Jailed arts worker returned to UK

17 Jan 2022

A British Council arts worker jailed in Iran on espionage charges has returned to the UK.

Aras Amiri has been acquitted of the charges, which she says were levelled because she was associated with the council and rejected an invitation to spy for Iran. 

Amiri was among a group of Iranian citizens with British connections arrested in 2018. She had lived in the UK for a decade before her incarceration.

In a statement last week, the British Council said it had always refuted the charges.

"We are very proud of her work in our London office as an arts programme officer supporting a greater understanding and appreciation of Iranian culture in the UK."

New global exchange programme for young musicians

13 Dec 2021

Young musicians will benefit from a new international exchange scheme at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) when it launches in September.

The Sir Elton John Global Exchange Programme, named for its benefactor, offers exchanges ranging from one week to a year in length at internationally renowned conservatoires.

Twelve schools including Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Renia Sofia School of Music in Madrid, Berlin's Hanns Eisler Academy, Sydney Conservatorium of Music and The Julliard School have confirmed exchanges thus far.

RAM Principal Jonathan Freeman-Attwood said the participating institutions have "long been friends" of the academy.

"What drives this latest programme is the need for music - indeed all the arts - to break down the kinds of boundaries and barriers which actively work against the open spirit of creative enquiry and collaboration between different countries."

Call for global collaboration to protect creative industries

08 Dec 2021

The creative and cultural sectors must not be treated as a policy "outlier" if they are to help meet global challenges.

What are the rules for performing artists coming to the UK?

photo of band playing a concert to an audience
07 Dec 2021

One year on, artists are still struggling with the legal complexities around performance in the UK. Gary McIndoe explains the details.

Covid smokescreen conceals true impact of Brexit

protest sign showing Boris Johnson in clown makeup
07 Dec 2021

Brexit has had a huge emotional impact and has affected the funding, mobility, and partnerships of UK cultural organisations. Charlotte Faucher has been investigating.

Australia and the arts during Covid

Lamb, Frankston Arts Centre, February 2021
07 Dec 2021

Most reports of the plight of the arts during the pandemic have focused on economic analysis. Julian Meyrick asks what the arts might teach economics.

Ireland brings in vaccine passports

17 Nov 2021

People attending the theatre or cinemas in the Republic of Ireland must show proof of vaccination from Thursday (November 18).

Pubs, nightclubs and restaurants must close by midnight in a bid to curb rising Covid-19 case numbers.

Echoing his contemporaries in Scotland, Wales and more recently, Northern Ireland, Taioseach Michael Martin said vaccine passports are a "proportionate and effective" approach.

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann has proposed introducing the passports in cultural venues and other spaces with more than 500 attendees by mid-December.

England is still holding out, with no word on whether ministers will activate the country's Plan B for winter.

Ireland to pilot basic income scheme for artists

man painting
11 Nov 2021

None of the four UK nations plan to replicate the three-year initiative, though pressure is building.

Belfast becomes UNESCO City of Music

09 Nov 2021

Belfast has become the third UK city to recieve UNESCO City of Music status.

The accolade, announced on Monday (November 8), recognises the Northern Irish capital's unique musical heritage and local efforts to strengthen engagement with music.

A 2018 survey undertaken during the European Capital of Culture bidding process identified music as the city's strongest cultural output, prompting the bid for UNESCO status.

"Being deisgnated as a UNESCO City of Music honours the gargantuan effort that the entire music scene has made to help raise Belfast up and out of the darkest of times," Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody commmented.

Belfast will join the UN body's Creative Cities Network of 59 places, with Lightbody and Emmy-nominated composer Hannah Peel acting as official Belfast Music patrons.

Belfast City Council will consult residents on a City of Music action plan, having worked with a City of Music steering group on the bid submission.

Glasgow was the first UK city awarded the title in 2008, followed by Liverpool in 2016.

Arts Council NI and British Council extend partnership

02 Nov 2021

Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council have extended their partnership to 2024.

Now in their tenth year of working together, the two bodies aim to develop Northern Ireland’s arts sector internationally.

The partnership does this by supporting international showcases and running an annual £50,000 Artist Development Fund.

British Council Arts Director, Skinder Hundal, says the two organisations have mapped out a clear framework for continued international cultural dialogue and exchange.

“We are delighted to continue our partnership. Together over the past nine years, we have increased the number of cultural connections between Northern Ireland and the rest of the world, developing vital long-term partnerships.”

Worldwide royalty collections expected to drop by 35%

01 Nov 2021

A report into worldwide royalties estimates collections in music, visual arts, drama and literature could decline by up to 35% this year.

The annual Global Collections Report, published by the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), cites Covid-19 as the reason for the decline.

The report also shows the US to have the highest market share of royalty collections, followed by France, Japan and Germany.

The UK ranks fifth, with a market share of 8.4%. Its year-on-year growth in collections is 12.3%, meaning the UK is currently outperforming the global market.

CISAC Director General Gadi Oron attributed the UK's growth in royalty collections to copyright collective PRS for Music’s investment in systems and networks.

"It’s the UK talent, it’s the fact that collections around the world are improving and more royalties are repatriated."

Universities return looted bronzes to Nigeria

01 Nov 2021

Two universities have become the first UK institutions to return Benin bronze artifacts to Nigeria.

Cambridge University returned a bronze cockerel, known as the Okukur, looted by British colonial forces in 1897 and given to the University’s Jesus College in 1905. The decision to return the bronze piece was made in 2019 following student protests.  

"It’s massively significant. It’s a momentous occasion," said Jesus College Master Sonita Alleyne.

Aberdeen University has followed suit, after a panel unanimously decided to return a looted sculpture depicting Oba (King) of Benin to Nigeria on Thursday (October 28).

Oba of Benin Omo N'Oba N'Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Ewuare II thanked Aberdeen University for the "noble act".

"We hope that other institutions worldwide will see the injustice when they insist on holding on to items which in fact should be a reminder to them of the great injustice that was inflicted on a people so far away and so long ago."

Robot artist released for exhibition after detainment

25 Oct 2021

British robot artist Ai-Da has opened an exhibition and sculpture trail at Egypt’s pyramids after being held up at the country's border for 10 days.

The world’s first artificially intelligent humanoid robot was detained by Egyptian authorities on suspicion of espionage, with officials concerned about the robot’s modem and eye cameras.

“The whole situation is ironic, because the goal of Ai-Da was to highlight and warn of the abuse of technological development, and she’s being held because she is technology,” creator Aidan Meller commented.
The Forever Is Now exhibition features Ai-Da’s Immortal Riddle, a two-metre-tall self portrait sculpture of a mummified robot in a sarcophagus.

Running until November 7, the exhibition is the first art show to take place at the Pyramids of Egypt.

Covid-19 and the global cultural and creative sector

Man in a mask sitting in a low, celingless room
21 Oct 2021

Anthony Sargent says we need to identify what we've learned from Covid, then build on those foundations rather than reassemble broken pieces of the past.

UK languishes on 'best country for creativity' list

18 Oct 2021

A new survey reviewing how financially advantaged creatives are in different countries has placed the UK near the bottom of the list.

The study considered what four creative occupations - a graphic designer, web developer, architect and photographer - take home each month on average after subtracting the cost of rent in 20 countries.

The UK placed 19th, with 44.8% of monthly wages left after deductions.

Germany was the best country for creative professionals, topping the list with 61.8% of a monthly wage left after rent costs. Sweden and Denmark placed second and third.

A spokeperson for Design Bundles, which conducted the survey, said it was interesting to see how the UK fared: "Although they pay reasonable salaries in comparison, the difference in the percentage of pocketable wage is significant."

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.


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