Place isn’t just geography – it affects how we feel

Image of bridge across Tyne with Glasshouse International Centre for Music, Gateshead
21 Mar 2024

Cara Pickering and Sarie Mairs Slee examine how place-based collaboration can support innovative, creative-led regeneration of our towns and cities.

Council urged to ditch cultural regeneration plans

CGI image of the Our Cultural Heart plans showing the new food hall and public square
14 May 2024

Think tank calls for Kirklees Council to abandon plans to demolish a former shopping centre that currently houses artists, community groups and new business startups.

Isles of Scilly museum project gets £3.4m cash boost

07 May 2024

A scheme to renovate an Isles of Scilly building and turn it into a museum has secured an additional £3.4m in funding.

The project, led by the Council of the Isles of Scilly and the Isles of Scilly Museum Association, aims to restore and extend the Grade II-listed St Mary's Town Hall and turn it into a museum and cultural centre.

The latest money, which comes from a programme managed by Cornwall Council funded by the UK government's shared Prosperity Fund, means the project is fully funded, with a total of £15.7m now raised.

Cornwall Council said the cultural centre and museum would provide a "much-needed" indoor venue for cinema, theatre and live music performances.

Louis Gardner, Cornwall Council's Portfolio Holder for Economy, said: "Once complete, it will create an enduring social and economic legacy for the islands while celebrating their unique culture and heritage."

Work on £2.5m creative hub for Loughborough begins

29 Apr 2024

Building work to transform a former industrial building in Loughborough into a creative arts centre will begin this month.

The BBC reports that the £2.5m project to create a large-capacity, multi-purpose cultural centre for the town at the Generator Hall is due to be completed by next spring.

The Generator CIC, a community interest company managed by volunteers, said it has "been working hard for several years" to transform the 1930s building.

In addition to £1.8m previously secured from various channels, £700,000 from the government's Community Ownership Fund was confirmed on 22 December, allowing contracts to be signed and builders to be arranged.

David Pagett-Wright, Chair of the Generator CIC, said: "Alongside this amazing breakthrough, we've been working incredibly hard behind the scenes for reasons we can now reveal.

"When we went to tender in July 2023, we discovered that recent, exceptional inflation in building costs had made our established plans no longer feasible. We hit quite a wall.

"We had to re-work our plans, creating a two-stage approach, and then go back to our main funders to get their agreement. Thankfully, all are on board with this approach."



Theatre added to council's Levelling Up proposal

25 Apr 2024

The Swan Theatre in Worcester has been added to a list of organisations set to benefit from a share of £5m of Levelling Up funding after Worcester City Council (WCC) was given an extension on submitting its spending plans.

The council was originally expected to deliver its final plan on 10 May, but the deadline has been moved to 3 June.

The original spending strategy included awarding £1.6m to create space for more events and exhibitions at the Corn Exchange, £900,000 to create a sustainable events venue at Pitchcroft and £742,000 to refurbish the Gheluvelt Park bandstand.

In its updated proposal, which was put before the Policy and Resources Committee on 23 April, the council has added a £155,000 grant to The Swan Theatre to improve the foyer and accessibility, including a new lift, accessible toilet, and changing facilities.

Just two years ago, The Swan was saved from closure after Worcester City Council scrapped plans to sell it off to fund a multimillion-pound project to build a new arts venue in the city on the site of the listed Scala Theatre and Corn Exchange buildings.

Other projects added to WCC's Levelling Up proposals include £65,000 for a mobile music vehicle £65,000, £350,000 to acquire a building as office and storage space for the Scala, and £22,000 on a portable outdoor stage.

Harlow Council's plans for new arts quarter given green light

16 Apr 2024

Plans for a new arts and cultural quarter in Essex have been give the green light by a council planning committee.

Harlow Council secured £19.6m of government funding in 2023 to be spent regenerating the town centre's Playhouse Square and College Square.

The plans include major improvements to the Harlow Playhouse, which will be extended.

Land to the west of the theatre will be redeveloped to create a new live performance and music venue with a music school and recording studio.

A public square for events, outdoor performances, a cinema and outdoor dining will also be created.

Council officers described the planning application as "exemplary" and praised its "high-quality" design.

Harlow Council said the redevelopment will "bring people to the town".

Theatres Trust awards £57k to ‘theatres at risk’

04 Apr 2024

Theatres Trust has announced the second round of grant recipients for its Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities programme. 

The grants, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Pilgrim Trust and the Swire Charitable Trust, can be used to help restore, reopen or revitalise venues on the Theatres at Risk Register, published by Theatres Trust.

Seven venues will share the £57,850 fund, including Amulet Theatre in Shepton Mallet, The Groundlings Theatre Trust in Portsmouth, Hulme Hippodrome, Leith Theatre, Netherton Arts Centre in Dudley, Ramsbottom Co-op Hall and Spilsby Sessions House.

Recipients of this round have pledged to put the money toward fundraising and business planning strategies, community engagement and outreach, conditions surveys and an oral history project.

Worcester arts venue receives planning consent

25 Mar 2024

A new multi-purpose arts venue in Worcester has been given the green light by council planners.

The BBC reports that Worcester City Council’s planning committee unanimously granted permission for the full redesign and internal refurbishment of the Scala and Corn Exchange buildings to create three multi-use spaces.

The Stage will host live performances, comedy and gigs, The Screen will host films, including independent film festivals, immersive events, dance and workshops and The Box will be a space for digital experiences.

The city council's Managing Director, David Blake, said the new venue would "attract new audiences and allow creative communities to thrive".

What would a regenerative cultural sector look like?

Young people leaping across a lavender bed in Ilam Park
19 Mar 2024

The sector’s resilience and creativity in navigating crises show how art and culture will sustain even in the toughest of times. Ben Walmsley explores what is now needed to build a more equitable, confident and sustainable future.   

An asset of community value

Musicians - violinists - performing at Peckham Levels
12 Mar 2024

A car park in Peckham has been transformed into a cultural hub, setting the benchmark for regeneration without gentrification, writes Joseph Winters.

A new kind of cultural destination

Auditorium section - architect image
12 Mar 2024

Sadler’s Wells is a world-leading creative organisation dedicated to dance. Eimear Hanratty explains how O’Donnell+Tuomey architects went about ensuring its new building, Sadler’s Wells East, would make dance accessible to all.

Oldham Coliseum announces pop-up theatre plans

The interior of the Roundabout pop-up theatre
11 Mar 2024

Details of an artistic programme to be staged at mobile venue from next month coincide with push by opposition politicians on Oldham Council for the theatre company to return to its former home.

Public art and the regeneration of Leeds

Aerial/drone view of Hibiscus Rising
06 Mar 2024

In the first in our series on regeneration, Sue Ball reflects on the role of city leaders in enabling Leeds to become ‘culturally braver’ through imaginative commissioning of public art.

(Re)Generation: A love language for culture?

Heart of Hearts competition in Times Square, NY
05 Mar 2024

The urban development sector is increasingly the first choice of partner for cultural regeneration projects. But how do you find your perfect match? Sherry Dobbin has some matchmaking advice.

Emergency roof repairs at British Museum due to 'endless leaks'

27 Feb 2024

Emergency roof repairs were carried out across four galleries at the British Museum last week following an "endless series of leaks", according to a report in Arts Newspaper.

The action was taken in galleries containing Greek, Cypriot and Japanese artworks, where buckets were being used to catch drips and extra heaters to reduce humidity levels.

In a speech last year, museum Chair George Osborne acknowledged issues with the museum's fabric: "For decades, it has been patched up in a piecemeal way and by closing galleries when the rain comes in."

Plans to upgrade the entire building, starting with galleries on the ground floor, are in place. However, progress was impacted by the resignation of director Hartwig Fischer following the revelation last year that over 2,000 artefacts had been lost, stolen or damaged over a 19-year period.

Last December, the British Museum signed a 10-year partnership with oil giant BP to fund a significant redevelopment of its Bloomsbury premises in a move that environmental groups have heavily criticised.

The museum said the £50m from BP will help it deliver its master plan and ensure millions of visitors can "continue to access the collection for generations to come".

In a statement to Arts Newspaper, a museum spokesperson said: "We have been open about the fact it is in need of full-scale renovation." They added that the museum's master plan represents "one of the most significant cultural redevelopment projects undertaken anywhere in the world."

Council votes to support museum’s overbudget renovations 

12 Feb 2024

Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) has voted to continue supporting the redevelopment of Ipswich Museum after a £2.7m overspend.

The museum closed in October 2022 for renovations and expansion, initially budgeted at £8.7m, half of which was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF).

Now with an estimated cost of £11.4m, after rising inflation and supply chain issues, IBC voted on 6 February to ensure the project is delivered in full, unanimously deciding to apply for a second round of funding from the NLHF.

According to a council report, NLHF has indicated that it will consider an additional funding application if the council provides match funding.  

At a committee meeting, the council was warned that, if rejected, the project could be subject to a complete review, halting it for at least 18 more months.

"It's really hard to see what other option we have because we are so far down this road now," said Conservative councillor Ian Fisher.

"If we don't vote for it, we get something that's not going to be anywhere near what we wanted."

Labour councillor Carole Jones, portfolio holder for planning and museums, said: "There are improvements that we need to make, and this is not an extravagant scheme.

"We are where we are, and we can only go forward."

Reading Council submits £13.7m theatre revamp plans

29 Jan 2024

Reading Borough Council has submitted plans for a £13.7m overhaul of The Hexagon theatre.

The proposals include the demolition of unused parts of the building and the addition of a new extension with a 300-seat auditorium and performance space.

If approved, work on the project could begin in August, with the theatre remaining open during construction

The update is part of a broader regeneration of the area known as the Minster Quarter and is backed by £19.1m that the council received from the government's Levelling Up fund.

Talent needs a place to flourish

James Seabright, Sofi Berenger and Justine Simons in the auditorium of the new King's Head theatre
24 Jan 2024

The King’s Head Theatre in London opened its doors this week for a gala night in celebration of its new theatre building. Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture, was there.

County Durham culture programme gets £1.25m funding boost

08 Jan 2024

County Durham has received a £1.25m Place Partnership award from Arts Council England, funded by the National Lottery, for a three-year programme of events, skills development and community-led activities.

The grant supplements the £2m Durham County Council has pledged toward the project and follows the region’s bid for the UK City of Culture 2025. After making it to the final four, the county lost out to Bradford.

Running from 2024 to 2026, with a 'spotlight' year in 2025, the programme includes establishing a county-wide network of community-based cultural hubs where residents can develop their creative projects and share ideas.

The award will also support a long-term international programme with South Africa's Isango Ensemble, with the aim of developing local talent and new productions that build on the region's heritage of mining and community activism.

The programme has been developed in partnership with Beamish Museum, The Bowes Museum, Durham University, No More Nowt, The Forge, Northern Heartlands, Redhills and TIN Arts.

Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, said: "The £1.25m awarded is a huge vote of confidence by Arts Council England as we put culture at the heart of our regeneration plans for the county and the wider region.

"2022 marked a historic milestone for the county, with tourism contributing over £1bn to our economy for the first time, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

"We are committed to both culture-led regeneration and activities that directly connect culture to economic and community growth.”

Jane Tarr, Arts Council England's Director for the North, added: "The Place Partnership Fund is designed to help places make a step-change in the cultural and creative lives of the community, and I'm delighted that culture is at the centre of Durham's regeneration plans."

Vision for £33.5m Harlow cultural quarter revealed

A CGI image of the the plans for Harlow cultural quarter
08 Jan 2024

Development including new performance and exhibition spaces is part-funded with £20m of Levelling Up money.


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