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.

Kendal art gallery to reopen next year

16 Aug 2022

Abbot Hall gallery in Kendal is expected to reopen early in 2023.

Arts and heritage charity Lakeland Arts has been given the go ahead to reopen as early as possible in 2023 by South Lakeland District Council (SLDC), which owns the building and is managing its redevelopment programme.

The Grade-I listed building closed just before the start of the pandemic in 2020, leading to a “prudent approach to the redevelopment by phasing the works over time,” according to Lakeland Arts.

Phase one of the redevelopment work is now expected to begin shortly, with a focus on essential upgrades to the electrics, flooring and redecorating.

“We are very much looking forward to the works being finalised so we can reopen for visitors next year,” Lakeland Arts Chief Executive Rhian Harris said.

“We are able to confirm the much anticipated commission and exhibition by internationally recognised artist Julie Brook will go ahead alongside the reopening next year.”

Heritage Fund moots investment in 'places of need'

People in a park
10 Aug 2022

New investment strategy for National Lottery Heritage Fund likely to feature larger grants for increased impact, with a focus on areas with greater need for support.

Liverpool Playhouse plans major refurbishment

08 Aug 2022

Liverpool Playhouse Theatre is set to undergo a major refurbishment.

The Liverpool & Merseyside Theatres Trust (LMTT), which runs the Playhouse, is looking to appoint a design practice to prepare a Capital Refurbishment Feasibility Study to get work on the 156-year-old theatre underway.

LMTT CEO Mark Da Vanzo says the refurbishment is required to “ensure it survives for another century and is as environmentally sustainable as it can be.”

“We hope that the refurbishment of the Playhouse will be an exemplar for similar age theatres across the world, demonstrating that you can improve the environmental credentials of a listed building while also acting as a catalyst for a cultural regeneration of its surrounding area.”

Collaborative bids from design consortiums, particularly those that include emerging practices in Liverpool and widen representation within the project team, are encouraged. 

Bids must be submitted by 3 October, with further details available on the Playhouse’s website.

Visitor attraction to open after £28m redevelopment

03 Aug 2022

The world's first iron-framed building will open next month as a visitor attraction following a £28m restoration.

Known as the "grandparent of skyscrapers", the Main Mill structure at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings paved the way for modern-day skyscrapers as the world’s first iron-framed building following construction in 1797.

The site, consisting of eight listed buildings, has been closed for the past 35 years, but four of the buildings are due to open next month as a visitor destination and workspace following a £28m, eight-year restoration programme overseen by Historic England.

The opening will be accompanied by a new exhibition, "The Mill", telling the story of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, its crucial role in the industrial revolution and those who campaigned to save it. 

Heritage support programme returns for third year

03 Aug 2022

The third round of a programme aimed at responding to the challenges and financial constraints currently facing heritage organisations will begin in October.

The Steps to Sustainability programme, delivered by the Social Enterprise Academy, will see 30 heritage organisations receive support to strengthen their strategic leadership and income-generating skills.

The programme’s previous two rounds supported 110 learners across the UK, with 86% reporting an increase in confidence when implementing an income generating idea.

Participating organisations will have the chance to apply for a funding grant of up to £10,000 to incentivise increased trading income during and immediately after the programme.

"With the additional impact of Covid-19, a culture of enterprise to build a sustainable and resilient heritage sector is needed now more than ever," a Social Enterprise Academy spokesperson said.

West Yorkshire launches arts, culture and heritage consultation

26 Jul 2022

West Yorkshire Combined Authority is launching a consultation into a new programme to develop arts, culture, heritage and sport in the area.

Locals are being invited to share their opinions and contribute to the final content of the Culture, Heritage and Sport Framework via an online platform.

The draft framework is part of West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin’s Creative New Deal, which aims to ensure the creative industries are included in the area’s post-pandemic recovery strategy. The framework focuses on four central themes - people, place, skills and business - all of which will be supported by the Combined Authority.

“There is no doubt that the arts, culture, heritage and sport bring so much joy to so many people in our region,” Brabin said.

“They improve our mental and physical wellbeing, create jobs, grow our economy, and attract talented people and businesses to our region.”

She praised West Yorkshire’s sculpture and contemporary art, as well as its “thriving and fiercely independent music sector, a rich literary tradition, internationally significant theatre, dance and opera companies, major music and literature festivals, and cutting-edge hubs for the games, screen and events industries.”

“This is served by an eco-system of innovative small and medium enterprises and freelancers,” she added.

New West End theatre to open in autumn

21 Jul 2022

A new build West End theatre will open this autumn, the first for 50 years.

The theatre, called @sohoplace, forms part of a £300m regeneration project led by property giants Derwent London in a corner of Soho recently named Soho Place, the first new street name in Soho in 72 years.

@sohoplace features a 602-seat auditorium, a creatives' floor with rehearsal space, actors’ Green room, bar and terrace, and a ground floor with a public restaurant and bar. It is owned by West End producer Nica Burns and operated by Nimax Theatres. Details of the first production are expected soon.

Burns says she wanted to create a theatre that adds a different dimension to the West End landscape.

“The incredible team of engineers pulled off the greatest of structural feats, building over a major underground transport hub - a challenging place to build a theatre - achieving perfect acoustics and no vibrations.”

The project was designed by architect Simon Allford who said @sohoplace is “undoubtedly the most complex and delightful project I have ever worked on: the highly engineered architecture and design of a Swiss watch but built on an urban scale."

DCMS launches consultation on how to spend dormant assets

21 Jul 2022

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has launched a public consultation on what social and environmental causes should benefit from more than £700m of dormant assets funding in England.

Currently, dormant assets funding in England is required to be spent on three causes - youth, financial inclusion or social investment, but the government is reviewing whether these remain the right causes for where funding from dormant assets can be allocated.

One option under consideration for views is a community wealth fund proposal that would see pots of money distributed over long periods of time in local communities in England, with decisions made by residents to make a difference where it is most needed.

DCMS is welcoming response from members of the public, community groups, and industry stakeholders.

The consultation will close on Sunday 9 October.

Work begins on £3m development of Coventry’s Albany Theatre

19 Jul 2022

The Albany Theatre in Coventry is undergoing a £3m redevelopment that will include a new studio theatre, two education spaces and a new café and bar area.

The theatre plans to establish two new theatre groups for children and young performers this autumn.

The redevelopment is being funded by grants associated with the City of Culture programme and the local authority.

The building that is the Albany Theatre main house dates from 1935, when it was built as a lecture theatre for Coventry Technical College. It successfully weathered bombing and remained open during the Second World War, when trenches were dug in the sports ground.

The theatre underwent major renovations in the 1980s but came under threat in the 1990s. It temporarily closed its doors in 2008 before reopening as a volunteer-run theatre in 2013. It is now run by the Albany Theatre Trust charity.

“It's fantastic to get the work under way as we enter an exciting new chapter in the Albany's history,” David Meredith, Chair of the Albany Theatre Trust, told the BBC.

“These developments are helping us to improve the experience we provide to our audiences, while creating even more space for communities and local artists to use the Albany and enabling the trust to become financially self-sufficient.”
 

Wrexham to bid again for UK City of Culture 

14 Jul 2022

Wrexham will make another bid for the title of City of Culture in 2029 after recently losing out to Bradford for the 2025 title.

Members of Wrexham Council's executive board approved launching another attempt to win the title at a meeting this week. They also supported a number of other recommendations including inviting the National Eisteddfod to Wrexham in 2025.

Hugh Jones, the arts portfolio holder, said he was confident about the council’s chances of success in 2029.

He said: “If you look at the facts with Bradford and the size of their team, they had eight full time staff and a PR agency that had been working on the project for two and a half years.

“In just over six months, we came so close to winning this and that gives an indication of the achievement that we had in Wrexham.

“Clearly, we want to bid for 2029 and why wouldn’t we because 2025 is probably worth somewhere in the region of £300m."

Successful CDF bids share commitment to cultural legacy

Exterior of Paignton Picture House in Torbay
14 Jul 2022

Local authorities in the areas of the seven funded projects in Cultural Development Fund round two are found to have strong cultural strategies and value their local cultural sector.

£18m refurbishment for Hereford Museum and Art Gallery

06 Jul 2022

Herefordshire Council has agreed to invest £8m of capital funding for the complete refurbishment of Hereford Museum and Art Gallery. 

A further £500,000 will be allotted to help relocate Hereford Library to a renovated Maylord Orchards centre.

The funding will be awarded in addition to £8m from Stronger Towns and £2m from another fund, bringing the total budget for the museum refurbishment to £18m, with a further £3.5m allocated for the relocation and renovation of the library. 

The new Library and Learning Resource Centre will provide rentable space for organisations including the council’s adult learning services and health and wellbeing clinics.

“I’m delighted cabinet members reached agreement on these two significant proposals for Herefordshire,” councillor Gemma Davies told Gloucestershire Live.

“Our investment in cultural services is so important to support local people and adds exciting destinations and support for both residents and tourists.”

She said that the new museum is expected to attract around £2.5m annually to the local economy.

“These projects represent good value for money for the people of Herefordshire and put culture at the very heart of our city’s future,” she said.

Plans announced for new theatre in Derby

30 Jun 2022

Derby City Council has announced plans to build a new theatre on a city centre site.

The proposed theatre, known as Assemble, would be constructed in partnership with the University of Derby on the site of the Assembly Rooms, which was closed following a fire in 2014.

The council said it was proposing a £20m bid to the Levelling Up Fund to support the project, which would also require council borrowing.

The new theatre will form part of Derby's City of Culture 2029 bid. Council Leader Chris Poulter said: "We need to deliver a step change to create a successful and dynamic city centre."

The plans are subject to sign-off by the council's cabinet on 5 July.

 

National Lottery awards £13.7m for community projects

30 Jun 2022

Six projects designed to support heritage, culture and nature have received funding from the National Lottery to help communities recover from the impact of the pandemic. 

A total of £13.7m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund has been allocated, including £2.1m to Leeds Culture Trust for its Leeds 2023 project, a creative programme that aims to "let culture loose" across the whole city. 

The funding will be used to help uncover hidden community stories, celebrate art, music, dance and industrial history; reconnect people with nature; explore the traditions and role of different cultures in Leeds.

Meanwhile, Derbyshire Dales District Council has been awarded £1m for its Hurst Farm Heritage Trail project.

And Blyth Tall Ship has been awarded £636,600 for its Blyth Heritage Community Response project, which will provide group activities to develop their skills and improve their own wellbeing and employability.

Other beneficiaries are Redruth Revival for its project Redruth Buttermarket: Rediscovering the Market Town, the Tweed Forum for its Destination Tweed: Source to Sea Restoration and Revitalisation project, and NatureScot for its Species on the Edge project.

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “I am delighted that we were able to support these exciting projects, which put heritage at the heart of people and places. 

"It is so uplifting to see the continued ambition in the light of the impact of the pandemic and ongoing challenges, protecting our precious heritage and supporting communities to recover and thrive."

The birth of Shakespeare’s Northern home

22 Jun 2022

Shakespeare North Playhouse is a brand-new theatre modelled on a traditional Shakespearean era playhouse. Melanie Lewis shares the challenges of bringing this ambitious regeneration project to life. 

Chesterfield theatre closes for £17.5m renovation

20 Jun 2022

Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre is closing at the end of the month as part of a £17.5m restoration project.

The plans will see work completed on the Stephenson Memorial Hall, home to both the theatre and Chesterfield Museum, which has already closed.

Chesterfield Borough Council says the theatre will be extended and the museum reconfigured, with a new gallery space and café bar. New educational and community facilities will also be created.

The project is part funded by the council, with £11m coming from the government’s levelling-up fund.

The Council’s service director for leisure, culture and community wellbeing Ian Waller says the plans will make the Stephen Memorial Hall “even more memorable and enjoyable, creating a modern visitor experience in the heart of our town”.

Government fund to rescue cultural buildings reopens

13 Jun 2022

The second round of the government’s Community Ownership Fund opened on Saturday (11 June).

The £150m fund is designed to help community groups bid for ownership of cultural buildings, namely historic buildings, sports clubs and music venues, to protect their long-term future.

The first round supported 39 projects to purchase assets that were at risk of closure, sale, neglect, damage, or were found to not be operating in a sustainable way.

Eligibility criteria has been widened to attract more applications. A requirement that the cultural asset must have had a community use in the last five years has been removed, and the minimum leasehold on the premises has been reduced from 25 years to 15 years.

Minister for Levelling Up, the Union and Constitution Neil O’Brien MP said the fund will help to “spread opportunity, boost local pride and level up every corner of the UK”.

Groups interested in applying are being invited to submit an expression of interest on the government website.

Upgrade of Yeovil theatre to begin next year

30 May 2022

Work on a major £29m upgrade to a theatre in Somerset to "help attract bigger shows" will begin next year, it has been announced.

South Somerset District Council said the redevelopment of the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil, Somerset, will start in January 2023 and take around a year.

The work will include expansion of the main auditorium capacity from 622 to 900 and construction of a fly tower so shows involving wire work can take place,

Two smaller cinema or studio spaces, a dance studio and a community studio are also part of the plans. Overall the work will cost £29m, with £10m coming from central government grants.

The Yeovil Amateur Operatics Society and other amateur groups who use the Octagon will be relocated to the Westlands entertainment venue while work takes place.

Councillor Mike Best, portfolio holder for health and well-being, said: "I fully understand through my theatre background the limitations of the Westlands facility.

"But at least we are fortunate to be able to... offer that, rather than societies having to cancel shows for an extended piece of time."

"Hopefully when the Octagon is redeveloped, the year it will have taken will have all been worthwhile."

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