Immersive art space to open at Wembley Park

Members of the Punchdrunk Enrichment team at the site of the new space (left to right) Alice Kitty Devlin, Peter Higgin, and Mia Jerome
21 Mar 2023

Performing arts charity sets out plans to launch new immersive arts space in London with the help of local artists and community groups.

North Shields theatre to reopen with new operator

21 Mar 2023

The charity that runs the Exchange Theatre in North Shields has announced that it will close the venue after failing to reach an agreement with the local council over the use of the site.

The theatre, café and bar is housed in the Grade II-listed Saville Exchange building, owned by North Tyneside Council.

It will close for up to four weeks from 17 April, while it undergoes a refit, before reopening with a new operator as part of the council’s plans to develop the town.

For the past seven years, the theatre has been operated by the Exchange Theatre charity. Tony Bridges, Chair of the charity’s board, said it had created a space to inspire future generations through the arts, ensuring the arts were accessible to all, not just to “one section of society”.

“It is with sadness that we are preparing to leave the building”, a spokesperson for the charity said.

John Sparkes, Director of Regeneration and Economic Development at North Tyneside Council, said that the building is key to plans for creating a vibrant “Cultural Quarter” in the town.

He added that the new operators, selected through an open tender process, were prepared to invest significantly in the building. 

“We'll be working closely with the new operator on the transfer of the building and look forward to seeing this cultural landmark flourish in the future”, he said.

Yeovil theatre to close for year-long renovation

20 Feb 2023

Yeovil’s Octagon Theatre will close in April to undergo a £29m renovation.

The project will see the venue equipped with a new cinema, dance studios and a new circle area added to the main performance space, increasing capacity from 622 to 900.

Redevelopment works are expected to last a year, after being approved by South Somerset District Council.

The council’s portfolio holder for health and wellbeing, Mike Best, commented: "The redevelopment will better enable the arts to reach out into the community".

"And there will be opportunities to develop a more considered culture offer across the county."

City of Culture runners-up publish bid details

15 Feb 2023

Southampton publishes full bid from its UK City of Culture campaign ahead of plans to deliver re-packaged elements across the city.

New music and arts venue planned for Whitehaven

08 Feb 2023

Plans have been put forward to turn a former warehouse in Whitehaven in Cumbria into a new music and arts venue.

The redevelopment of the building in the North West port town will provide spaces for recording, rehearsing, workshops and performance.

The proposals, which have been put forward by developers BEC (Britain’s Energy Coast), working in collaboration with local music charity Soundwave, include using recycled shipping containers within the building to create a variety of new spaces.

David Roberts, Soundwave director, said: “We believe this new creative space could be the catalyst for bringing about a change of attitude towards music, arts and culture in West Cumbria.

“It’s a huge step forward for local young creatives and the wider community, a safe creative space where people will be able to discover, explore and perform.”

BEC Chief Executive Michael Pemberton said: “It’s really important that we build a community where people feel welcome, supported and encouraged to grow their skills, showcase their talent, have fun and be part of something special.”

“We’re passionate about making West Cumbria a better place to live, work, visit and ‘play’ and we believe this creative proposition will bring this space back into the spotlight.”

A two-day public consultation about the plans for the building on Bransty Row in the town centre will take place on 27 and 28 February.

Jersey Opera House set for £11.5m restoration

Photomontage showing the proposed new glazing for Jersey Opera House
08 Feb 2023

A planning application for the Grade 2 listed building has been submitted, with proposals including the addition of new glazing alongside the historic façade.

An underutilised source of community arts funding

Community mural being painted in Peckham Square: an example of the kind of work that can be funded through CIL
26 Jan 2023

Local authorities are central to the UK’s planning system. Lucy Atkinson explains how Community Infrastructure Levy funding can provide opportunities for arts organisations to work creatively with communities.

Historic theatre faces closure due to £9m funding gap

Exterior of Edinburgh's King Theatre
20 Jan 2023

King's Theatre in Edinburgh issues urgent plea for financial support after missing out on levelling up funding, warning that it could be forced to 'close its doors forever' within a matter of weeks.

Levelling Up Fund provides £594m for culture and heritage

Exterior of the Palace Theatre and Grand Hall in Kilmarnock
19 Jan 2023

More than half the funded projects are in areas identified by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities as a priority for levelling-up investment.

Manchester's Factory International granted 24-hour licence

17 Jan 2023

Manchester's new flagship arts venue Factory International has been granted a 24-hour licence for when it opens later this year.

The £211m venue, which will be operated by Manchester International Festival, has been built on the former site of Granada TV Studios in the city centre.

Its licence will allow alcohol to be sold until 4am every night.

Neighbours of the venue have described the opening hours as "excessive" and expressed concerns about noise disturbances.

Rebecca Lowe, who represented Factory International at the licensing hearing, said the project's funding deal meant it required a "rich diversity" of events at the venue, including late night music. 

However, she assured councillors that the venue would not become a nightclub.

She said: "We can't give detail of all the sorts of events that might take place at this venue over its lifetime because its very reason for being is to be a groundbreaking, cutting edge venue".

The conditions of the licence include a capacity of 2000 people for the venue's outdoor area. A regular residents' forum to discuss any issues arising from the licence will also be required.

The cost of building Factory International has far exceeded original budgets. Funding has mostly been met by the government, Arts Council England and Manchester City Council.

Bradford’s National Science and Media Museum to close for refurbishment

17 Jan 2023

The National Science and Media Museum in Bradford has announced details of a £6m refurbishment project that will see it closed to the public for a year from June.

The “radical, once-in-a-generation” work will create two new "object-rich" galleries that will draw on the museum's diverse collection of 3.2 million objects.

Exhibits at the venue, which is part of the Science Museum group, range from the first photographic negative to the original puppet of Zippy from the 1970s kids TV show, Rainbow.

National Science and Media Museum director Jo Quinton-Tulloch said: “It is a fantastic moment for the museum. We are going to be transforming the visitor offer and it will be here for decades to come."

The refurbishment will remodel two floors and open up unused spaces in order to reimagine “the display and interpretation of the core collections”.

Quinton-Tulloch added that the changes, which will also include a new liftand improvements to the entrance, will allow the museum to “welcome many more visitors”.

Work will begin from February, prior to the closure, with displays on levels three and five of the building being gradually removed.

Major upgrade of Somerset theatre moves to tender

16 Jan 2023

Plans to upgrade Somerset’s Octagon Theatre are set to move forward this month, after councillors agreed to begin the tendering process.

The upgrade of the arts venue in Yeovil is projected to cost £29m and will include expanding and enhancing the building to create capacity for bigger shows and attract higher-profile acts.

South Somerset District Council announced the project in December 2020. The tender process will begin later this month, subject to the decision being ratified by the full council.

Building contractors will formally bid to carry out the proposed upgrades, which include increasing seating capacity in the main auditorium from 622 to 900 and creating two new smaller spaces to host film screenings and live performances, along with a dance studio, a community studio in which to hold classes and rehearsals and the consutction of a fly tower, which can be used for flying scenery.

The redesign is also intended to create improved front-of-house and customer facilities, an upgraded café and bar area, greater backstage accessibility and toilet facilities for those with additional needs.

“We see the redevelopment of this flagship arts venue as not only about the redevelopment of a building, but also being able to reach out into the community to improve access to the arts,” said Councillor Mike Best, Portfolio Holder for Health and Well-being.

The venue is set to close its doors in April 2023 for redevelopment to begin.

Historic hospital secures £4.9m for restoration work

11 Jan 2023

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded £4.9m for the restoration of historic buildings at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.

The work, which will be overseen by Barts Heritage will focus on conservation of the Great Hall and the Hogarth Stair, a staircase featuring two seven-foot-high canvasses painted by William Hogarth, depicting stories from the Bible.

The paintings require specialist cleaning and conservation, and the hall is also set to undergo extensive restoration work, including the repair and strengthening of the timber staircase and conservation work on an 18th Century chandelier. 

“We’re thrilled that our funding will be used to conserve these unique examples of Hogarth’s work and revitalise the stunning stair Hall for more and more people to appreciate and enjoy when visiting the historic buildings,” said Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive at The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The project includes an outreach component via a programme offering cultural and educational activities such as therapeutic artmaking courses, sensory heritage walking tours and mindfulness activities. 

Young people interested in heritage conservation can apply for placements, apprenticeships and volunteering roles.

Will Palin, Chief Executive of Barts Heritage said the project combines “the much-needed restoration of the one of the most important historic hospital buildings in the UK with a pioneering heritage and health programme”. 

“We are thrilled to have secured this transformative grant from the Heritage Fund and look forward to welcoming the public both during restoration works and after the project is complete,” he said.

Gateshead’s Trinity Centre to undergo £1.4m redesign

10 Jan 2023

A former church in Gateshead is set to become a community and arts hub after restoration plans secured funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Gateway Studio, a dance and related arts charity, has received £1.4m in funding. The money will be used to acquire and restore the Trinity Centre, a Grade I-listed former church located on Gateshead High Street, one of town’s oldest sites.

Plans for the development of the building include the creation of studio perfromance space for open mic nights, acoustic sets and art exhibitions to showcase local talent, as well as office accommodation and a café.

Renovations are scheduled to be completed by September 2024.

“Dance and the arts are powerful tools in transforming individuals and communities,” Martin Hylton, Founder and Chief Executive of Gateway Studio, told the BBC.

“This new development will not only put Gateshead firmly on the map, in terms of developing and supporting professional artists, but will also help to transform the local community.”

Angela Douglas, Gateshead Council's Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure, said the new arts space was “an exciting and ambitious project”.

“As one of our only dedicated dance spaces in the borough, I'm sure the regeneration of the Trinity Centre will unlock their full potential,” she said.

Sunderland Museum secures redevelopment funds

14 Dec 2022

Plans for a multi-million pound transformation of one Sunderland’s main cultural attractions have moved forward after funding was secured from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens has secured £299,425, which will be matched by the City Council, to further develop proposals for a major revamp of the venue. This will include moving the museum’s main entrance, and a redesign of  the ground floor to include a central atrium, new galleries and a learning and engagement zone.

Meanwhile, programming will be adapted towards more family-focused activities and exhibitions, including a programme complementing the Winter Gardens with a focus on the natural world, biodiversity and climate change. 

Sunderland City Council says it is aiming to apply for a full National Heritage Lottery grant of £5m in 2024 to carry out the work..

“This is all about transforming, re-energising and rejuvenating Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens in line with what our residents and visitors have told us they want to see,” said Linda Williams, Cabinet Member for Vibrant City at Sunderland City Council.

“We want to make sure that the whole museum is a modern, accessible, bright and innovative space that shows off our rich and vibrant stories to everyone near and far.”

She added that a major part of the project will involve updating the story of Sunderland to “better reflect our communities, who we are, and where we come from”.

Rebecca Ball, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture, said the work “will help ensure the museum is able to continue to develop new and innovative ways to both safeguard and share the city's stories for all our communities”.

Championing the four nations

Flags of home nations
01 Dec 2022

Creative & Cultural Skills exists to create a fair and skilled cultural sector and is exceptional in its commitment to working equitably across the four nations of the UK, says long-serving former trustee David Anderson.

British Council commits £14m to protect global heritage

30 Nov 2022

The British Council has announced £14m of funding to protect international heritage at risk from factors including conflict and climate change.

The funding will be distributed among 17 new projects over two-and-a-half years, through the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The projects receiving funding include a plan by Egyptian NGO Megawra to revive and protect two Islamic monuments in Cairo, where rising temperatures and excessive flooding are damaging buildings and infrastructure. 

“From the conservation of 13th century manuscripts in Gaza, to preserving buildings in Cairo, it is vital we do our utmost to protect precious global heritage at risk due to climate change and conflict,” said Arts Minister Lord Parkinson.

The British Council received an unprecedented level of high-quality proposals for funding, said Stephanie Grant, Director of the Cultural Protection Fund.

“The selected projects represent a diverse range of approaches to protecting cultural heritage, but with a shared motivation to safeguard cultural heritage for future generations, tackle urgent global challenges and deliver positive societal and economic impact for local populations,” she said.

The British Council also announced that it will fund two year-long research fellowships on cultural relations and climate action, in partnership with the American University of Cairo, the Indian Institute of Technology and the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh.

Two early-career researchers from the global south will receive funding to undertake fellowships at the University of Cambridge.

Plans for creative hub in Northampton unveiled

24 Nov 2022

Plans for a major new creative centre in Northampton have been unveiled as part of efforts to create vibrant space for culture in the town.

The Northampton Chronicle reports that the £4.7m project will see a five-storey redundant heritage building in the centre of the town transformed into a space featuring a contemporary art gallery, affordable creative studios and public spaces.

Daniel Lister, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Town Centre Regeneration and Growth at West Northamptonshire Council, said: “We are delighted to be entering our second phase of work to deliver this ambitious project.

“Once open, it will offer a unique cultural hub in the heart of the Cultural Quarter, complementing the ongoing redevelopment of this part of town.

“We have all combined our vision to regenerate this central building and offer a space for artists and entrepreneurs across our county and beyond.”

The 2,000 square metre space, sited close to Royal & Derngate theatre and the newly refurbished Museum and Art Gallery, is due to open late next year or early 2024

Cambridge theatre submits plans for rooftop venue

08 Nov 2022

A Grade II listed theatre building in Cambridge has unveiled plans to build a new 200-seater rooftop studio theatre.

City centre venue the Cambridge Arts Theatre also plans to refurbish its main 666-seat auditorium.

In planning documents submitted to Cambridge City Council, the theatre said that the new space will enable it to increase its repertoire of incoming shows.

It will also provide "the opportunity for a variety of different endeavours, including in-house productions, collaborations with university and educational faculties, as well as facilitating a more diverse range of shows and performance types".

The studio will replace a disused restaurant. Proposed building work will include the demolition of a sloping glass roof to be replaced by a flat roof with solar panels "sited where practical".

The plans state that the new rooftop venue will have "a distinctive chimney and modelled brick facade", with bricks of a "warm grey hue" in order to "sit comfortably with the historic Cambridge gault bricks".

Liverpool invests £1.6m in music development

05 Sep 2022

Liverpool City Region (LCR) Combined Authority is investing £1.6m in its LCR Music Board.

First set up in December 2018, the board is responsible for creating and overseeing a strategy to grow and support the music sector and its economic and social impact on the city region.

The latest investment is part of a £2m pledge made in March 2020 and will enable the board to deliver the second phase of the LCR Music Sector Development Project.

Plans include the creation of a LCR Music Office, which will act as a single point of contact for music businesses across the city region by providing information, advice and signposting to available support. 

A skills development strand of the project will deliver apprenticeships and traineeships across the music sector. 

The programme also plans to support industry career events and outreach to young people, providing career advice and support in association with local music education hubs.

Head of Liverpool UNESCO City of Music Kevin McManus said the local music sector is an important economic driver for the city region.

“This programme will help ensure that the sector can continue to grow, creating skilled jobs here, retaining talent in the region and making it a place where other music businesses want to invest.”


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