Time to challenge the hierarchies

Rampak Genteng
10 Sep 2020

With the creativity of communities finally becoming a policy priority, arts organisations could be handing more control over to their communities. Adam Pushkin explains why – and how – that could work.

UK strikes visa-free touring deal with Romania

12 Oct 2021

Romania has been added to the list of EU countries that UK performers can tour in sans visa.

As has become customary, DCMS concealed the actual size of the achievement, updating an August announcement to say visa-free touring is possible in 20 EU countries.

In fact, arrangements were already in place with 19 of those countries two months ago. Talks with Spain, Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Bulgaria, Malta and Cyprus are ongoing - and in some cases have been since the UK left the EU.

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) said Tuesday's announcement gave "a misleading impression about the extent to which work in these countries will now be possible".

It called on Government to clarify what kinds of work are allowed for how long in each of the 20 countries.

DCMS says: "Discussions with these countries are ongoing, and we are also working with the sector to amplify each other’s lobbying efforts."

International partnerships fund 'not a replacement Creative Europe'

06 Oct 2021

The pilot responds to the UK's withdrawal from Creative Europe and prioritises European partners but is "not in the same ball park" as the EU scheme.

UNESCO calls for Parthenon Marbles' repatriation

05 Oct 2021

Britain should return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, UNESCO has decided.

According to Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, the body's Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property has recommended the UK begin talks with Greece over the long-debated issue.

UNESCO reportedly believes the UK must recognise "the issue is of an intergovernmental nature – in contrast to claims from the British side that it is a matter for the British Museum – and mainly that Greece has a valid and legal claim to demand the return of the sculptures to their place of birth", Mendoni said.

The British Museum has so far declined to return the artefacts, sometimes known as the Elgin Marbles after Lord Elgin, who stole them in the early 19th Century.

Isolation exemption for artists reintroduced

01 Oct 2021

Arts professionals returning to England after working abroad need not self-isolate.

The exemption for workers returning from amber but not red list countries has been reintroduced. An initial scheme was suspended in January.

Organisations must submit an application to Arts Council England on their worker's behalf, and the worker must carry a signed copies of the application and their exemption letter with them at all times.

The Musicians' Union said the amount of information and time needed to get an exemption was prohibitive.

"Any last-minute gigs that musicians often accept means they may well have to self-isolate on return to the UK regardless."

Immersive exhibition merges art with science at COP26

29 Sep 2021

An immersive art installation opening this weekend will mark the UN's Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow.

Polar Zero, a collaboration between the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), British Antarctic Survey, engineering consultants Arup and the Royal College of Art, includes a glass sculpture encasing Antarctic Air from 1765 and an Antarctic ice core drilled out of a glacier.

The centrepieces are significant because they provide scientific evidence of the earth's temperature before the industrial revolution - a turning point in global warming - and the state of the atmosphere now.

AHRC Executive Chair Professor Christopher Smith said Polar Zero "epitomises the power of the arts and arts s research to tackle pressing contemporary issues such as climate change".

“It translates crucial but complex scientific research in a way that will resonate deeply and emotionally with diverse audiences to inspire lasting change."

Polar Zero opens at Glasgow Science Centre on October 2.

£330k boost for music export scheme

23 Sep 2021

A grants programme to help UK music companies market their products and projects overseas has been given a £330,000 boost.

The Music Export Growth Scheme gives grants of £5,000 to £50,000.

The extra finance was announced this week as part of a package of measures in the Department for International Trade's (DIT) new 'Made in Britain, Sold to the World' campaign.

Museums will also benefit from new research around reaching international markets.

Minister for Exports Mike Freer said the UK's creative industries are "a force to be reckoned with" - music alone exported £519.7m last year.

DIT expects Asia to be the next big market for British cultural exports: "The region [is] set to be home to the 66% of the global middle classes by 2030, hungry for high quality British goods and services."

Dowden 'concerned' about 9/11 anniversary play

13 Sep 2021

A mock trial into the UK's role in Afghanistan has "concerned" the Culture Secretary and sparked an urgent investigation.

DCMS told The Jewish Chronicle that officals have been asked to "look into" the play at Camden People's Theatre.

People’s Tribunal on Crimes of Aggression: Afghanistan Sessions features Asim Qureshi and Moazzam Begg, directors of Muslim advocacy group Cage.

The men's previous public comments on 9/11 have caused some controversy and Secretary Dowden, upon becoming aware of the production, asked for an investigation.

Cross party MPs have condemned the yet-to-be-staged play as offensive.

Stars call for safe passage for Afghan creatives

13 Sep 2021

The British Government has a duty to protect Afghan artists, writers and filmmakers at risk of being silenced, an open letter to MPs says.

Organised by Good Chance Theatre and the Index on Censorship, the letter has been signed by more than 80 film and theatre luminaries including Sonia Friedman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Mark Rylance and Sir Sam Mendes.

It says political and creative dissent has thrived in Afghanistan, "in a region where free expression is not always respected".

"With the Taliban takeover of the country, this rich legacy is in imminent peril. 

"We urge the British government to cooperate with the international community to create a humanitarian corridor for those seeking safe  passage out of the country."

The letter also calls on creative industries leaders to help refugees to continue their work and safeguard Afghan culture for future generations.

Belgium prescribes culture for Covid stress

06 Sep 2021

Patients diagnosed with Covid-related stress in Brussels are being prescribed free visits to museums and galleries.

Doctors at Brugmman Hospital are offering visits to five publicly owned sites across the Belgian capital, including its centre for contemporary art, a fashion museum and a museum of the city's sewage system.

“It has been shown that art can be beneficial for health, both mental and physical,” Brussels' City Councillor for Tourism Delphine Houba said.

The idea forms part of a three-month pilot scheme designed to bolster mental health during the pandemic.

Inspiration has come from a similar programme in Quebec, Canada, where doctors prescribe up to 50 museum visits a year per patient.

British Council launches first UK-Australia season

02 Sep 2021

The first iteration of the British Council's newest cultural exchange programme has begun.

A UK-Australia season featuring theatre, film, visual arts, dance, music, literature, and higher education and public engagement programmes is launching in both countries this month.

Its theme of Who Are We Now will "reflect on our history, explore our current relationship, and imagine our future together", the British Council says.

The season's webpage indirectly acknowledges the colonisation of Australia and its "traditional custodians".

"We pay our respect to their elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aoriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."

The collaboration with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs aims to celebrate the "diverse and innovative artists" in both nations, the council says.


Afghan music institute falls silent

02 Sep 2021

The Afhganistan National Institue of Music is believed to have closed.

Established in 2010, the school is home to Zohra, the country's sole female orchestra. It performed at the British Museum in 2019.

Little has been heard from the institute since the Taliban's takeover. Its Founder, Dr Ahmad Sarmast, said the militant group has been searching for the keys.

Sarmast expressed hope the building would be able to reopen:

"Music is fading away from the air of Afghanistan so we need to keep an eye on what is happening and then act unitedly with the rest of the world," he told the BBC.

Arts Council Ireland apologises for ad campaign

26 Aug 2021

Arts Council Ireland has apologised for an advertisement that likened the racism faced by singer Nina Simone to the struggles of artists during the pandemic.

Published in the Irish Times, the advert was part of a campaign focused on artists who faced challenges in their work and personal lives.

It received backlash on social media, with Twitter users branding it “shockingly ignorant” and “quite muddled and negative”.

The council has since apologised, agreeing the campaign “did not reflect [its] commitment” to equality and diversity.

“We got it wrong on this occasion – sorry.”

British Council suspends work in Afghanistan

26 Aug 2021

The UK cultural and outreach agency has suspended all operations in Afghanistan in light of the Taliban takeover.

The British Council's press office would not confirm whether this includes any arts programmes "for safety and security reasons".

The British Council website says it has worked in English, education and art in Afghanistan, and it has a headquarters in the British Embassy building in Kabul.

"We remain deeply concerned not only for our colleagues and those we have worked with over the last twenty years, but for all the people of Afghanistan," the council says.

"We are working very closely with the UK government to do everything we possibly can to ensure that all relocation applications of current and former British Council employees and contractors receive the fullest consideration possible.”

Creatives call for device tax to generate arts funding

01 Jul 2021

A major collection society says the levy could provide up to £300m per year. What would it look like and how would it work?

Brexit Minister offers few answers, defends record on EU touring issues

30 Jun 2021

DCMS had to wait for a green light from Lord Frost to begin bilateral negotiations on touring, few of which have been agreed in the six months post-Brexit.

My Gurus: Challenging expectations

photo of Anne de Charmant
29 Jun 2021

Anne de Charmant reveals the people who have inspired her work, particularly in rethinking audiences’ relationships with contemporary art and the environment.

Europe is still open to artists

Project of a face on a blue wall
25 May 2021

With long experience of working in Europe, Phillip Parr reminds us that, even in a post-Brexit world, there are still plenty of opportunities for artists. You just need to know where to look.

'Major flaws' in ministers' post-Brexit touring claims

19 May 2021

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says "some paid touring" is possible in 17 of 27 EU member states as renewed campaigns for a bloc-level deal seek legal advice.

My Gurus: A global way of being

Skinder Hundal
16 Apr 2021

Skinder Hundal reveals the people who have inspired a career that is international, intersectional and truly multicultural.


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