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.

Margate theatre in line for major restoration

29 Nov 2023

Thanet Council has revealed plans to restore and modernise Theatre Royal Margate in a bid to transform the Grade II* listed venue into a “nationally significant performing arts hub”.

Proposals put forward for public review include adding a bar and cafe, a 50-seat studio theatre and sound recording studio to the 245-year-old building, as well as rehearsal rooms, offices and accommodation for touring theatre companies.

The council is also testing the market to find a new operator from the performing arts sector for the venue.

Funding of £2.2m has been allocated to the project as part of the Margate Town Deal, but the council says significant external financing is needed. 

To raise funds, Thanet Council has applied to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a further £3.2m. It is also in conversation with Arts Council England about applying to the Department of Culture Media and Sport’s Cultural Development Fund, launching in 2024. 
 
Ruth Duckworth, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Property at the council, said: “The Theatre Royal is an important historic performance asset, and plays a key role in Margate’s leisure offering. The project to restore and relaunch it is highly ambitious, and it will not be possible without the support of other major funders, an operator with vision and resources, and the support of the community. 

“The Theatre Royal has the potential to provide employment and training opportunities for young people in performing arts and creative careers. It is a truly unique heritage stage, and I would love to see homegrown talent performing in high quality, locally made productions, as well as visiting national and international theatre productions.”

Arts Council England invests £850k in Stoke

Photo of the 'Pig Walk', a community event in Longton delivered by Stoke Creates partner Urban Wilderness
28 Nov 2023

Funding will go toward a three-year scheme creating 'cultural action zones' across the city.

Worcester's Swan Theatre saved from closure

21 Nov 2023

Proposals to sell off a theatre in Worcester to help pay for a council regeneration project have been scrapped.

Funds from the sale of the 350-seat Swan Theatre were earmarked to go toward 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.

Original plans for the redevelopment of the Scala site, backed by an £18m grant from the government's Future High Streets Fund, have also been dropped after construction costs for the project almost doubled. A consortium of arts and creative organisations has been engaged to advise Worcester City Council on a revised plan for the arts venue.

Worcester Theatres, which runs the Swan Theatre and the city’s Huntingdon Hall, had been due to take up new headquarters at Scala Theatre.

A spokesperson for Worcester Theatres said: “We are very happy in our current home and will continue to run both the Swan Theatre and Huntingdon Hall for the foreseeable future, bringing a fantastic varied programme of events to Worcester’s city centre.

“While we will not have a role in operating the new Scala venue, we are very pleased the project is continuing to develop and look forward to seeing how the space will be designed and operated as a new arts venue accessible to everyone.

“Perhaps one day even our Worcester Repertory Company may be able to perform there, but of course, until more plans are revealed, it is difficult to say.”

Culture gets £100m in final Levelling Up funding round

Computer-generated image of future theatre and cultural hub in Andover
21 Nov 2023

Government has distributed £4.8bn across three funding rounds, with an estimated £1.1bn designated to cultural projects.

Scottish Opera reveals plans for new home

31 Oct 2023

Scottish Opera's plans for its new location on a former industrial estate have been released.

The regeneration project, currently in the consultation stages, will see the Glasgow-based company relocate its head office from the city's Charing Cross area to new premises on Spiers Wharf.

The new premises will sit between the existing Edington Street production studios and the canal towpath. Plans for the mixed-use development will incorporate rehearsal and performance spaces as well as film facilities, office and production space and two student accommodation blocks.

Scottish Opera’s new home will include an education and outreach hub with adaptable performance spaces that can function as a recording studio.

The consultation proposal states that the submitted development plans would “help to secure Scottish Opera’s presence within Glasgow for the next 60-plus years by rationalising and consolidating three of our current scattered five premises under one roof to demonstrate measurable economic, business, and artistic advantage”. 

Scottish Opera will submit its complete planning application in early 2024, with construction expected to begin in early 2025.

Kilmarnock boosts culture with Levelling Up cash

31 Oct 2023

Plans to regenerate cultural assets in Kilmarnock have been revealed using some of the £20m awarded to it from the government's second round of Levelling Up funding earlier this year.

A key grant beneficiary will be the Palace Theatre and Grand Hall, which will undergo extensive refurbishment. The upgraded building will offer improved accessibility, dining areas, space to host a youth theatre company and a new entrance.

Anneke Freel, Chief Officer East Ayrshire Leisure Trust, said: “This is such an exciting project for Kilmarnock and for Ayrshire that will allow us to create a theatre and concert hall that will attract high-profile performers and make performing arts more accessible to local people.”

Funds will also be used to create a “travel corridor” to link the Palace Theatre, Grand Hall and the Dick Institute with a “cultural parkland” incorporating a natural amphitheatre with a seating capacity of up to 150 people. 

Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council, said: “We are all tremendously excited by this project - this is the stuff dreams are made of! This investment in our cultural offering will bring significant economic, social and environmental benefits to East Ayrshire.”

Easter opening date for £27m Perth Museum

25 Oct 2023

A new museum in Perth costing £27m has been given an official opening date for 2024.

Perth Museum will open after a multi-million-pound refurbishment of the former city hall over Easter weekend next year.

Partially funded by £10m of UK Government investment through the Tay Cities Deal and by Perth and Kinross Council, the museum will showcase Perth’s place in ancient and modern Scotland as the nation’s first capital.

Its collection will include the Stone of Destiny, used in King Charles's coronation, and a sword belonging to Bonnie Prince Charlie, which returns to Scotland for the first time since being made in Perth in 1739.

Councillor Grant Laing, Leader of Perth and Kinross Council, said: “Perth Museum will be a landmark attraction that brings Scotland’s history to life and is the culmination of our long-term cultural regeneration vision for Perth.

“It will significantly increase visitors from across the UK and internationally. It has created new skills and employment opportunities, and it will ignite our sense of civic pride in our beautiful and historic city.”
 

Plans for Eastbourne arts centre revealed

24 Oct 2023

Proposals for a new arts, education and cultural centre sited on a 19th Century dairy farm in the South Downs have been announced. 

The project, called Black Robin Farm, is part of a partnership between the contemporary art gallery Towner Eastbourne and Eastbourne Borough Council, with a design by architects Feilden Fowles recently submitted for planning approval.

The submission follows Eastbourne Borough Council's successful £19.8m funding bid to the government's Levelling Up Fund. It is hoped that Black Robin Farm will draw 100,000 visitors annually within five years, helping to boost Eastbourne’s economy. 

Working with East Sussex College Group, Towner Eastbourne will use the site to offer qualifications and skills training for young adults to support career development in the creative, leisure and tourism sectors. It also plans to provide artist opportunities through commissions, residencies, showcasing and workspace.

If planning permission is granted, the next steps for the project will be working with stakeholders and communities over the next four years. 

Joe Hill, CEO and Director of Towner Eastbourne said: ”Our ambition is to ensure genuinely inclusive access to art and culture through artist commissions and other professional development opportunities, skills development initiatives and creative engagement programmes for children and adults, especially those from Eastbourne's most disadvantaged communities.

“Our vision is to change lives through high-quality creative and cultural experiences that raise aspirations, change career directions and improve life outcomes."
 

Wirral Council shares borough of culture plans

23 Oct 2023

Wirral Council has revealed its plans for the borough’s stint as Liverpool City Region Borough of Culture next year.

Planned events include a permanent public art project in East Wirral, an arts festival in New Brighton and activities carried out by libraries, the Floral Pavillion and Williamson Art Gallery.

A statement from the council says the events “should be a celebration of Wirral people and places and a showcase for its creative communities and the power of culture and heritage in regeneration”.

The council is investing £800,000 in the programme of events, with £200,000 coming from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, alongside funding from the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund and Town Deal funds.

Event management and production costs are being outsourced following a £620,000 cut to the council’s budget. Local press has reported those who are receiving grants have been encouraged to get additional funding to “enhance delivery and outcomes”. 

A different Liverpool borough hosts the city region’s borough of culture programme each year. The last time Wirral staged the event was in 2019, while this year’s host is St Helens.

Somerset Council halts Octagon Theatre regeneration 

10 Oct 2023

Somerset Council has put a £30m project to remodel the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil on hold due to rising costs.

At an executive committee meeting on 4 October, the council acknowledged that the current business case for the theatre's regeneration could "no longer be met" and "a revised business case would be necessary".

Councillors promised to “explore all the options” for the venue's future, which has been closed since April, with £1.77m already spent on preparatory works.

Plans to turn Octagon Theatre into Somerset’s ‘flagship arts venue’ were initially expected to cost £23m, with a grant from Arts Council England providing £10m and the remainder due to come from external borrowing.

When the project went out to formal tender in January 2023, the estimated cost had risen to £30.7m. A recent report from the council, which faces a predicted overspend of £26.1m this financial year, found increasing interest rates made the redevelopment “unaffordable”, with repayments expected to reach £1m annually. 

Council officers have been instructed to undertake an options appraisal, in partnership with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Arts Council England (ACE), to investigate possible plans for the future of the site and create an updated business plan. 

One of the possibilities suggested by the report, would be a cheaper renovation estimated by contractors at £9m. However, this would mean the £10m grant from ACE for the initially approved project would be pulled.

Another possibility is reopening the theatre unchanged, a move that councillors warned could have a long-term negative impact on the arts in Yeovil.

Chris Hall, the council’s Executive Director for Communities, said all the options would be put before the executive committee “as soon as is reasonably and practically possible”.

First look at £132m revamp of Bristol Beacon

Bristol Beacon main auditorium under renovation in September 2023
10 Oct 2023

Images have been released of Bristol Beacon during the final stages of its £132m renovation, before the concert hall reopens in November.

Historic London venue to revert to a theatre

26 Sep 2023

A Grade-II listed building on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue is set to be turned from an Odeon cinema back into a theatre.

The building first opened in 1931, with a capacity of 1,462 people across three levels and has hosted acts including the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana.

Architecture and design studio SPPARC has been asked to plan the redevelopment of the building by real estate firm Yoo Capital, which also hired the firm to work on the redevelopment of the Olympia exhibition venue, set to open in 2025.

Plans for the revamped Shaftesbury Avenue venue include a hotel and dining facilities. Entertainment group Cirque du Soleil is considering the venue for its first permanent home in London, Building Design reported.

Yoo Capital said it had begun a consultation with local stakeholders ahead of submitting a planning application to Camden Council. The company did not give an estimated date for the submission.
 

Council approves ‘urgent’ repairs to Blackpool Grand Theatre 

20 Sep 2023

Planners have given the go-ahead for the Grand Theatre in Blackpool to undergo “urgent” repairs after it was discovered that rainwater had leaked through parts of the roof earlier this year.

The work on the grade-II listed building is expected to cost half a million pounds and be completed by spring 2024. It is hoped that a funding bid to Arts Council England will help finance the project.

Blackpool Council said repairs were "urgently required” to make the theatre watertight but added that work "would not affect the character or significance" of the building.

In a submission supporting the plans, the Theatres Trust cautioned that the venue's future could be in question without the intervention.

It described the theatre, which opened in 1894, as “one of the finest works of renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham” and said that the renovations would “address deficiencies with the building which, if left unresolved, would result in continued deterioration and compromise the building’s significance as well as its ability to operate”.

The Trust added: “It is an important and valued cultural venue for Blackpool, hosting a busy programme which both meets the needs of local people as well as contributing to Blackpool's visitor offer.

"Therefore, efforts to support its ongoing conservation and operations are to be supported."

Telford Theatre closes for two years in levelling-up renewal

13 Sep 2023

Telford Theatre will close for a two-year refurbishment, costing £15.5m, to be funded by the government's levelling-up scheme.

The building is due to shut in spring 2024 and reopen in October 2026. A temporary site will host shows in the interim.

Originally opened in 1968, the current theatre seats 490 people and is in need of significant maintenance, according to the local council.

The revamped auditorium will have a 750 capacity, while a new secondary studio will have 98 seats.

Also included in the project is a new creative community art room and the introduction of air source heat pumps to heat the building.

The scheme is part of a newly planned Theatre Quarter for the Oakengates area, which will involve demolishing several shops. In October, shop owners told the BBC they were not offered enough compensation and had uncertain futures.

Speaking about plans, Councillor Shaun Davies, leader of Telford and Wrekin Council, said, "This is a defining moment for our community.

“The remodelling of Telford Theatre underscores our commitment to nurturing the arts, cultivating talent and revitalising our vibrant town.”

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