Leading culture in our time

Three woman sat on a table at a work event. There are items scattered on the table including four bottles of water, mugs, a notebook, a pencil case and a small plate. Two white women are looking at an Asian woman holding a microphone (presumably speaking through it). The background is blurred, but there are other tables and guests.
01 Feb 2023

The start of a new year is always a time of reflection and optimism. But this year Hilary Carty finds she’s rather hesitant and feeling somewhat more vulnerable than in previous times. 

Crafts Council reports first financial loss in four years

The exterior of the Crafts Council building in London
27 Jan 2023

Effects of pandemic and inability to attract tenants for spare office space see Crafts Council record financial loss.

Southend’s Jazz Centre faces eviction from gallery venue

25 Jan 2023

A cultural hub that celebrates all aspects of Jazz is facing eviction from its premises in Southend after the city's council announced plans to repurpose the space to store and display artefacts.

The Jazz Centre has been housed at the lower ground floor of Beecroft Art Gallery in Southend free of charge since 2016. It has used the space to host a walk-through history of jazz, a museum, performance spaces, a cinema and a retail outlet for jazz records and books. 

Carole Mulroney, Councillor responsible for Culture at Southend Council told Echo News that the council was working with the Jazz Centre to find alternative accommodation. 

“We are running a professional museum and arts gallery and we have to take that seriously. We have items to store and display,” she said.

“I am supportive of the Jazz Centre and nothing is off the table when it comes to talks and considerations.”

But Matt Dent, Labour councillor for Kursaal, said that requiring the jazz centre to move out “is a false economy”.

“It’s my view that the presence of the centre in Southend benefits and enriches the cultural life of Southend as a city,” he said, adding that he would speak to officers and cabinet members to try to find a solution.

Conservative councillor for Prettlewell, Kevin Buck, said “any move would be disruptive and cost money too”.

“I would much rather they stay where they are. I just want what they want,” he said.

Gallery plagued by racism accusations relaunches

Exterior of esea contemporary's building in Manchester
10 Jan 2023

Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art relaunches as 'esea contemporary' following critical audit that found it had lost sight of its mission and purpose. 

The long read: Arts leaders look ahead to 2023

Illuminated sign that reads '2023' floating on water
04 Jan 2023

For this long read marking the turn of the year, Robin Cantrill-Fenwick asked CEOs and Executive Directors of arts organisations across the UK to answer one question.

Museums regain accrediation following sale of artefact

08 Dec 2022

Two museums in Northampton have regained full accreditation from Arts Council England, eight years after the controversial sale of an ancient Egyptian statue for nearly £16m.

The Northampton Chronicle reports that following the sale of the 4,000-year-old Sekhemka statue in 2014, which saw the current Lord Northampton Spencer Compton receive around £6 million and the Northampton Borough Council receive the rest, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery's accreditation was stripped on ethical grounds.

The sale was widely condemned in the art world and the council was removed from the Museums Association, making them ineligible to apply for funding.

Abington Park Museum also had its accreditation stripped as it was under the ownership of the council. But both museums have now regained it.

Nick Gordon, Cultural Services Manager at West Northamptonshire Council, said:  “The Council is really pleased and it has been a lot of work to get to this point. The loss has really had an impact and we hope to move things on and leave the past behind us now.

“We are under completely different administration now and we have learnt from what was done through the consequences. We want to put this to bed and face the future, but not forget.”

North East to pilot £2.25m tourism project

28 Nov 2022

The North East has been chosen as the location for a government pilot programme aimed at developing tourism.

NewcastleGateshead Initiative will lead the pilot in partnership with Visit Northumberland and Visit County Durham, working across seven local authority areas.

The Destination Development Partnership (DDP) will receive £2.25m to “help successfully develop and market the region as a must-visit destination while attracting further private investment and driving growth”.

This is expected to include the creation of cultural events.

The DDP pilot follows an independent review into Destination Management Organisations published earlier this year, in which the government committed to streamlining tourism boards. 

If the pilot is successful, the government expects to roll the partnership model out to other regions across England.

“We are looking at what more we can do to streamline the way the region’s tourism bodies work together, improve the region’s offer and the way it markets itself,” Tourism Minister Stuart Andrew said.

With £2.25 million in funding, we hope the North East can be a pioneer for other areas in unlocking its potential and putting its best foot forward.

‘It’s about handing over power’

Visitors to an exhibition
09 Nov 2022

As Art Fund launches its new report on ethnic diversity in the curatorial workforce, Rachael Browning says it’s hard to overestimate the challenges entailed in compiling such a report. 

Equity secures 'environmental progress' deals

Exodus at National Theatre of Scotland, case-studied to Green Book Theatre standard
31 Oct 2022

Performers' union Equity announces 'landmark' agreements with two theatre companies, claiming them to be the first of their kind in the world to contain commitments to sustainability.

Mountview returns to joint leadership structure

25 Oct 2022

Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts has reverted to a joint leadership model.

The decision follows the resignation of Chief Executive and Artistic Director Abigail Morris, who took up the post in September last year.

According to The Stage, Morris left the drama school in summer. Former Head of Undergraduate Performance Sally Ann Gritton is now Principal, with Sam Hansford, who was previously Executive Director at the Yard Theatre, now Executive Director.

A Mountview spokesperson said the school’s board took the decision to revert to being led jointly following Morris’ resignation.

Review to explore benefits of creative health initiatives

18 Oct 2022

A series of online roundtable discussions will be held over the coming year as part of a new Creative Health Review designed to highlight the potential for creative health to tackle pressing issues in health and social care.

The National Centre for Creative Health and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, which are holding the review jointly, hope the findings will aid policymakers in addressing problems including health inequalities and the additional challenges posed by the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The roundtables, which will be open to a public audience, will present “evidence and examples of the powerful influence creative health can have on our health and wellbeing, and how it can be used across key policy areas”.

The information shared will be compiled by 16 commissioners tasked with developing a set of recommendations designed to guide policymakers in informing and encouraging the development of a cross-governmental strategy on creative health.

Themes earmarked for exploration during the series of roundtables include mental health and wellbeing across the life course, health inequalities, social care, end-of-life care, education and training, cost-effectiveness, evidencing value for money and funding models, and leadership and strategy.

A leadership model for the future

Core Artists of Unlimited Theatre
05 Oct 2022

The challenges of shared leadership are the subject of much discussion, but the rewards are great, as the Core Artists of Unlimited Theatre have discovered over the last year. 

Arts organisations in competition to secure new royal patrons

20 Sep 2022

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth, more than 50 arts organisations of which she was the patron are poised to enter a quiet competition to secure a royal replacement.

Institutions across the sector will be hoping to acquire a member of the immediate royal family as patron, ensuring that any new regal connection is internationally recognised. 

“Institutions are very keen to secure the right patron,” Tim Marlow, Chief Executive of the Design Museum and former Artistic Director at the Royal Academy of Arts, told the Guardian.

“It matters hugely and creates many more funding opportunities, both nationally and abroad.”

The Queen handed on several of her patronages six years ago, when she turned 90, but many more need to be reallocated after her death. 

Arts institutions waiting to hear about a new patron include Art Fund, RADA, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Academy, Royal Philharmonic Society, Help Musicians UK, Royal Northern College of Music and the London Symphony Orchestra, of which the Queen became patron when she ascended the throne in 1952.

A spokesperson for the orchestra said the Queen’s patronage had been “immensely helpful in our relationships with our overseas promoters and audiences”.

King Charles III is expected to continue as patron of organisations including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, but will not be able to take on all his late mother’s roles.

National mourning: arts sector 'under no obligation to close'

Union flags flying at half mast
12 Sep 2022

In the absence of formal rules relating to national mourning of a monarch, arts and culture organisations were left to make independent decisions on closures and cancellations.

Worcester consults on arts and culture strategy

06 Sep 2022

People in Worcester have been invited to give their views on a five-year arts and culture strategy.

A draft strategy put together by Worcester City Council sets out plans to secure and invest funding for the sector and work in partnership with local organisations. The authority is seeking feedback to ensure the blueprint represents the area's "wide variety" of activities.

The council hopes to increase Worcester’s influence within the wider region as a "dynamic, innovative, and distinctive place" and "encourage and empower the sector to deliver ambitious creative projects in and around the city".

It also wants to develop and nurture creative networks in the city and wider region, "bringing together partners to facilitate ideas and developing a community of engaged and active collaborators".

The online consultation closes at 5pm on 30 September.

Accommodation costs pose 'major threat' to the Fringe

30 Aug 2022

Eight of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s biggest producing venues have issued a collective statement decrying soaring accommodation costs as the biggest risk to the festival’s future.

Assembly, Dance Base, Gilded Balloon, Just the Tonic, Pleasance, Summerhall, Underbelly and ZOO – the venues behind EdFest.com – collectively sold 1,965,961 tickets in 2019, the last edition of the festival before the pandemic. This year’s combined sales are forecast to reach fewer than than 1,500,00.

“The forecast number of tickets we’ve collectively sold is down 25% compared to 2019, which is a major threat for everyone involved in the festival”, a spokesperson for EdFest.com said.

The ticket sales were achieved “despite the very real continuing challenges to our industry, including the cost-of-living crisis, the lingering effects of coronavirus, the cost and uncertainty of international travel, the recent train strikes and more,” the spokesperson continued. 

“Chief among these, however, is the soaring cost of accommodation in Edinburgh in August – audiences and artists alike are being priced out of town, out of experiences.”

The spokesperson said that the lack of safe, affordable housing is a year-round problem that affects the artists, staff and audiences who live in Edinburgh, as well as visitors to the city. 

It is “imperative that local and national government, landlords, the universities, Fringe venues and the Fringe Society all come together to find a lasting solution for this issue, or the future of the Fringe is in very real danger”, the spokesperson added, anticipating that restoring the event to normality may take several years and require public support.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society released figures showing that Edinburgh residents accounted for 39% of all ticket sales, up 4% from 2019. Overseas audience attendance also increased, accounting for 10% of all tickets, up 2% from 2019.

Organisers acknowledged that “audience patterns have changed, industrial action caused significant disruption to rail travel and refuse collection and affordable accommodation in Edinburgh was at crisis point”.

“This year’s festival is the first step in what will be a long road to recovery and renewal,” said Shona McCarthy, CEO of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. 

“We recognise the significant amount of work that is still required to support the long-term sustainability of this phenomenal Festival… Collectively we will work to advocate for greater support for those at the heart of the Fringe – our artists.”  

Consultants recruited for Somerset culture strategy

22 Aug 2022

Specialist consultants have been lined up to help develop a five-year cultural strategy for a new unitary council being established in Somerset next year.

Somerset’s five councils – Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton, South Somerset district councils, and Somerset County Council – have worked in partnership with Arts Council England to recruit cultural consultants, The Fifth Sector.

Since its foundation in 2011, The Fifth Sector has delivered more than 100 strategic and cultural projects, including cultural strategies and creative investment frameworks for Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Rushmoor, South Yorkshire and Tees Valley.

Key aims and objectives of the strategy include ensuring that a cultural identity for arts and culture in Somerset is at the heart of the new authority’s strategic plans.

It is also intended that the piece of work will raise awareness and promote the role that culture and creativity can play in enriching communities and improving the quality of life, health, wellbeing and the local economy for Somerset residents.

Federica Smith Roberts, Somerset County Council’s Lead Member for Communities, said: “The Somerset Cultural Strategy will define how, as an organisation, the new Somerset Council will deliver cultural activities to better the lives of residents and enhance our communities.

“I am delighted that work will commence through The Fifth Sector now to create a strategy ready for adoption when the new Council comes into effect in April 2023. 

"Arts and culture are important to help improve the quality of life, health, wellbeing and the local economy for Somerset residents, local businesses and visitors and I look forward to bringing the strategy in front of fellow councillors in 2023.”

Next Prime Minister urged to reform ACE

The door of Number 10 Downing Street
22 Aug 2022

Equity calls on Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to reform the system of arts councils across the UK and adopt regional structures, whichever of them becomes Prime Minister.

Johnson considers peerage for Dorries

08 Aug 2022

Boris Johnson is preparing to offer Nadine Dorries a peerage in the Prime Minister’s Resignation Honours, according to The Times.

If Dorries were to accept a place in the House of Lords, she would have to stand down as an MP, triggering a by-election in her Mid-Bedfordshire constituency.

The Times reports Dorries has told colleagues she intends to stand down in October, but a source close to the Culture Secretary said they were “unaware that a list had been finalised” and declined to comment further.
Johnson’s rumoured Resignation Honours list has caused controversy, with several senior Tories calling for him to be blocked from appointing new peers. 

An online petition calling for the Parliament and the Honours Committee to deny Johnson a Resignation Honours List currently has around 63,000 signatures.

Government commits £4m to overhaul local tourism boards

The Royal Pavilion Brighton
02 Aug 2022

Responding to an independent review into England’s local tourism bodies, DCMS commits to pilot project to test new ways of operating.


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