UK’s first NFT agency for artists launches

26 May 2022

The UK’s first non-fungible token (NFT) agency specialising in connecting artists, art collectors and galleries is now open.

Ad Astra will help users create their own NFTs - original digital data stored in a blockchain - by providing them with an end-to-end service, including workshops to help understand blockchains and NFTs, as well as advice on creative direction, legal contracts and sales.

The service hopes to break down entry barriers facing artists that have the desire, but not the resources, to create and sell NFTs.

Founder and CEO Emily Wigoder says many artists, galleries and traditional art collectors are holding back from engaging with NFTs due to the cost, complications and perceived risks.

“This is exactly why we created Ad Astra. We hope to facilitate the dismantling of these boundaries to allow traditional artists and galleries to flourish in web3 and create NFTs that hold long-term value.”

Phoenix Dance Theatre reverses layoff decision

26 May 2022

Phoenix Dance Theatre will no longer lay off four employees in June as previously planned.

Under plans revealed by performers' union Equity, the Leeds theatre intended to pay those laid off £300 of guaranteed pay every three months, during which time they would be expected to be available if required.

The decision to reverse the layoffs follows a demonstration outside the Northern Ballet building, home to the theatre, led by Equity on Monday (23 May). An online petition against the move received more than 2,000 signatures.

The theatre will move ahead with separate plans to end the contracts of five dancers, one freelancer and four on fixed-term contracts, but confirmed all other employees will be retained.

A statement from the theatre said layoffs were proposed but decided against while a strategic review is underway, adding it remains committed to safeguarding jobs wherever possible.

It called Equity’s decision to make the process public “disappointing” and said the theatre “strongly refutes their account of our actions”. 

Dominic Bascombe, Equity’s Regional Office for North East, Yorkshire and Humberside, said he was delighted for the two dancers and two creatives affected.

“They have been overwhelmed by the support of the public, trade unionists and fair-minded people everywhere.”

Mayor of London teams up with Creative UK to support freelancers

26 May 2022

The Mayor of London’s Culture Team and Creative UK are joining forces in an effort to tackle "systemic inequalities" facing freelancers in creative industries. 

The partnership will hold an event in July where freelancers and organisations working across London’s creative economy will be given the opportunity to test, prioritise and develop ideas for a more sustainable freelance model for creatives.

The guidance and ideas that emerge from the online event will be taken forward and shaped into a robust business case, as part of City Hall's Redesigning Freelancing programme.

Creative UK said the fragility of the freelance model, which the creative industries rely on heavily, was revealed during the pandemic when many parts of the creative industries experienced a sudden, large drop in their volume of work, with freelancers left unsupported.

Evy Cauldwell French, Development & Partnerships Manager for Impact & Change at Creative UK, said: “Creative freelancers working throughout London continue to face an unequal playing field, with many sadly choosing to leave creative occupations due to unsustainable practices. 

"We are pleased to announce our partnership with the Mayor of London’s Culture Team, with whom we are empowering organisations and freelancers working across London’s creative economy to create a more sustainable future for our growing workforce.”

Edinburgh Fringe producers get £1.3m resilience funding

26 May 2022

Edinburgh Festival Fringe producers have received financial support to help them recover and remain resilient following the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A total of 13 Edinburgh Festival Fringe producers have been awarded a share of £1.275m from the Fringe 2022 Resilience Fund, financed by the Scottish Government and distributed by Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.

Venues in receipt of the money are Assembly, BlundaBus, Gilded Balloon, Greenside, Just The Tonic, Laughing Horse, Monkey Barrell Comedy, Pleasance, Scottish Comedy Festival, Summerhall, theSpaceUK, Underbelly and ZOO.

A further £305k has been allocated to support the ongoing resilience of the Fringe Society, which includes £55k to support the delivery of street events during August.

Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: “It’s fair to say that the last few years have been the most challenging in our festival’s history. 

"Now, as we prepare to enter our 75th anniversary year, creatives across the Fringe landscape are working hard to ensure that this incredible festival not only survives, but continues to work hard to be the best version of itself.

“This support from Scottish Government is absolutely vital in helping us to achieve that goal: allowing producers and creatives across the landscape to not only recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, but to offer enhanced support to artists, workers and volunteers; to continue to programme creative and innovative work; to improve accessibility; to tackle affordability and to ensure that this festival remains true to its founding principles of openness and inclusivity.”

Equity launches self-tape guide for commercials

19 May 2022

A code of best practice for self-tape and Zoom auditions for commercials is now available.

Launched by Equity, it is the first of its kind for commercials in the UK and follows a best practice guide for scripted dramas released last August.

It includes a recommended two-day minimum turnaround for self-tapes, avoidance of anti-social hours for taping, and safeguarding guidance on requests for artists to audition fully or partially nude. 

The union hopes the guide will lead to improved standards in commercial auditions, which tend to be less regulated than other areas of production, meaning terms and conditions can be less favourable.

It follows notifications from Equity members of short requests for turnarounds on commercial tapings, often coming in late on a Friday and expected to be returned by Saturday lunchtime.

The union says it supports the use of self-tape and video conferencing apps for auditions which, it adds, increased during the pandemic.

“If used well, this can encourage a much wider and more diverse representation of artists to enter the industry, including those who live outside of London.”

Leeds theatre lay-offs ‘appalling’, says Equity

19 May 2022

Phoenix Dance Theatre Leeds’ decision to lay off its creative team has been branded “appalling” by Equity’s North East official Dominic Bascombe.

The theatre is planning a ‘creative pause’ from June until January instead of proceeding with previously planned work, meaning dancers will no longer go into rehearsals for at least three planned performances.

Six dancers on fixed-term contracts have been told their contracts will end tomorrow (20 May) and two dancers on permanent staff contracts will be laid off from July 1.

Phoenix intends to pay the pair £300 guaranteed pay every three months while they are laid off, during which time they are expected to be available to the theatre if required.

Equity is accompanying dancers to consultation meetings, arguing there is no genuine shortage of work while the company remains in benefit of funding from Arts Council England (ACE) and other funders. Since 2018, the theatre has received in excess of £2m as an ACE National Portfolio Organisation.

“Phoenix management needs to explain what has happened to the public money they received that would normally go towards paying the dancers and creative team,” Bascombe said.

“And they need to explain why they are not treating the dancers and creative team - who have helped build the reputation that Phoenix has enjoyed over the past 40 years - with the respect they deserve.”

Arts workers more likely to experience poor mental health

11 May 2022

Performance arts workers are more likely to experience poor mental health than their peers, according to a global scoping review published by Equity.

Led by Dr Lucie Clements, the review spans 111 academic studies related to mental health and wellbeing in students and professionals within the performing arts.

Two academic papers, one reviewing actors and the other ballet dancers, showed depression to be twice as likely in performers than the general population. A separate study found that 54% of musical theatre students reported a level of depression or anxiety that met the rate for diagnosis of a mental disorder.

A meta-analysis reviewing levels of anxiety in a given week found dancers (24%), opera singers (32%), acting students (52%), actors (60%) and rock musicians (90%) to far surpass the levels observed in the general population (6%).

Across the studies, a culture of unstable work, antisocial working hours, time away from home, and financial fears were cited as the main attributors to increased stress and mental health in performance artists.

In response, Equity has created a Mental Health Charter listing five demands.

The union is calling on producers and engagers to address the harmful impacts of precarious work, adopt relevant safeguards in the workplace and ensure inclusion of historically marginalised groups.

It also demands education providers ensure every young person’s training is conducted with dignity and respect and calls on the government to reform the Mental Health Act.

Equity General Secretary Paul Fleming says the charter puts the responsibility on those that control the creative industry: “They show that our demands for improvements in pay, condition and access to the industry aren’t just about our members’ material wellbeing, but their mental health too.”

Art Fund helps regional curators visit London Gallery Weekend

10 May 2022

Eighteen galleries across the UK have received support from the Art Fund to help curators visit London Gallery Weekend 2022.

The grants will go towards travel and accommodation costs for the event, which takes place this weekend (13-15 May).

The charity said it hopes the scheme will help create new and stronger connections between museums across the UK, London galleries and the artists they support.

Director Jenny Waldman said: “It felt like it was a really good moment to bring people back together.”

“The damage that has been done by the pandemic means that people have not been travelling to see work, travelling to meet each other.”

Mental health platform for musicians goes live

09 May 2022

A new digital mental health platform for musicians launches today (9 May) to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.

Music Minds Matter Explore, created by charity Help Musicians, offers mental health help and guidance and signposting to local and national support.

Help Musicians says the resource follows an increase in demand for mental health support from musicians in the wake of the pandemic. Calls to its Music Minds Matter phone service have increased by 34% since the start of the year.

“Sadly, two years of Covid have seriously disrupted careers and we would encourage anyone struggling to get in touch and find the support they need,” Head of Music Minds Matter Joe Hastings said.

The future for freelancers

04 May 2022

An initiative to create more equitable conditions for freelancers in the sector has launched. Joon-Lynn Goh and Richard Watts introduce FREELANCE : FUTURES.

UK’s first Aboriginal-owned art gallery to open in Bristol

04 May 2022

Wiradjuri-British artist Jasmine Coe will launch a pop-up gallery in Bristol this summer to celebrate the work of Aboriginal artists. 

Coe Gallery will be Britain’s first indigenous-owned Aboriginal art gallery. It is named for the artist’s father, Paul Coe, an activist involved in campaigns for Aboriginal justice and land rights.

“My art becomes a place where I can learn about the history of my culture and what my family have stood for,” Ms. Coe told the BBC.

She decided to open the gallery in Bristol to highlight the city’s connection to colonialism in Australia.

“Bristol is a city that has its own traumatic colonial history where the historical narrative is now being shifted,” she said. “I believe there is space for the indigenous experience to be heard and to share in how colonialism continues to affect indigenous communities across the world.”

The gallery will hold exhibitions in a pop-up space, with the support of Bridging Histories and the University of Bristol, while Ms. Coe searches for a permanent venue.

Artists scheduled to exhibit include Sandon Gibbs-O’Neill, an Aboriginal artist from Australia.

He told the BBC that it’s important for indigenous artists “to have control over our own narrative”. The new art space will show that Aboriginal communities are “not just surviving, we’re actually thriving,” he said.

Lloyd Webber's Cinderella closure sparks protests

Protestors gather outside Gillian Lynne Theatre
04 May 2022

Current and future cast members must be compensated, Equity says, after brandishing the abrupt closure “unacceptable”.

Women in music

women playing the violin
27 Apr 2022

Why are women so under-represented in certain areas of classical music? Katherine Cooper thinks enduring stereotypes about women’s soft skills are partly to blame.

Live music royalties yet to recover

a band plays to a live audience
27 Apr 2022

While concert revenues and artists payments decline, PRS for Music records substantial growth from online royalties. 

Threads connecting costumes to communities

Costume Day 20 August 2021
19 Apr 2022

A project on the history of costume making has created meaningful new relationships with communities outside the theatre walls, write Emma Gibbons and Tara Johnston-Comerford.

Sector must 'do less' to protect freelancers

19 Apr 2022

The danger of burnout is growing as arts and culture become increasingly central to regeneration agendas.

Composer development scheme goes live

19 Apr 2022

A composer development initiative for PRS for Music members is now open.

Inspired by the work of American minimalist composer Philip Glass, the scheme is targeted at emerging composers in the early stage of their career.

Applicants are encouraged to respond to his body of work, and a theme of "refraction" by submitting two contrasting, original electronic compositions.

Four composers will be commissioned by Glass’ publisher, Dunvagen Music Publishers, to write an original composition using Philip Glass source material, to be released as a digital EP by Orange Mountain Music.

Entries must be submitted by May 13.

Performers need protections from AI abuse

19 Apr 2022

Performers are increasingly losing their jobs, faces and voices to artificial intelligence, a new report claims. What can be done about it?

Fostering creative talent

12 Apr 2022

In October 2020, then Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden distanced himself from an advert encouraging people in the arts to retrain in cybersecurity. Patrick McCrae reflects on how much has since changed.

Union deals secure better rights for theatre pros

King's Head Theatre in Islington, London
06 Apr 2022

Performers and stage managers can expect a better work-life balance, whilst playwrights get more control over digital reproduction.


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