Today's theme: U.K. arts

 

U.K. gov't cuts funding, but starts $120 million fund to boost private giving

From Bloomberg News, December 8, 2010

UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced an 80 million pound ($120 million) matching fund to boost cultural philanthropy, saying the rich in Britain gave six times less to the arts than their U.S. equivalents.  In a speech at the JPMorgan Chase & Co. offices in London today, Hunt said his purpose was not to find a substitute for government grants, nor was it "importing a U.S. model wholesale into the U.K..Surely we must ask ourselves what we can learn from a country in which cultural giving per capita is 37 pounds a month compared to just 6 pounds in the U.K.?" he said.  Hunt's department is having its budget cut to 1.1 billion pounds by 2015. National museums will get grants reduced by 15% over the period.  Far deeper cuts of 29% will be sustained by Arts Council England, the body that funnels government subsidies to performing-arts groups and non-national museums in England.   Of the 80 million pounds in the matching fund announced today, 50 million pounds will come from a five-year package of lottery funding provided to Arts Council England. The matching fund means that for every 1 pound given, the government will put in an equivalent amount.

 

U.K.'s Association of Local Gov't Arts Officers expands to include arts workers

From The Stage, December 8, 2010

The National Association of Local Government Arts Officers will re-brand itself as Arts Development UK and extend membership to all organisations and individuals working in the arts development sector from next spring.  NALGAO chair Lorna Brown acknowledged that these are difficult times for local arts, driven by fiscal concerns rather than cultural policy:  "We have to face up to an unprecedented situation where for some the key issue will be that of survival."  Noting that, nationally, 45 local authority arts services have been lost in the last five years, she added: "With local authority budgets facing a 30% cut and a similar level of cut to Arts Council England, there is a grave danger of a double whammy to the arts. It's enough to make even the most determined faint-hearted". It is hoped that the rebranding will allow a greater number of arts workers to join the organisation and benefit from its member services. Expanding the membership base will also help NALGAO to develop its offer to members, as well as consolidate its influence as a national arts organisation.

 

First study to quantify England's online engagement with the arts is released

From the Arts Council of England website [hat tip to Alan Brown]

[This new study] represents the first time that online engagement with arts and culture in England has been captured and quantified.  The findings in this report confirm that engaging with the arts through digital media is now a mainstream activity. Crucially, this engagement augments, rather than replaces, the live experience. Just as live music has grown stronger in the era of iTunes, so people still want shared, live experiences in other arts genres. However, this is not to demote the internet to the role of marketing channel: a significant minority use the internet to consume, share and create artistic content.  The leading edge segment welcome and already use the (sadly few) genuinely immersive and participative arts and cultural experiences that are already available online.  This report confirms that there is an appetite for the sector to innovate and create a new generation of experiences that take advantage of some of the internet's unique characteristics - however challenging that may be given the current economic climate.

>> Read the full study (commissioned by Arts Council England in partnership with Arts & Business and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) here. [PDF File]

 

Thousands rally to halt revamp that will 'destroy' Edinburgh Fringe theatre venue

From The Scotsman, December 8, 2010

More than 3,500 people have backed an 11th-hour campaign aimed at halting the 9.3 million refurbishment of one of Edinburgh's main Fringe venues.  Support has flooded in from all over the world less than a week after a bid was launched to halt the long-awaited project.  Promoters who have been staging shows at the Assembly Rooms for the last 30 years said they were "amazed" at the strength of opposition to plans which would see theatre spaces used during the Fringe becoming shops and a fine-dining restaurant opened in the heart of the venue.  The "Save the Assembly Rooms" website features a petition and video messages recorded by the likes of actors Simon Callow and Brian Cox.  Many of those protesting on the campaign's Facebook page have accused the council of failing to consult the people of Edinburgh over the plans, which are due to be discussed by councillors today. But councillors responsible for the project have branded the campaign "dangerously misleading" and insist the venue is in "desperate" need of refurbishment.  The historic building is set to close for at least 18 months by the end of the year, ruling it out of use for next year's Fringe. Assembly Theatre claims its "magical" atmosphere will be lost forever if the project, which will see the loss of five theatre spaces, goes ahead.

 

Commentary: Some things Broadway producers can learn from London

Posted by Ken Davenport on his blog The Producer's Perspective, November 17, 2010

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I spent the weekend in the UK, taking in some new shows.  As is usually the case whenever I visit the West End, I walked away with a few observations about our similarities and our differences.  Here's what I discovered this trip:

1.  The [front of house staff] are all young.  The average age of the ushers, ticket takers, and bar staff at every theatre I went to had to be about 23.  And each one of them was bubbling over with excitement and passion for the show that I was about to see.  They weren't showing me to my seat.  They were priming me for an experience.  I've always thought that these positions were ideal for students of the theater . . . and even more ideal for the audience.  NYU should start a work study program with Local 306 (the ushers union).  

2.  What time is the show again?  I saw four shows in 3 days and not one was at 8 PM.  I saw shows at 7:15, 3, 9:30 and 7:30. And I almost went to a Friday at 5.   I still wonder if a Friday at 5, during key tourist times here in the States, would work.  I'm dying to try it.  And someday I will.  Or maybe you'll beat me to it.

3.  Times Square looks more and more like Leicester Square every year. Everyone knows that [NYC mayor Mike] Bloomberg has had a man-crush on the Mayor of London for years.  So many of the changes we've seen [in New York] seem to be inspired by successful policies [in London].   Leicester Square is a pretty exciting and safe place to be, drawing more crowds than ever.  If we can continue to create a more conducive environment for visitors to spend time in Times Square, just steps away from our theaters and the TKTS booth, our metaphorical boats will all have to rise.  It's what I call The Times Square Tide.

4.  They drive on the 'wrong' bloody side of the road.  At every major crosswalk, an instruction is written on the pavement:  LOOK RIGHT or LOOK LEFT.  People like me, who naturally look in one direction before crossing the street, need to be retrained to look the exact opposite direction if they want to avoid getting run over by a truck.  What does that have to do with theater?  If you've got a show that is working in the US, you might naturally think that the next stop is the UK.  Well, just because the folks there speak the same language (sort of), doesn't mean that their taste in the theater is the same.  In fact, it may be the exact opposite.  They literally may come at things from a totally different direction.

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