwindled to less than a month of operating costs, while Arts Council England has raised its risk rating.

Arnolfini speaks out on 'abhorrent loss of life' in Gaza

Arnolfini Centre for Contemporary Arts in Bristol, September 2016
08 May 2024

Arnolfini says the voices of victims of the ongoing conflict 'need to be heard' as it announces an intention to reflect the importance of freedom of expression in its policies and practices.

Campaigners write to regulator over failings at Seven Dials

30 Apr 2024

A campaign group has written an open letter to the Charity Commission expressing “deep anxiety” over the financial management of Seven Dials Playhouse after the charity failed to submit its annual return and financial statements, which are 89 days overdue.

In their letter, the campaign group Actor at the Centre (AATC) calls on the Charity Commission to “urgently engage” with the trustees at Seven Dials Playhouse to ensure they are “giving due consideration to the representations of the performing arts community in London" and "properly accounting to the public for their management of the charity”.

Formally known as The Actors Centre, the Covent Garden-based charity was founded in 1978 by patron Sir Lawrence Olivier to “create a space where working actors can network and support each other as well as continue their professional training”.

During the pandemic, the organisation was forced to close its premises, losing over half its membership. It received over £450,000 in financial support, including £360,000 from the Cultural Recovery Fund and in 2021, rebranded to become Seven Dials Playhouse, ditching its former membership model.

AATC claims the building was “repurposed” during Covid and has become a West End receiving house with regular ongoing acting training “effectively eliminated”. 

A statement from Seven Dials Theatre read out at an AATC meeting on 22 April did not directly address concerns over its financial management but did note that as a charity that is not publicly subsidised, its income is earned through ticket sales, industry and corporate hires and bar sales.

The organisation said the cost-of-living crisis and changes in audience behaviour made “forecasting income extremely challenging”.
It added that "as soon as it is viable", it plans to continue “a programme of professional and artist development".

The Charity Commission said it would be reminding the charity of its reporting responsibilities.

Royal Albert Hall drops request for more private seats

The Royal Albert Hall viewed from the centre of the Gallery.
30 Apr 2024

A private bill put to parliament by the Royal Albert Hall had sought to grant its governing body the power to sell an extra 52 seats to investors.

Concerns raised over Ireland’s lack of Arts Council Chair 

22 Apr 2024

Arts leaders and politicians in Ireland have criticised Arts and Media Minister Catherine Martin for taking over four months to appoint a Chair to the Arts Council.

Her department recently confirmed that there are currently 17 vacancies on boards of national cultural institutions across Ireland, including the role of Chair at the Arts Council - An Chomhairle Ealaíon - which has been empty since Kevin Rafter's departure, announced on 1 December last year.

The Fianna Fáil TD (a member of the lower house of the Irish Parliament) told the Irish Mail on Sunday: "This delay is most regrettable. It creates the impression that arts and culture are some sort of decorous side issue to be left on the political sideline to be waved at. This is a substantial budget which needs to be supervised appropriately."

"The arts play a key role in building wellbeing in communities, in tourism and in job creation. It is not politically wise or responsible to leave the sector without leadership," added the Cavan-Monaghan TD.

Niamh Smyth, head of the Oireachtas Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, said that cultural bodies and arts organisations “are becoming gravely concerned over the long delay in appointing a new chair”.

Sinn Féin senator Fintan Warfield previously raised the issue last month, saying: “It is now March 2024, and there is no chairperson of the Arts Council, a state agency with a budget of €130m."

Community volunteers take over theatre

08 Apr 2024

A group of 250 community volunteers has taken over a Worcestershire theatre after its operator collapsed in 2020.

In the intervening years, the Artrix in Bromsgrove became a Covid vaccination centre and then the temporary home of the Solihull Core Theatre. However, it is now run by Bromsgrove Community Arts Group, a charitable incorporated organisation created specifically to manage the theatre.

After Solihull Core Theatre did not renew its lease on the Artrix, the community group sought a short-term lease of the venue to gauge a community-led model’s viability.

Chairman of Bromsgrove Community Arts and Worcestershire County Council Kyle Daisley told the BBC: "It's all about providing a place for the community and providing opportunities for members of the community.”

"Some volunteers are so thankful we've given them a chance and a purpose in life - that's absolutely what we're all about.

"It's not just a theatre; it's a community hub for everybody. It makes the stress and the sleepless nights all worthwhile."

Science Museum signs deal for new Saudi hub

The Science Museum, London, as seen from Exhibition Road
19 Feb 2024

Science Museum Group said it hopes the new Riyadh hub will help it collaborate with museum professionals, researchers and educators in Saudi Arabia.

Government launches £24m fund for museum building projects

Rotunda Museum Interior
12 Feb 2024

The government's Museum Estate and Development fund supports capital projects for museums.

Government youth fund distributes £3m to arts projects

A permanence by young people at KBSK in Bodmin
08 Feb 2024

Arts-centric youth organisations will receive more than £3m from the government's £90m Youth Investment Fund, with the money going to some of the country's most underserved areas.

DCMS restarts search for a new V&A chair

01 Feb 2024

Ministers have had to restart the process of recruiting a new chair for the V&A Museum, according to a report from Sky News.

It claims that Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has had to restart the search for a successor to Sir Nicholas Coleridge after the original frontrunner, Samir Shah, accepted the opportunity to Chair the BBC.

The original recruitment opened last April, with interviews scheduled for early July. Shah was named the government's choice for the new BBC Chairman in December.

Coleridge, who has been appointed Chair of Historic Royal Palaces, has been replaced on an interim basis by Nigel Webb.

MPs urge action to tackle ’endemic’ misogyny in music industry

A woman in a green t-shirt working a a studio mixing desk
29 Jan 2024

Parliamentary inquiry finds women working in music have had their 'lives ruined' by men who have never been held to account, including 'household names'.

Council plans £500k art fund after government cash boost 

Suffolk County Council offices 2014
29 Jan 2024

Suffolk County Council said that a £600m government support package to help local authorities with the cost of social care will enable it to propose a new arts funding scheme.

Scrapping free entry to Welsh museums ‘inevitable’

19 Jan 2024

The introduction of admission fees at all national museum sites in Wales due to “critical” financial pressures has an “air of inevitability”, a government committee has heard.

Deputy Minister for Culture Dawn Bowden told the Senedd’s culture committee that ending free entry was being considered as a way to generate income in the face of budget constraints.

In December, the Welsh government revealed plans for a curtailed cultural budget, handing a £3m cut to the National Museums of Wales and a 10.5% drop in funding to Arts Council Wales, suggesting cultural bodies need to "explore other sources of income".

Speaking at the culture committee, Plaid Cymru’s Llŷr Gruffydd said there was an air of inevitability about the introduction of entry charges.

Bowden told ministers: “It is not something that we would be considering or asking the museum to look at and to consider if it were not in a critical situation.

“The budget situation was such that this was an option that had to be on the table.

“Now, I'm not saying that that's where we will end up, but it would not be responsible of me to rule that out at this stage or to suggest to the museum they shouldn't be exploring that.”

Arnolfini apologises for pulling Palestinian film event

Exterior of Arnolfini on Bristol's harbourside
16 Jan 2024

Arnolfini says it is now working to 'rebuild relationships' with artists, partners and sector organisations following a significant backlash against its decision to cancel the events.

Trustee matchmaking

A RIAC matchmaking event
15 Jan 2024

Many arts organisations struggle to find high-quality trustees, particularly ones with digital or business expertise. A new matchmaking service is responding to this challenge, as Anna Rowe and Matthew Swann explain. 

Jobs go at Crafts Council as revenue shrinks

Exterior of Crafts Council Gallery, Pentonville Road, Islington. May 2021.
10 Jan 2024

National Portfolio Organisation says cultural sector 'faces one of its most testing moments in recent history'.

Vision for £33.5m Harlow cultural quarter revealed

A CGI image of the the plans for Harlow cultural quarter
08 Jan 2024

Development including new performance and exhibition spaces is part-funded with £20m of Levelling Up money.

DCMS consults public on inventory of 'intangible' culture

08 Jan 2024

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has launched an online consultation on the government's plans to ratify the UNESCO 2003 Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. 

The consultation seeks responses from the public to help it define and create an “inventory” of UK heritage that is “living and practised”. Intangible heritage can include oral traditions and expressions, including language, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe and traditional craftsmanship. 

Similar to the World Heritage List, UNESCO maintains a global list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In its endorsement of the convention, the government says it will not initially seek to nominate items to this list and instead create its own inventory. 

The government says this will “[raise] awareness of all the Intangible Cultural Heritage in the UK…to lift all rather than list a few with UNESCO”.

DCMS proposes creating inventories for the four nations and overseas territories, which will be collated into a National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in the UK.

Communities, groups or individuals can submit items to be added to the inventory, reflecting traditions from anywhere in the world and any period currently practised in the UK. Submissions will then be subject to a “light-touch approvals process”, with new entries expected to be announced quarterly.

Arts Minister Lord Parkinson, said: “The UK is rich in traditions which are passed down from generation to generation. These crafts, customs, and celebrations have helped to shape our communities and bring people together, who continue to shape them in turn.

“By ratifying this convention, we will be able to celebrate treasured traditions from every corner of the UK, support the people who practise them, and ensure they are passed down for future generations to enjoy.”


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