Campaigners criticise Airbnb heritage donation

24 Oct 2022

Airbnb has come in for criticism after gifting £1.25m to charity English Heritage.

The rental giant says the donation is part of a broader project designed to “enhance the cultural heritage” promoted on its platform.

Airbnb has seen an increase in listings in coastal areas across England and Wales after it added a historical homes category to its website in July. Bookings for historical homes on its platform have now doubled since 2019.

Housing campaigners say this is worsening the housing crisis in the UK, with landlords in holiday locations favouring tourists over tenants.

Will McMahon, Director of charity Action on Empty Homes, called the donation “a sort of cultural greenwashing for what has become an investment platform taking homes out of residential use and worsening our housing crisis”.

“Airbnb clearly has a strategic understanding of their own vulnerabilities and in my view are making corporate donations to offset the poor publicity they are now receiving countrywide due to short lets impacting on long-standing local communities in city, coast and countryside alike,” he added.

English Heritage Chief Executive Kate Mavor said the charity is very grateful for the donation: “English Heritage is an independent charity and support like Airbnb’s is vital to protect the great stone circles and castles, abbeys and historic houses in our care”.

Fabric to become first 'in residence' nightclub in museum

21 Oct 2022

London dance music venue fabric will become the world’s first nightclub-in-residence at a museum, it has been announced.

The establishment, which has been running for more than 20 years, is partnering with the Museum of London as part of the museum's move from its current London Wall site to the General Market in West Smithfield, across the road from the Farringdon nightclub.

The partnership will kick off next Tuesday (25 October) with a performance commissioned by artist Ta Shani titled My Bodily Remains, which includes a live score by Maxwell Sterling as well as Richard Fearless - also known as Death in Vegas.

The one-night-only performance will take the form of a chamber play and celebrate the Museum of London’s impending relocation. The museum is closing its doors at its main site at London Wall on 4 December ahead of its relocation to West Smithfield.

The museum will collaborate with Fabric to mark the nightclub's 25th anniversary in 2024. Fabric will then be involved in the museum’s opening in 2026, where it will formally undertake its position as nightclub in residence.

Sharon Ament, Director at the Museum of London, said: “From DJ EZ to Jossy Mitsu, fabric has been at the forefront of the international electronic music scene for decades. As we embark on our exciting new journey, we are thrilled to join forces with fabric – our soon-to-be neighbours and one of London’s most iconic cultural spaces. Our collaboration will create special moments and memories for Londoners and visitors to the city. The first of many collaborations to offer new perspectives on London’s story.”

Economic value of culture research gets £3m boost

visitors at a museum exhibition
19 Oct 2022

Funding for further research announced after scoping study finds “significant opportunities” in developing measures to calculate the value of sector and inform future investment.

Scottish museums and galleries to get energy support

National Museum of Scotland
17 Oct 2022

Museums and galleries in Scotland can apply for funding to help make buildings more energy efficient to counteract rising costs.

Reforming heritage laws ‘not a priority’, government says

17 Oct 2022

Calls to make it easier for UK museums to consider repatriating cultural objects have been rebuked by the government.

The House of Lords debated a motion to amend the 40-year old National Heritage Act, tabled by Conservative former culture minister Lord Ed Vaizey, last Thursday (13 October).

Vaizey is chairing a new body aiming to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece. He has also suggested give greater freedom for museums to dispose of objects in their collection and deal with restitution requests.

Similar proposals have been made by museum sector leaders, including V&A Director Tristram Hunt.

But Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt has told MPs revisiting the legislation is “not a priority” for the government.

Her comment followed former Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden saying that amending the legislation risks institutions “facing a barrage of claims for restitution".

“I can assure you that if we allow this Pandora’s box to open, we will regret it for generations to come as we see those artefacts being removed to countries where they may be less safe,” he added.

Ms Mordaunt replied: “I thank Mr Dowden for raising this issue, and there were many nods around the chamber when he was speaking.

“I am aware that Lord Vaizey has a debate on this matter in the House of Lords, but I can tell Mr Dowden that revisiting the National Heritage Act is not a priority for this government.”

Mordaunt’s response appears to echo Prime Minister Liz Truss’ stance on the issue, who told GB News at the Conservative Party conference earlier this month: “I don’t support that”.

Museums 'scaling down activity' to survive

A steam engine at Leeds Industrial Museum
13 Oct 2022

Survey of museums highlights concerns about fixed-term energy contracts ending and the inability of organisations to absorb high energy costs if they persist for the long term.

Museums VAT Refund Scheme reopens

03 Oct 2022

A government scheme providing museums and galleries with VAT refunds has reopened.

Under the VAT Refund Scheme, eligible institutions are entitled to a refund on VAT incurred on goods and services purchased in order to facilitate free admission.

To be considered for inclusion in the scheme museums or galleries must be open to the general public for at least 30 hours per week, offer free entry without prior appointment, hold collections in a purpose-built building, and display details of free entry and opening hours on their website.

The reopening of the scheme, which last accepted new applicants in 2019, was announced last month by Arts Minister Lord Parkinson.

The closing date for latest round of applications is 5pm on Tuesday 3 January 2023.

What do teachers want from museums? 

Art Assembly 2019, Walthamstow
28 Sep 2022

A new report provides insights into what teachers need to help them use museums and galleries more in their practice, for the benefit of themselves and their pupils, as Sam Cairns writes.

Arts websites 'reduce anxiety in young people'

27 Sep 2022

Study finds first clear evidence that online engagement with arts and culture has a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Museum of Homelessness to open first permanent venue

22 Sep 2022

A new permanent venue for the Museum of Homelessness will open in London next year, it has been announced.

The museum said Manor House Lodge, in Finsbury Park, will be its base of operations as well as a centre for creativity, healing and community cohesion. 

Plans for the site are being developed by people with experience of homelessness alongside Stephen Greenberg, a museum planner who has worked on more than 100 museum projects. 

The museum said it hopes for the venue to be "a world class creative hub" that hosts performances, talks and workshops developed by people with experience of homelessness. It will provide 250 support sessions per year designed in partnership with those in need, which are likely to include regular surgeries focused on housing and legal rights as well as the provision of essentials during the cost-of-living crisis.

The plans for the site also include an open access professional standard arts studio for people experiencing homelessness and a home for the national archive and collection for homelessness, poverty and social action. 

The museum has been granted a 10-year community lease from Haringey Council which is currently undertaking initial works on the site. The Museum of Homelessness team is due to be onsite later this year and will undertake a six-month community development period prior to opening to the public in spring or summer next year.

Museum of Homelessness Co-founder Matt Turtle said: “After working in borrowed venues for seven years and relying on the generosity of partners especially the Outside Project, we are delighted to be putting down roots in Harringey. 

"We are excited about transforming this precious site into a museum space like no other, a place where people can hear stories they won't hear anyone else and receive practical support when they need it.

"Our community will work with partners including the council and people experiencing homelessness locally to make a space for everyone.”

Glasgow faith museum reopens after pandemic

21 Sep 2022

A museum in Glasgow that is one of only a few in the world dedicated solely to religion has reopened for the first time since before the pandemic.

St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, named after Glasgow’s patron saint, closed in March 2020 as lockdown restrictions were introduced, but reopened last week.

The museum, which sits beside the Cathedral and Provand’s Lordship, explores the importance of religion in peoples’ lives across the world and across time.

Phillip Mendelsohn, chair of Interfaith Glasgow said: “St Mungo Museum is such an important resource to the faith communities of Glasgow and the wider community. 

“As a city with many refugees and asylum seekers, sharing the story of the many faiths in the city is important in building community cohesion.  

“The importance of St Mungo extends far beyond the city as it is one of the few museums of comparative religion in the world and is unique in the UK.”

V&A moves to return looted treasures to Ghana

20 Sep 2022

The Victoria and Albert Museum is in talks over returning looted artefacts to Ghana.

Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, has said he is “optimistic” that a new partnership can create a pathway for Asante artefacts “to be on display in Ghana in the coming years”, after visiting the country in February to hold discussions on the issue.

The items, including 13 pieces of lgold court regalia, including a decorated flower-shaped pectoral 'soul' disc and a pear-shaped pendant, were seized during a punitive raid in 1874.

Current restrictions incorporated in the 1983 National Heritage Act mean that the V&A is not able to 'deaccession' artefacts. Hunt hopes the 40th anniversary of the legislation next year can offer an opportunity to debate whether this needs to change.

In the interim, the museum can only offer the artefacts on long-term loan. 

In the V&A’s latest annual review, he wrote that he visited Ghana “to begin conversations about a renewable cultural partnership centred around the V&A collection of Asante court regalia, which entered the collection following the looting of Kumasi in 1874”.



Festival cancelled over 'funding fears' following Queen's death

Hull City Hall illuminated at the opening event for Hull City of Culture in 2017
14 Sep 2022

Mixed reaction to decision to cancel music festival following death of Queen Elizabeth, amid claims of pressure to do so by funders.

Scheme to tempt visitors back to museums launches

13 Sep 2022

A new museum and gallery membership scheme in Tyne and Wear has launched as part of efforts to attract people "back to culture".

Local museums and galleries in the area say they have been struggling to return to pre-pandemic visitor levels after a drop in numbers of up to 50% at some venues. The new scheme covers 10 galleries and museums run by Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums. 

The venues offer free entry, but admission is charged for special major exhibitions. Under the new tiered membership scheme, visitors can purchase an annual membership that includes free entry to ticketed exhibitions, invitations to special events and priority booking.

Membership fees will be used to fund the running costs of venues including Laing Art Gallery, Hatton Gallery and Discovery Art Museum, Shipley Art Gallery and South Shields Museum & Art Gallery, as well as two Roman forts and a steam railway.

VAT refund scheme for museums and galleries reopens

Image of Tate Modern
01 Sep 2022

The scheme, which is available to museums and galleries that provide free access to the public, is reopening to widen access to arts and culture.

Protestors shun Science Museum over coal sponsor

31 Aug 2022

Over 1,000 tickets for a late night event held at the Science Museum yesterday (31 August) went unused in protest over the museum's coal sponsorship.

The event, Science Museum India Lates, was targeted because of to the museum's sponosorship deal with Indian coal-producing conglomerate Adani, first announced last October.

While the event was taking place, a group including young people, teachers, grandparents, local residents and scientists protested outside. Representatives of the South Asia Solidarity Group gave an unsanctioned speech inside the museuem.

A spokesperson for South Asia Solidarity Group expressed outraged that Adani is sponsoring a new gallery which focuses on the transition to green energy.

"This sponsorship is a blatant attempt to greenwash the Adani Group’s destructive activities - an attempt the museum sadly seems all too happy to play along with."

Museums that reflect Brummie-ness

Exhibition piece inside Birmingham Museum
31 Aug 2022

As Birmingham applauds the extraordinary success of the Commonwealth Games, Sara Wajid and Zak Mensah reflect on the role of museums in shaping the city’s future.

Refurbishment of Preston’s Harris Museum begins

24 Aug 2022

The Harris Museum in Preston is set to undergo a £14m refurbishment with the keys officially handed over to a construction company this week.

The Harris Your Place project aims to "restore and reimagine" the Lancashire museum. In preparation for the massive refurbishment, more than 250,000 objects have been removed from the site by expert movers and placed in storage. Works including oil paintings, watercolours, sculptures, drawings and prints have been individually cleaned using conservation tools.

The museum's ceremonial key, designed by Alfred Gilbert, was initially used to open the Harris back in 1893 by Arthur Stanley, the 16th Earl of Derby. It consists of an Art Nouveau-style openwork terminal enclosing a rock crystal drop below a finial crown and features an enamelled coats of arms from the Stanley family.

This week, Peter Kelly, Cabinet Member for Arts and Culture at Preston City Council, will hand it to Michael Conlon, chairman of Conlon Construction, signalling the official launch of the restoration project.

“Accepting the ceremonial keys to the Harris, a building of tremendous cultural and historical significance to the city of Preston, is a huge honour,” said Conlon.

The museum will reopen in 2024 and hopes to see annual visitor numbers increase from 350,000 to 450,000.

Proposals for branch of Natural History Museum in Scotland stall

24 Aug 2022

Plans to establish a new branch of the Natural History Museum in Scotland have stalled due to staffing changes at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), it has emerged.

Aberdeen City Council is considering the viability of transforming the Norco House building, a Brutalist landmark that until recently housed a John Lewis department store, into a satellite of the museum.

The store closed in December 2020 and the building was subsequently used as a Covid-19 vaccination centre. It is now up for sale for £5m and the council has been attempting to discuss the project with DCMS, which directly sponsors the Natural History Museum.

A report published by the council reveals that while “officers are looking to meet with the head of cultural development and place-based investment to discuss the proposal”, the plans “have not progressed due to changes in personnel in DCMS”.

DCMS’s previous head of cultural development moved to a new post in April and the post has not been occupied since then.

Theatres receive funding to 'unlock their heritage'

23 Aug 2022

Two theatres in Bradford have received more than £180,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to help them explore their history.

St George’s Hall, which opened in 1853, has hosted big names including Charles Dickens, Harry Houdini and David Bowie.

The Alhambra Theatre, built in 1913 and home to Bradford’s annual pantomime, has hosted acts such as Laurel and Hardy and Morecambe & Wise.

Yorkshire Live reports that the money will fund a a three-year project, starting this month, to develop and deliver “an extensive heritage activity programme”. The programme will look at, among other things, the lengthy history of pantomime at the Alhambra.

The cash comes from the Lottery’s Heritage Centre Stage activity programme. The Lottery says the funding will “unlock the heritage associated with Bradford’s historic city centre venues and engage with a range of people in the district”.

Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Healthy People and Places said: “Culminating in 2025 when Bradford will be UK City of Culture, we are thrilled to receive this award from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for our project; Heritage Centre Stage which will support a range of people from across the Bradford district to engage with the heritage in our fantastic, historic venues, in a way which has real meaning to their lives.”


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