Stone theft from heritage sites on the rise

13 Mar 2024

Calls for co-ordinated response to heritage crimes from police forces across England as study highlights impact of opportunistic offenders and organised crime groups on the sector.

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.

Pentabus moves to new premises

06 Feb 2024

Rural touring company Pentabus has annouced it is moving to new premises at the recently refurbished Ludlow Assembly Rooms.

Having spent the past 40 years on the farm estate at the Old School in Bromfield, Pentabus said the move will make the organisation more accessible to artists and audiences, adding that it will work alongside the Assembly Rooms team to ensure a thriving creative community in the heart of Ludlow.

Verity Overs-Morrell, Executive Director at Pentabus, said: "The entire Pentabus team are thrilled to make Ludlow Assembly Rooms Pentabus' new home, deepening our existing close ties. 

"The warmth received during our recent production of Driftwood [at the Assembly Rooms] and our Young Writers showcases was truly heartening."

Steve Catanach, Interim Business Manager at Ludlow Assembly Rooms, said: “Everyone at Ludlow Assembly Rooms is delighted to welcome Pentabus to our building. 

"Whilst we will continue to maintain and broaden our own programme of cinema, live events, and workshops, it’s fitting for us to now be home to one of the most esteemed national theatrical production companies.

"We look forward to enjoying the mutual benefits that come from sharing our resources and knowledge. Together we will be able to provide high quality, theatrical productions that will be accessible to Ludlow’s residents and visitors alike."

On the road again

Little Bulb company
13 Dec 2023

Rural touring is physically demanding but you get to visit the heart of places and are treated as guests of honour. Clare Beresford on the joys of rural touring.

Rural arts in Northern Ireland receive £400k

05 Sep 2023

A total of 63 rural arts projects will share £400,000 of funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, it has been announced.

The money, which is coming from the third round of the National Lottery's Rural Engagement Arts Programme, will go to community groups, arts organisations and local authorities in communities across Northern Ireland.

Organisations set to benefit include Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre Company in Fermanagh and Omagh, which has been awarded £9,000 to undertake a 40-day programme of dance workshops.

Meanwhile, £5,640 will go to Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann Craobh Boirche in Newry, Mourne and Down, which will use the money to provide traditional Irish music classes. 

Gilly Campbell, Director of Arts Development at Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “We know that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, boost confidence and motivation, as well as alleviate isolation and loneliness. 

The Rural Engagement Arts Programme has supported a total of 135 arts projects in rural areas with fudning of £898,780 since its establishment in 2022.

Film and TV worth over £5m to Cornwall in 2022

29 Aug 2023

Film and TV production was worth more than £5m to the Cornish economy in 2022, new figures reveal.

The data comes from a Screen Cornwall economic impact analysis into Gross Value Added (GVA) by the sector.

It found there were 422 filming days and 101 pre-production days in the county during 2022, which generated an estimated GVA of £5,040,000 – an 8% increase on 2021.

Screen Cornwall also announced it will receive a further £395,650 through the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Managing Director Laura Giles said the GVA figure was “a significant contribution for our rurally dispersed sector”.

“For the first time, we have a reliable estimate of what film and TV production is worth financially to Cornwall’s economy," she added.

“Momentum continues to grow for both location filming and independent production, so this funding boost comes at an important time.

“A diverse and robust talent pipeline is vital to developing a healthy screen ecosystem, so people are at the heart of our vision for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to become the UK’s most vibrant, rurally dispersed content production region.”

Welsh heritage sites receive £4.1m boost

Gwrych Castle with foliage in the foreground
07 Aug 2023

National Heritage Memorial Fund awards money to several heritage sites in Wales that were affected by the Covid pandemic.

New funding round for Northern Ireland's rural arts programme

10 May 2023

Rural arts organisations in Northern Ireland are being invited to apply for funding as part of a programme to increase access to and participation in the arts.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland's Rural Engagement Arts Programme (REAP) was launched last year.

The £1.5million inititiative is now on its second funding round, with grants from £500 to £10,000 available.

The focus of the scheme is to tackle isolation and loneliness through the arts. It was conceived as a post-pandemic recovery programme aimed at rural communities that were particularly hard hit by Covid-19.

Projects already funded through REAP include Glenlough Community Choir in rural North East Antrim, and Portstewart-based Big Telly Theatre Company, which created a touring, interactive piece of 'hybrid street theatre'.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said REAP will "increase opportunities for people living in rural communities to engage and participate in meaningful arts activities, enriching their lives for the better. I would encourage organisations to apply.”

Rural arts fail to engage diverse audiences

Power of Stories by Ipswich Museums and local community members.
03 May 2023

As part of our series of articles on widening participation, Elma Glasgow explores why the arts fail to engage ethnically diverse communities in rural areas. 

Welsh cultural hub receives £36k grant

18 Apr 2023

The Neuadd Dwyfor Arts Centre in Pwllheli has received a £36,000 grant from Arts Council of Wales to develop a new programme.

The funding will allow the cultural hub, situated on the Llŷn Peninsula in Gwynedd, north-western Wales, to offer more live events, including music, cabaret, comedy, dance and theatre.

The theatre and cinema is due to reopen this week following a period of maintenance work to safeguard its historic building, which was built in 1900 and has been an entertainment space since 1902.

Recently completed renovations include re-rendering the external red brickwork, renewing the lead work and installing new windows. 

“This is a new and exciting chapter in the long history of Neuadd Dwyfor, thanks to significant investment to protect this important resource by Cyngor Gwynedd with the support of the Welsh Government,” said Councillor Nia Jeffreys, Cabinet Member for Cyngor Gwynedd's Economy and Community department.

“I am also grateful to the arts council for their support in developing a contemporary arts programme that will attract audiences for this new chapter."

Arts Council Northern Ireland awards £110,000 to community projects

05 Apr 2023

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has awarded £110,000 to 22 projects through its Small Grants funding programme.

The initiatives receiving support span the regions of Down, Mid-Ulster, Armagh, Fermanagh, Antrim and the North West.

“Thanks to National Lottery players and money raised for good causes, we are delighted to announce today funding to support 22 fantastic projects, creating more opportunities for people to engage with the arts, from grassroots level projects through to professional productions,” said Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

“This valuable funding programme will support a variety of high quality arts projects in locations across Northern Ireland, including performances, workshops and tuition.”

The Lurgan and Armagh George Russell Festival Society has received funding to support its George Russell Festival, a history, literature and art festival that began on 1 April and continues until 10 April. 

Funding was also awarded to Tempo Maguires GAC to provide weekly low-cost traditional museum classes; Lilac Cancer Support Ltd to recruit an artist to work one day per week in the Art Development Studio at its Community Hub; North West Cultural Partnership to fund a May to July festival celebrating the opening of a new £1.8m arts centre, Seaview Integrated Primary School for a 10-week block of dance classes; Down Academy Pipes and Drums for a music tuition programme at a local primary school; and Africa House NI for a series of arts development workshops and training for the African diaspora community. 

National Youth Theatre partners with Netflix on youth access programme

07 Mar 2023

National Youth Theatre has announced IGNITE Your Creativity, a partnership with Netflix that aims to introduce young people to backstage and technical careers in film, TV and theatre.

The programme is designed to offer opportunities to more than 500 young people aged 14 to 25 in South Wales, West Yorkshire and the North East of England in its first year.

“Theatre is one of the great pipelines to TV and film but sadly the pipeline of opportunity for so many young people has been broken for so long,” said Paul Roseby, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of National Youth Theatre.

“Certain parts of the creative industries are growing, but ironically so is the skills gap in production talent. This partnership will help redress the imbalance”.  

The programme is currently recruiting young people in Newport, South Wales, where participants will work with Urban Myth Films and their Newport-based film studios, the Sherman Theatre, National Youth Arts Wales and local community organisations and schools. 

The programme will expand to West Yorkshire and the North East of England later this year, delivering 20 free community and school workshops in each area. It will also offer set and theatre visits and free week-long courses led by industry professionals.

“Our industry has a pronounced absence of socio-economic diversity partly because it’s freelance, which makes it tough for those from less privileged backgrounds to gain a foothold,” said Anne Mensah, Vice President of UK Content at Netflix.

“IGNITE Your Creativity has been designed to raise awareness and aspirations, and build confidence and networks so that young people don’t need to have existing industry connections, live in a big city or have a degree for a career in TV and film.”

Glastonbury Festival seeks permission for permanent stage

30 Jan 2023

Organisers of Glastonbury Festival are applying for permission to make the Pyramid Stage a permanent fixture so it can be used year round.

The BBC reports that festival organisers currently have rolling temporary planning permission but want it to become permanent.

A spokesman for Planning Sphere, representing Glastonbury Festival Events Ltd, said: "The grant of planning permission will provide certainty and secure the future of the largest music festival in Europe.

"There are significant cultural and economic benefits."

However, local residents have said they are concerned it would change the land from a working farm to a festival and camping site.

Anthony and Hilary Austin said: "If the site becomes a permanent site, we are concerned that additional events could be held on the site without seeking any additional planning."

Rural arts in Northern Ireland get £500k boost

26 Oct 2022

Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) has distributed £500,000 in the latest round of its Rural Engagement Arts Programme (REAP).

The funding has been split between 73 community groups, arts organisations and local authorities in rurally based communities. Funded projects span music, theatre, heritage and the visual arts, supporting different age groups to become engaged in creative activities.

ACNI consulted its Rural Deliberative Forum, a pilot project established in November 2021 designed to give a voice to under-represented groups, and Northern Ireland’s 10 local authorities outside of Belfast when designing the latest REAP round.

The overarching theme of the programme is to tackle isolation and loneliness and promote social inclusion and wellbeing through participation in the arts.

ACNI Chair Liam Hannaway said the effects of the pandemic and resulting lockdowns had been compounded in rural communities.

“The Rural Engagement Arts Programme will increase opportunities for people living in rural communities to engage and participate in meaningful arts activities, enriching their lives for the better,” Hannaway added.

“The Arts Council believes that arts, and coming together as communities, can all make a vital contribution to building wellbeing, confidence and healthy, integrated communities.”

Historic artist’s barn to be sold after funding shortfall

18 Oct 2022

Pioneering German artist Kurt Schwitters’ rural retreat in the Lake District is slated to be sold for development after repeated failures to secure funding.

Known as Merz Barn, after the absurdist art movement that Schwitters founded as an offshoot of Dadaism, the retreat was set up 75 years ago next to the village of Elterwater. 

The barn has been maintained since 2006 by Ian Hunter and Celia Larner, admirers of the artist who jointly founded the Littoral Trust to preserve the artist's estate. They had intended to make it a landmark on a planned Schwitters trail. 

The pair were initially provided with Arts Council support to preserve the barn for posterity, but nine applications for renewed Arts Council funding have been rejected over the last decade.

Despite recent donations from prominent artists including Bridget Riley, Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst and Tacita Dean, the trust has announced that the whole estate will be put up for sale early next year and is likely to be purchased by commercial developers.

“The project has received grants from the Arts Council in the past including investment in a feasibility study into the project,” an Arts Council England spokesperson told The Guardian.

“Understandably, there is a lot of competition for national lottery funding from the Arts Council and we’re not able to fund all of the projects that apply to us.

“Ian and Celia have been loyal custodians of the site and we wish them well in securing a future for it.”

Fund for Welsh music organisations reopens

13 Sep 2022

Music organisations working with young people in Wales have been invited to apply for grants in the second round of a fund run Anthem - Music Fund Wales.

The Atsain fund aims to support youth music organisations to address and overcome specific barriers to music for young people in Wales. Eligible organisations can apply for grants of up to £10,000.

The first round of funding awarded a total of £120,000 to 15 organisations last year and created a collaborative network of beneficiaries to facilitate forums for sharing best practice.

“We’re already seeing young people connecting with music in new ways as a result of projects funded by the first round of Atsain,” said Rhian Hutchings, Chief Executive of Anthem.

“Our grantees are working with young people of all ages, helping them to build their confidence, explore their creativity and find pathways to potential future careers.”

Atsain’s Programme Manager Rebecca Rickard said the organisation welcomes “partnerships between organisations that focus on music, but also youth, community, disability, language, poverty, race and more”.

“It is through partnerships that organisations get a better understanding of the barriers young people face, and how to break them down,” she said.

Norwich Theatre becomes RSC Associate Partner 

07 Sep 2022

Norwich Theatre has become an Associate Partner Theatre of Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).

The organisations said the formal partnership cements a commitment to bringing Shakespeare work and storytelling to Norwich.

Norwich Theatre has worked with the RSC’s Learning and National Partnerships team for a number of years and will now join RSC’s Associate Schools Programme, providing resources for teachers, workshops for pupils and small scale shows for schools from September.

The partnership will also build upon existing community work, with the theatre planning to work with local adult communities in the county who would not normally have access to live performance.

RSC’s Acting Artistic Director Erica Whyman described the partnership as “really special”.

“We both believe that the role of the theatre company is to ensure everyone has access to creativity, because creativity can help us all to find resilience, to find our community, find friendship and also understand the world.”

Norwich Theatre Creative Programs Director, Wendy Ellis, called the new partnership “the next natural step" for all the collaborative work the two companies already do together.

“Our audiences love to see RSC tours come to Norwich and we are proud to bring world-class Shakespeare to the region for local people to enjoy. We have been delighted to partner on all of this fantastic work together.”

Police warn of rise in heritage crime

17 Aug 2022

Some of Britain’s historical artefacts are at risk of being lost forever amid a rising wave of heritage crime, a senior police officer has warned.

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Nolan told the Telegraph that thieves are increasingly targeting churches and other historic sites around the UK, confident they can steal valuables or raw materials undetected amid shrinking congregations and waning interest in local historical sites.

Nolan, who was appointed national policing lead on heritage crime two years ago, said that police receive very little intelligence about crimes against historic buildings and monuments, in contrast to other crimes such as antisocial behaviour.

She warned that public "antipathy” towards the protection of heritage assets is worsening the problem and said that the scale of heritage crime is hard to judge because it is often unreported.

A total of 16 churches were targeted by thieves in July and previous research has found that nearly 20% of listed buildings were physically affected by crime in the space of a year.

“I think the thing to remember with heritage crime is that some of the things that are targeted are literally priceless,” she said.

“I think we should not necessarily judge the individual objects, just looking at how we can protect them and keep the country’s stories alive.”

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.

Former hospital in Dumfries to become £15m cultural site

12 Jul 2022

An ambitious new cultural site has been planned for a disused former hospital building set amid 85 acres of grounds on the outskirts of Dumfries in Scotland. 

The £15m project, funded and overseen by the Crichton Trust, will begin with a design competition to find architects to construct the new building, provisionally called the Crichton Centre for Memory and Wellbeing.

It will house the Crichton Archive and the Crichton Heritage Centre, as well as a new visual arts and exhibition space, an academic study space and resource centre and a land art archives and research centre.

The project aims to transform cultural provision in Dumfries and Galloway and complement the facilities and organisations at the Crichton, which is home to a range of academic institutions and business.

The competition to find architects is designed to encourage collaboration between different practices, including smaller firms. It is partly funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.

The closing date for initial submissions is August 19, after which a blind shortlisting process will award five teams £20,000 each to develop their proposals. The winning team is due to be announced in November.

“We are very excited about creating the Crichton Centre for Memory and Wellbeing, in what will become a new landmark building in the heart of the Crichton,” said the trust’s Chief Executive Gwilym Gibbons.

“This is one of several development projects included within our ambitious 100-year plan for The Crichton and is an important milestone in our journey to connect people, place and the past to shape the future.”


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