Little moments of joy

Projection on cargo truck
09 Jun 2021

While audiences are most comfortable returning to outdoor events, organising a festival that can flex around ever-changing restrictions is still no mean feat. Penny Mills and Jonathan Goodacre have been looking at what’s working.

Tate Britain plans new garden

05 Mar 2024

A garden in front of Tate Britain to integrate art with nature will open in 2026, it has been announced.

Museums and Heritage Advisor reports that the gallery is working on the garden project in collaboration with landscape design practice Tom Stuart-Smith Studio and architects Feilden Fowles.

The project, dubbed the Clore Garden, after its backing by the Clore Duffield Foundation, has also received advice and guidance from horticultural experts at the Royal Horticultural Society.

Tom Stuart-Smith, who has previously created gardens for Hepworth Wakefield in Yorkshire and the Royal Academy of Arts in London, said: "Since this area was last redesigned, the world has changed and we all feel that public spaces in the heart of our cities need to work harder. 

"Mown lawns and clipped hedges are hard pressed to do this on their own. We hope to make Tate Britain a haven for wildlife, and bring beauty, complexity and joy into this garden in the heart of London.”

From rural roots to cultural catalyst: A journey in the arts

Ian Kerry
04 Mar 2024

It’s 25 years since Ian Kerry founded Arts Alive, an organisation bringing film and events to rural communities. As he contemplates stepping down from the role, he reflects on a rich journey.

Council approves outdoor venue for Slung Low

15 Jan 2024

Slung Low theatre company in Leeds has been granted permission to create an outdoor event space after the City Council consented to a three-year temporary change of use of its existing venue in the Temple District.

The planning application indicates shows the space will present occasional public performances, primarily in the summer months, and house a double-decker bus, which will function as a classroom and cinema.

There will also be workshop space for artists in the existing building and school and community sessions, offering placements and learning opportunities for students.

Alan Lane, Artistic Director of Slung Low, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "We’re so pleased to hear that the temporary change of use has been confirmed on the Slung Low at Temple site. It’s a brilliantly exciting collaboration with CEG and ourselves to provide a creative space at the heart of the new Temple District.

"From this space, we are able to support so many theatre companies, independent artists, and community groups. With an outdoor stage also on site we are able to welcome audiences to visiting shows and work from our resident companies like Wrongsemble and Barrel Organ.

"It’s a part of our continuing commitment to making Holbeck an even more exciting place to live and work.”

Free festival boosts Birmingham culture and economy

30 Nov 2023

A free outdoor festival held in Birmingham had a positive economic and cultural impact on the city, according to a new report.

Birmingham Festival 23 was held over nine days in Centenary Park this summer to mark the first anniversary of the city hosting the Commonwealth Games.

The event comprised 153 projects and performances from more than 800 artists and saw a footfall of 123,500, with local people making up 85% of the attendees.

Visitors to the festival brought a positive economic impact, the report revealed, as local audiences spent a total of £422,391, while visitors spent £210,616.

The report also found that 80% of attendees felt the the festival made them feel proud of their local area, while 93.9% agreed it was friendly and inclusive. 

Street performers march on Westminster City Hall

Street performers walking along a street to deliver a petition
27 Nov 2023

Petition with more than 5,000 signatures delivered to Westminster Council's Leader in bid to 'save Covent Garden street performers'.

Covent Garden street performers 'under threat'

Two unicyclists surrounded by spectators juggle with clubs in front of Covent Garden Piazza
21 Nov 2023

Campaigners say 99% of traders on the Piazza are not in favour of Westminster Council clamping down on street performers.

Outdoor arts festival gets £1m ACE funding boost

Global Streets project Discover Ukraine
23 Oct 2023

Global Streets brings free outdoor arts events to communities across England. 

Oldham Coliseum Theatre begins 'new chapter'

22 Aug 2023

Together with Stand and Be Counted Theatre, Oldham Coliseum Theatre company will deliver an immersive audio event in two of the town’s parks.

Oldham approves plans for public arts space

25 Jul 2023

The council’s latest addition to its Cultural Quarter is an outdoor arts space to facilitate arts classes and theatre performances.

Spotlight on new NPOs: Trigger

Image of The Hatchling project
12 Jun 2023

Based in North Somerset, Trigger is a group of shapeshifting creatives who dream-up, create and produce bold and brave, live and digital events, to disrupt, reimagine and revive public spaces. Angie Bual is their Creative Director.

Surrey set for new outdoor theatre

13 Feb 2023

An open-air theatre is to open among purple fields of lavender in Surrey this summer.

Mayfield Lavender Farm will host the 250-seat Lavender Theatre at its site in Epsom, as part of a £2m investment project which also includes a coffee bar and glasshouse restaurant.

The new venue is being privately funded and managed by Lavender Productions Ltd. It plans to produce shows throughout the summer, starting with musical Annie Get Your Gun from 17 July.

Lavender Theatre has been co-founded by Director Joe McNeice and Mayfield owner Brendan Maye.

McNeice said the venue will offer “more than just a visit to a theatre”.

“Audiences will be able dine in our glasshouse restaurant underneath Mediterranean citrus trees or grab a picnic to enjoy among the blossoming rows of lavender as the sun begins to set, before taking their seats in our covered auditorium to watch a show under the stars.

“We think it’s going to be a truly special experience.”

Third of UNBOXED audience figures 'came from Countryfile'

30 Jan 2023

A large chunk of official audience figures for UNBOXED festival came from viewers watching Countryfile on the BBC, it has emerged.

Organisers of the £120m project said a total of 18.1m people had “engaged” with the project, consisting of 2.8m people attendeding events last year and a further 13.6m engaging with broadcast and digital content.

The Times reports that the 13.6m figure included five million Countryfile viewers watching an episode in October when the programme reported on one of the projects, Green Space Dark Skies.

Speaking in parliament, Labour MP Nick Smith raised the Countryfile figures with civil servants and ministers and questioned whether the festival had "made the impact it intended".

"The department [DCMS] reported in November that the figure for audience engagement was just over 18m," he said. 

"That sounds a reasonable reach, but it turns out that a one-hour “Countryfile” TV special was doing the heavy lifting with five million viewers — nearly a third of the total."

Smith has asked for the matter to be considered as part of a wider evaluation currently taking place.

Community-led projects ‘drive positive change’

15 Dec 2022

Organisations that supported an experimental funding programme say allowing communities to make creative decisions has driven positive change in their local areas.

Fringe performers ‘likely to return’ to festival

07 Dec 2022

A survey commissioned by the Edinburgh Fringe Society has found 70% of performers at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe are likely to bring a show to the festival again in the future. 

The finding forms part of an evaluation survey into this year’s edition, which received more than 10,000 responses including audiences and performers. For performers, the biggest barrier to future participation appears to be accommodation, with 87% of artists agreeing that affordability of accommodation and living costs will be a barrier to future participation in the Fringe.

Concerns were raised around soaring accomodation costs at the time of this year’s festival, with a coalition of Edinburgh's producing venues calling the issue a threat to the festival’s future.

Despite the concerns, 81% of all survey respondents -  including artists, audience members, arts industry professionals, residents and other participants - said they were likely to come to next year’s festival.

Two thirds of visitors would like to see discounted tickets available at next year’s edition, with 91% agreeing a discount should be available for Edinburgh residents.

The festival says the call for discounted tickets is a result of the cost of living crisis, which it says is “likely to extend into 2023”.

Over 2.2million tickets were issued by the end of this year’s edition, with artists from 63 countries performing more than 3,400 shows across the Scottish capital.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society Chief Executive Shona McCarthy said that in a tumultuous year, “it feels miraculous the Fringe happened at all”.

“Improvements can always be made, and the insights and data gained from our recent listening exercise are already being taken forward”, she added.

“We recognise that there are ongoing challenges, and our team are working hard behind the scenes to continue to advocate for our artists, and to support audiences as they plan for Fringe 2023.”

Leicester gains record for tallest street art in Europe

20 Jul 2022

Europe’s tallest piece of street art, rising 82 metres up the side of a towerblock in Leicester has been completed.

The piece, created by a team of artists, is almost double the height of the UK’s previous tallest piece of street art, Athena Rising in Leeds, which was 46.8 metres tall, and is now the fourth largest piece of street art in the world, behind two artworks in Calgary, Canada, and one in Karachi, Pakistan.

Izzy Hoskins, a co-director of the Leicester arts company Graffwerk, which produced the piece in collaboration with BID Leicester, said it was the only one out of those record breakers that is painted and designed by local artists.

“We just felt like if we didn’t have local artists with the ability to paint it, and we didn’t celebrate them, then what was the point?” she said.

People have been travelling to the city to take photographs, and the team behind it hope it will become a Leicester landmark.

“We’ve got this immense feeling of pride when we stand back and see what’s been achieved,” said Hoskins. 

“We are a creative country, we do have creative cities, and we have some incredible artists. And it’s great to put them on that platform and showcase what’s possible.”

Oil rig to become interactive art installation

14 Jul 2022

A decommissioned oil rig will be transformed into an interactive art installation as part of a project to change perceptions about sustainability.

The 450-tonne structure, which spent the last three decades in the North Sea, has been delivered to Weston-super-Mare beach ahead of being lifted onto a base at the Tropicana arts and music venue in the town in the coming days.

Once the "See Monster" project is completed, the 35-metre high platform will feature a waterfall and seated amphitheatre along with a 6,000 piece art installation to give it "scales", and will be covered in grass, plants and trees.

The installation will be open for two months from August to October, before the artworks are installed around the town and rig itself deconstructed and recycled. 



Renewable energy project to put festivals on national grid

A stage at Leeds Festival
20 Jun 2022

Music Declares Emergency, in partnership with Festival Republic, will create a roadmap for live outdoor events to connect to mains energy, reducing carbon emissions.

Welsh government defends £4.25m purchase of farm for Green Man festival

30 May 2022

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has defended the Welsh Government's decision to spend £4.25m on a piece of land for the Green Man festival.

The Welsh Government has previously said that the purchase of Gilestone Farm in Powys was intended to ensure Green Man has a "permanent home" in Wales, but the festival organisers have said they have no plans to move from their current home at the Glanusk Estate near Crickhowell.

The festival is understood to want to use the farm for sustainable farming and local food production but no business plan has yet been submitted to the Welsh Government by the festival's organisers and will not be provided until next month.

Speaking in the Welsh Senedd in response to questioning by Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies, Drakeford said those running the festival believe that they can do more to contribute to the economy of that part of Wales, "building on the success of their business".

"To do that they need more space in which to be able to develop those further possibilities. That's what lies behind the arrangements," he said.

Drakeford said that in the short term the farm will be leased back to the original owner in order that they can complete the bookings that they have in their tourism hospitality business and to make sure that the crops that have been planted are harvested this year.

"From the very beginning, we knew that the businesses plan from those who are responsible for the festival would be delivered to the Welsh Government in June of this year, and that is what we still expect," Drakeford added. 

"We are working with a trusted partner. We are working with a company that the Welsh Government has known and worked alongside over an extended period of time, as it has grown to be the fifth most successful festival of its kind anywhere in the United Kingdom. 

"We hold the land against the business plan and we will continue to scrutinise the business plan to see whether the objectives that the company have discussed with us can be delivered through it."

Reimagining the orchestra for the 21st century 

SMOOSH! perform at Knowle, West Bristol
12 Apr 2022

Charles Hazlewood is on a mission to disrupt the traditional model of orchestral music and bring the excitement into the streets.


Subscribe to Outdoor arts