Inclusive growth?

Image of dancers with real Living Wage banner
23 Jul 2024

Without the real Living Wage, creative and cultural growth will just replicate existing inequalities, writes Lianna Etkind.

'Lack of due diligence’ behind soaring Bristol Beacon costs

The main auditorium of Bristol Beacon, November 2023
22 Jul 2024

Costs for the projected skyrocketed from an initial £48.8m to £131.9m on completion in November 2023.

A fresh blueprint for funding arts organisations

Image showing the Blueprint team with a banner
02 Jul 2024

Arts organisations are only too aware of the limitations of short-term funding. But, in Northern Ireland, a pioneering financial programme provides a fresh blueprint for future funding of the arts, as Sarah Jones explains.

Sadler's Wells accused of ‘censoring' Palestinian statement

Exterior of Sadler's Wells
12 Jun 2024

Members of Compagnie Maguy Marin have also alleged they were subjected to 'aggressive' and 'intimidating' treatment by Sadler's Wells staff.

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.

Theatre boss says building’s RAAC can be fixed

12 Feb 2024

The Chief Executive of the Royal & Derngate in Northampton has said the discovery of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) that forced the building to close for a month in September is less of a problem than initially feared. 

The theatre reopened to audiences in October and is operating at full capacity despite parts of the foyer being closed.

Chief Executive Jo Gordon said: "The good news is the recent RAAC tests that have come back suggest, if you can have such a thing, it's good RAAC.

"It means some of the repairs, some of the mitigation, we can get started on straightaway. It's not the kind of thing that would need a full roof replacement, which was one of the worries in the back of the mind."

Gordon hopes the work will be completed "between now and the summer".

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.

More than 1,700 artefacts 'missing' from DCMS-funded museums

10 Jan 2024

Freedom of Information requests have revealed more than 1,700 artefacts are missing from publicly funded museums and art galleries in England.

The FOI requests submitted by the Press Association asked organisations that receive funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for details on objects that have gone missing over the past 20 years.

The National Portrait Gallery reported 45 "not located" items - but said they were not missing or stolen.

"The bulk of the items currently not located are photographic negatives, and for the majority of those, the image has been digitally scanned and is available to the public as part of our online collections database," the gallery said.

Meanwhile, V&A noted 180 missing objects. A spokesperson said: “This does not mean these objects have been stolen or lost; it might mean, for example, that a catalogue entry has not been updated after a collection move. Items are regularly recovered as a result of this process".

Around 550 artefacts are missing from Imperial War Museum, with the institution describing them as “typically low-value, mass-produced items".

A museum spokesman said the items "date from many years or even decades ago, long before our current collections management systems were put in place". 

The Natural History Museum said it had experienced “just 23 instances of lost or missing items from a collection of 80 million, limited to small things like teeth, fish and frozen animal tissue.” 

A spokesperson said: “We have robust security measures in place which we regularly review. As a world-leading science centre, it's important that researchers from around the world have access to our collection to help find solutions to the planetary emergency."

Seven items were absent from the Horniman Museum, which said it has "reviewed" security in light of thefts at the British Museum "as a precautionary measure".

The theft of around 1,500 Greek and Roman objects by a British Museum employee between 1993 and 2022 emerged in August last year, causing considerable reputational damage to the organisation.

The thefts were mainly of unregistered items – gems and jewellery. The museum said that as of December 2023, 351 items have been returned, with 300 further missing items identified.

British Museum told to 'define its collection' in review

12 Dec 2023

An independent review into thefts at The British Museum has made a series of recommendations on risk management, auditing, governance and security, as well as introducing a comprehensive register of all eight million items in its collections.

The proposals insist the museum should “have a policy which defines what comprises its collection” and that it “should identify the unregistered or inadequately registered objects within the collection and register them fully”.

Efforts to document the museum's entire collection were announced in October and are expected to take five years to complete.

The review also advised changes in governance that will see The British Museum’s Director and Deputy share power. Collective decisions will be made by a management committee formed of the director, two deputies and four other senior staff.

It suggested trustees be granted more involvement in the day-to-day running of the museum, including being paired with individual departments and having oversight of staff issues, while also giving staff more representation through board members.

The independent review was led by Sir Nigel Boardman, a former corporate lawyer, Lucy D’Orsi, Chief Constable of the British Transport Police, and Ian Karet, a deputy high court judge. The museum has unanimously accepted the review’s recommendations.

The theft of around 1,500 Greek and Roman objects by an employee between 1993 and 2022 first emerged in August, causing considerable reputational damage.

The thefts were mainly of unregistered items – gems and jewellery. The museum said 351 items have been returned, with 300 further missing items identified.

In addition to the missing or stolen artefacts, 500 items were damaged, with 140 found to have tool marks, while 350 had portions removed, such as gold mounts for gems, which had likely been sold for scrap.

Details about the timeline of the museum's investigation were also included in the report, which said: “The museum was alerted to suspicions of thefts in 2021 by Dr Ittai Gradel. The museum’s investigation incorrectly concluded that there was no basis to the claims.”

Later that year, a spot check during an internal audit revealed an item not in its proper location within the Greece and Rome strongroom, triggering a more comprehensive collection audit in April 2022. Concerns arising from the audit were brought to senior management in December 2022.

Sir Mark Jones, who became Interim Director following the resignation of Dr Hartwig Fischer, said: “No one can pretend this has been an easy period for the Museum, but I have the utmost admiration for the commitment of the staff to building a stronger future for the Museum we all care so deeply about.”

George Osborne, Chair of Trustees, said the review, which was not published in full, “shows the British Museum is putting our own house in order".

"Indeed, we commissioned it because we were determined to learn the lessons of what went wrong. The British Museum was the victim of thefts over a long period, and we apologise again that this was allowed to happen.

"The ongoing police investigation means the full report cannot be published today, but we have accepted the recommendations in full and have started to recover hundreds of the stolen items."

Closing with care

Image of two dominoes
05 Dec 2023

There is a domino effect at play across the sector at the moment, with the number of closures since last year reaching double figures. No doubt there are more to come, but Emily Williams thinks it can be done humanely.

Coventry Culture Trust: Potential misconduct identified

Coventry City of Culture Trust had total income of around £45m
30 Nov 2023

Administrators submit report identifying potential misconduct at Coventry City of Culture Trust while investigations into the circumstances of the collapse continue. 

Communications in a time of crisis

18 Oct 2023

When the proverbial hits the fan, how prepared are you to handle the public messaging? Helen Palmer shares her experience of crisis communications planning and offers useful advice for yours.

Agency for female and gender-minority composers launches

16 Oct 2023

A new agency representing gender minority composers has launched in London.

Operated by Register, a music agency specialising in licensing and music supervision, 515 is a new venture dedicated to representing female and gender minority composers, artists, producers and sound designers. 

Only 2.8% of music producers are female, according to a study conducted last year by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, dropping to just 0.7% for women of colour. The same analysis showed that between 2013 and 2022, only 7% of Hollywood films were scored by women. 

Register founders Hollie Hutton and Hannah Charman said they started 515 to “open more doors for the underrepresented sectors of the composition talent pool”.

“We discovered, over the course of our careers, that the same handful of people were winning most of the work and that not enough gender-minority composers were even being pitched on projects."

Despite this, the Register team reports an increasing demand for female and gender minority composers.

Emily Richardson, Head of 515, said: “We’ve frequently been asked to scout them for film and TV projects and would continue to support them throughout the process, acting as agents. So we ended up thinking, ‘Why don’t we make this official?’”

“515 has been built on integrity. There’s so much amazing untapped talent out there. We really believe in what we’re doing and the potential to open filmmakers’ ears to a new world of composers while also making a change in the industry.” 

“I really do think that in 10 years’ time, the industry will look very different, and I strongly believe that this starts at grassroots level,” added Richardson.

“We need to be creating pipeline opportunities and encouraging people to take them. Those who are already here should be actively making the industry more inclusive, unlearning systemic biases, having equal representation at senior and board levels, and always having diversity front of mind.”

'More than 1,500' artefacts stolen from British Museum

23 Aug 2023

The number of items allegedly taken from the British Museum’s collection by senior curator Peter Higgs is thought to exceed 1,500 and be worth tens of millions of pounds, according to an internal investigation launched this month.

Higgs was the museum’s curator of Greek collections, Greek sculpture and the Hellenistic period and was named last week by the Daily Telegraph and The Times as the prime suspect in the disappearance of artefacts from the collection.

He is thought to have sold many of the stolen objects on eBay over several years, beginning in 2016, often for fractions of their estimated value, the Art Newspaper reported.

A 2,000-year-old Roman object valued at £50,000 was allegedly sold for £40.

Higgs was dismissed by the museum earlier this year. He has not been arrested but the Metropolitan Police have confirmed they are investigating.

Christos Tsirogiannis, a UNESCO-affiliated expert in antiques trafficking, told The Economist the theft is “probably the worst case so far”. 

“No one expects that to happen in a museum”, he said.

The investigation comes at a time of fierce debate about the restitution of artefacts. The British Museum has long countered restitution claims by arguing it has a unique ability to conserve and preserve artefacts, pledging on its website “to ensure that the collection is housed in safety, conserved, curated, researched and exhibited”.

The controversy over the stolen items has led to Greek culture minister, Lina Mendoni, questioning the credibility of the museum: “When such incidents occur, there is obviously a question of safety and integrity [around] all of the museum's exhibits”.

She added the furore “reinforces the permanent and just demand of our country for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles at the Acropolis Museum in Athens”.

Her comments were echoed by head of the Association of Greek Archaeologists, Despina Koutsoumba, who told The Independent her colleagues were “worried” about how many Greek items are missing from the museum.

Their comments were rebuked by Conservative MP Tim Loughton, who is Chair of the British Museum All-Party Parliamentary Group. He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme the “blatant opportunism of the Greeks” was “particularly damaging”.

Meanwhile, a museum spokesperson has said: “We won't be commenting on any details of the thefts while they're subject to a police investigation”.

British Museum to review security following artefacts theft

17 Aug 2023

The British Museum has said it will conduct an independent review of its security after items from its collection were found to be “missing, stolen or damaged”.

In a statement released yesterday [Wednesday 16 August], the museum confirmed it has dismissed a staff member over the loss of several artefacts, with a police investigation now underway.

The majority of items in question were small pieces kept in a storeroom, including gold jewellery and gems of semi- precious stones and glass, dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD.

None of the items had been on public display and were kept primarily for academic and research purposes.

The independent review into the museum’s security will be led by former trustee Sir Nigel Boardman and Lucy D’Orsi, Chief Constable of British Transport Police. 

The museum’s statement says the pair will make recommendations regarding future security arrangements at the museum and “kickstart - and support - a vigorous programme to recover the missing items”.

British Museum Chair George Osborne said the museum's trustees learned of the thefts “earlier this year”.

“Our priority is now threefold: first, to recover the stolen items; second, to find out what, if anything, could have been done to stop this; and third, to do whatever it takes, with investment in security and collection records, to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he added.

Director Hartwig Fischer said it was a “highly unusual incident”.

“The museum apologises for what has happened, but we have now brought an end to this – and we are determined to put things right. 

“We have already tightened our security arrangements and we are working alongside outside experts to complete a definitive account of what is missing, damaged and stolen. This will allow us to throw our efforts into the recovery of objects.”

Bristol Council criticised for delayed Beacon report

15 Aug 2023

Bristol City Council has said it will miss a deadline for a lessons learned report into its budget-busting refurbishment of a city centre concert hall.

External auditors Grant Thornton had called on the council to issue a report "as soon as possible" and prior to the completion of the Bristol Beacon project, which has seen costs rise steeply from £48m to £132m. 

The venue is set to reopen to the public in November, but the council has admitted that its full report will not be published until February 2024.

Grant Thornton criticised the council for “underestimating the complexity and difficulty” of the project, resulting in the spiralling costs.

Council management said its review exercise began at the end of June and is “designed to provide critical lessons learned and stimulate important insights".

When it reopens, the council-owned venue will be managed by the charity Bristol Music Trust.

Succession – without the drama

Karen Watson and Jon Wakeman, founder Directors of East Street Arts, Leeds. They stand in the doorway to a house, both smiling.
04 Jul 2023

Succession is often a challenging experience for both the outgoing leader and those left to pick up the reins, as Claire Antrobus and Sandeep Mahal have been finding out.

National Portrait Gallery staff to have sustainable gender-neutral uniforms

06 Jun 2023

Staff at London's National Portrait Gallery will wear new gender-neutral uniforms made from recycled materials when the gallery reopens to the public this month.

The outfits include ties sourced from charity shops and hard-wearing waistcoats that it is hoped will be passed on to new staff.

The Wayne Hemingway-designed clothes are, the gallery said, intended to give "staff the freedom to choose from different options to best suit their individual needs, as well as seasons and occasions”.

Hemingway said: “We don’t know of another uniform in the world that combines fabric offcuts and locally sourced materials and manufacturing, with pre-worn elements and fabrics made from waste.

“The National Portrait Gallery team have been fully supportive of this approach and helped push their new uniform to be such a sustainably ground-breaking one."

The gallery reopens to the public on 22 June following a £35 million refurbishment. 

Three essential trends for theatre managers

31 May 2023

With many conflicting demands on theatre managers’ time, Robin Cantrill-Fenwick identifies three key trends to help keep theatres on track.

Music managers' programme 'skills up' independent sector

23 May 2023

A programme for independent music managers has helped build sustainable long-term businesses and support the careers of artists, according to the findings of a new report.

The Music Managers Forum (MMF) established its Accelerator programme in 2018, with support from YouTube Music as well as Arts Council England, Creative Scotland and the Scottish Music Industry Association.

Its MMF Accelerator Report, commissioned to mark the fifth anniversary of the programme, documents the work done to foster diversity and develop skills in the sector.

In total, 115 managers have received funding and training, with at least £9.4m generated in turnover for the artists represented during their managers' participation in the programme.

Of these participants, 42% are female, while 43% are from Black, Asian or ethnic backgrounds. More than 50% are based outside London.

Annabella Coldrick, MMF Chief Executive, said the programme had done “great work in dismantling barriers and encouraging participation from under-represented groups and entrepreneurs based outside of London.

She added: “The result is a real and thriving community of super-skilled managers from all quarters of the UK, who I believe will help reshape the future of the music industry.”

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