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The Week April 14th - April 18th

published on Friday, 18 April, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment

WEEK.jpgWe have only had our new Culture Secretary for about a week but it's already become clear that he's a bit of an idiot, reports The Independent.

Sajid Javid, a former merchant banker who worked for Chase Manhattan and Deutsche Bank, was caught out a few years ago sticking up for ticket touts (an illegal activity here in the UK). While speaking as an MP in the House of Commons he said;

"Ticket resellers act like classic entrepreneurs, because they fill a gap in the market that they have identified. They provide a service that can help people who did not obtain a supply of tickets in the original sale to purchase them for sporting and cultural events..."

Mr Javid seemed to have missed the point that ticket touts are not so much entrepreneurial and more exploitative crooks, snapping up reasonably priced tickets and selling them at a huge mark-up.

He doubled down however with this;

"..chattering middle classes and champagne socialists, who have no interest in helping the common working man earn a decent living by acting as a middleman in the sale of a proper service."

When you read comments like that it becomes less of a mystery about why the banking system almost ended the world.

Mr Javid is completely oblivious to the fact that touts sell tickets for a lot more than their face value, it's the whole point of touting, and as such the "working man" on minimum wage has even less of a chance of being able to afford said tickets.

It would appear that an ability to do simple arithmetic and a basic understanding of economics is not required when you work at Deutsche Bank. If you have any money with them we recommend moving it to the nearest available mattress.

[ Source: The Independent ]

Hedging Your Bets

Over at the Guardian it was time for more slack reporting with the news that Arts Council England will be investing £3Million at Channel 4 television to make some "radical" arts programming. For non UK folk Channel 4 is a semi commercial/publicly funded TV station that makes [cough] television programmes.

The programmes will be called 'Random Acts', named for the, usually tedious, short film project that went to air when everybody was asleep.

"New arts commissioning editor John Hay said he wanted the broadcaster to provide a "more radical alternative" to the BBC's focus on more "establishment" arts."

That comment is probably a reference to the recently announced BBC arts push that will see lots of Shakespeare and other "posh" art going out through the BBC's main channels over the coming years.

ACE's involvement is rather weird and completely contradictory though because they are also heavily invested, to the tune of millions of pounds, with the BBC on the massively crap Space project.

There is no word when 'Random Acts' will kick off or who will be on it but if the history of Channel4 and television in general is anything to go by expect lots of over made documentaries and uber-pretentious short films.

The big problem with the arts on television is that television people are really not good at covering the arts, no matter how much money they spend.

[ Source: The Guardian ]

Heads Will Not Roll

Staying with the Guardian for this next story as an art critic goes rogue and demands the sacking of a gallery director.

The gallery director in question is Penelope Curtis from Tate Britain and the critic is Waldemar Januszczak, an art critic for The Sunday Times (stop laughing at the back).

Mr Januszczak is apparently very unhappy not only about the 10% drop in attendance to Tate Britain over the last year but also the curating prowess of Ms Curtis;

"I first noticed what an appalling exhibition-maker she was when she co-curated the Modern British Sculpture show at the Royal Academy in 2011," Januszczak wrote. "It was, quite simply, one of the worst exhibitions I have ever seen. Subsequent shows at Tate Britain have continued the trend."

Here in TheLab™ we have no knowledge of what goes on at Tate Britain and, to be frank, we couldn't care less. What Mr Januszczak is missing with all of this is the fact that people in the arts don't get fired, ever!

The chief bottle washer at Tate is Nicholas Serota, an entrenched insider if ever there was one, and he is highly unlikely to sack anyone, unless they are an unpaid volunteer, probably.

In the arts the chosen ones simply move on to other positions with a tip of the hat and a sly wink from their friends in the right places, no matter how bad at their jobs they prove to be.

[ Source: The Guardian ]

Flogging a Dead Horse

warhorse.jpg

Do you know we can see you? War horse from the National Theatre

The BBC reported on the strange case of the well subsidised goings on at The National Theatre after they sacked the musicians who played the music for 'War Horse', the show about puppet horses that won the war or something.

Five musicians in total have been shown the door;

"The five, who had been with the hit show since 2009, had their roles cut back in March 2013 to just a few minutes per performance, until live music was cut altogether in March this year.
Lawyers for the five - Neyire Ashworth, Andrew Callard, Jonathan Eddie, David Holt and Colin Rae - told the court they were given 11 days notice of the contract termination but had continued to arrive on time for daily shows."

Curiously the five string pluckers have continued showing up at the theatre to do the show despite no longer being employed.

For their part the NT said that real life musicians cost a fortune and why the hell would they pay real people when they can just plug in an iPod and be done with it?

Ok, they didn't say that but it would have been funny if they did;

"The National Theatre contests that it was bringing the London production in line with War Horse stage shows around the world, which do not use live music."

The legal case drags on with things looking good for the musicians at this point in time because the NT are acting like complete tools.

[ Source: BBC News ]

The Week in Tweets

When we reached out the ACE Chairman and National Theatre cheerleader Peter Bazalgette about the story above he said.......... nothing at all.

Well, why would he?

Have a nice weekend.

[ Direct Link To This Entry ]

The Week April 7th - April 11th

published on Friday, 11 April, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment

WEEK.jpgWelcome dear readers to what was a tumultuous week in the wide world of culture, sort of, and the media was on hand to cover it all.

Gone and Forgotten

The biggest news of the week was the resignation of the UK's Culture Secretary Delores Umbridge Maria Miller from the Department for Culture Media and Sport.

Ms Miller resigned not because the government she is a part of engineered massive cuts to culture and pretty much anything else in the country but because of some phoney outrage over expenses claims.

It's not what you do that matters it's what you do that people can relate to doing themselves that matters and claiming more on your expenses than is due is something everybody can relate to.

They just love it when other people get caught doing it and they can rant about it in the comment thread on a Daily Mail story.

Her replacement is Sajid Javid a guy nobody has ever heard of but apparently he worked in the banking industry so he probably knows a great deal about fraud and corruption..... from an enforcement point of view that is, probably.

"Conservative MP Sajid Javid has been named as the new culture secretary.The MP for Bromsgrove has been promoted from his current role as Financial Secretary to the Treasury."

What this means for the arts in general is almost certainly nothing. Mr Javid will be in post for about a year and all previous culture secretaries have managed to do during the tenure of the current government is cut funding and not reform anything at all.

So why would this guy be any different?

As for Ms Miller? Well if the government returns for another stint in charge of everything she will probably be back doing nothing much at all in some other government department. Sans getting re-elected though we shall never hear from her again.

Alas, we barley knew her...

[ Source: BBC News ]

Really, This Guy?

The Chairman of Arts Council England, Peter Bazalgette, is also, apparently, a "media consultant" and it was in this guise he was sounding off about how technology helps creative people do something or other.

Writing in "Campaign", a god awful industry publication of no consequence, Mr Bazalgette waxed lyrical about having some sort of weird relationship with a TV screen in his office;

"I have a computer display screen mounted on my wall like a picture; it is called Fiona. She is currently blinking at me. Now she has raised her eyebrows - and, if I play my cards right, she might just smile... ah, she's smiled. If you look at it only for a short while, you get the impression that she is reacting to you."

Well, ok then....

Voldermort (as we affectionately refer to him here in TheLab™) also brought up the tired old line about the National Theatre broadcasting their work into cinemas but forgets to mention, as ever, how much money it costs to do that. A pertinent piece of information if ever there was one.

He finishes of his missive with this completely bizarre statement;

"If you simply ask the audience what sort of shows they want, you end up with Snakes on a Plane. Danny Boyle was needed to create a vision for a great show for the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony."

It's some sort of defence of public funding for the arts but we have no idea what that has to do with a film from 2006 that the vast majority of people never saw.

[ Source "Campaign" ]

Attention Span

Hull, a city in the North of England that is commonly referred to as 'Ull by locals and people making jokes, is the City of Culture for 2017.

In order to prepare the residents and anybody who cares about phoney government lanyards proclaiming one thing or another the city council has launched a 1000 days to go countdown until the big day finally arrives.

"Today (Monday, April 7) marks 1,000 days to go until the first day of Hull's spectacular City of Culture year. With events scheduled to take place every single day throughout 2017, this is a major milestone in the journey that will change the way the world sees Hull forever."

We don't know about you, but here in theLab™ we have trouble remembering what's coming up next week, never mind 1000 days from now (or 995 days at the time of writing).

It's not clear if there is some giant clock somewhere in 'Ull counting down the numbers in minutes and seconds but we certainly hope there isn't. When such counters finally reach their zero number people tend be underwhelmed when nothing at all of any interest happens.

[ Source: 'Ull City Council ]

The Week in Tweets

Arts Professional magazine tweeted that Creative Scotland, the tartan and shortbread version of ACE, has pledged to support arts organisations....

We responded as only we could.

Have a nice weekend.

[ Direct Link To This Entry ]

The Week March 24th - March 28th

published on Friday, 28 March, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment

WEEK.jpgWelcome dear readers to another roundup of the interesting (and only the interesting) snippets of news from the week in culture and maybe a little bit from last week because we had to do another thing at the time, so, you know, there's that....

Chicken Switch

Last week the AD of Retina Dance Company (Filip Van Huffel), it was announced, was stepping away from the company he founded back in 1995 with Sacha Lee. Mr Huffell has been the driving creative force behind the company now as a solo AD for a long time.

Retina has always been that little bit different because the company essentially has two bases of operation, one in the UK and one in Belgium. The company also produced plenty of innovative work along the lines of 'Layers of Skin' that worked with a new set of local professional dancers and community dancers combined with the company's own dancers at each individual touring venue.

In a statement on the Retina website Mr Huffel said this much;

"The Board of Directors decided on a new direction for the company, and it is a direction that I do not support, and therefore there is no longer a role for myself or the company dancers and artistic team. I made this decision because it is the only way that I can keep my personal and artistic health and integrity. I have always believed that dance companies must be viable businesses, but the art form must be the priority."

If we read between the lines we can probably break things down like this. All of the regularly funded dance companies had to re-submit their applications to Arts Council England to remain regularly funded.

The board of Retina started panicking, thinking they may not get "re-upped", so hit the chicken switch with the whole "focusing on education" thing that the bean counters in ACE and the DCMS love so much and side lined the actual creative aspect of the company that creates the work that, in-turn, feeds the extensive education work done by the dance company anyway. (and breathe, Ed!)

Run-on sentence not withstanding, that's probably how it went down.

In the future we will have the slightly odd situation of having two Retinas, one in the UK and one in Belgium. No word yet on who will be running the UK version of Retina but Mr Huffel has promised to keep making his own brand of dance work over in Belgium, which isn't too far away and we can probably still go see it.

We, here in TheLab™, will be keeping a close eye on the UK version of Retina to see just what they become, if anything, over the next few months or years.

[ Source: Retina Dance Company ]

Tartan Trouble

When it comes to being completely oblivious to the world around you it seems it's not just Arts Council England that has that ability in spades. North of the border Creative Scotland has been raising hackles with the announcement of a £5Million grant to the V&A Museum in Dundee reports The Scotsman;

"ARTS agency Creative Scotland has admitted breaching its own funding guidelines by handing the new V&A museum in Dundee a grant of £5 million.
The award is more than double the quango's funding limit for major capital projects and dwarfs anything else it has funded since it was formed in 2010.
The grant, believed to be a crucial part of the funding package for the project to create an international centre of design, is over and above £18 million worth of support from the Scottish Government, which has been in place for more than two years,

When asked to explain why the big museum gets special treatment the Shortbread Funding Monolith explained to nosey journalists that they could do whatever they wanted and nobody was going to stop them so pffffffft!

Ok, they didn't say that but it would have been funny if they did, right? What they actually said was this;

"A spokesman for Creative Scotland said the talks with the V&A team pre-dated the launch of its capital funding schemes, which have a £2 million limit for major projects, such as Scotland's proposed film studio complex, the extensions to the Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall buildings in Glasgow, a revamp and extension of Perth Theatre, and a relocation of Edinburgh's Collective Gallery to the top of Calton Hill."

Essentially, timing is everything and they can do whatever they want as long as the dates are right or, you know, whatever!

[ Source: The Scotsman ]

The Week in Tweets

Some people don't like us, and that's fine because we don't like them either but there are other folks that like us a lot, maybe too much!

Loving us, here in TheLab™, is a simple, straightforward decision because as we always say, we're adorable!

Have a nice weekend.

[ Direct Link To This Entry ]

The Week March 17 - March 21

published on Friday, 21 March, 2014 | Comment | Make A Comment

WEEK.jpgIt wouldn't be a week in culture without just a little bit of crazy so welcome to another roundup of the few stories that make the cut.

Yorkshire Puddings

Ok, there is actually only one story this week and it comes in the form of a Storify™

Yorkshire Dance, a National Dance Agency (NDA) based in Leeds, announced the results of their "Respond" project funded by the Arts Council England fronted Digital R&D project.

Several dance projects made proposals then a "public" vote decided who won. The NDA didn't seem to understand that such voting is little more than a test of who has the most Facebook friends.

"Respond" is supposed to be about innovating in the arts using technology. Yorkshire Dance responds by coming up with an idea that they think will get funding, choreographers respond by coming up with ideas that fit the funding profile and then, understandably, get all their friends to vote for it because they need the funding.

It's a classic example of funding leading creative ideas when it should be the other way around.

It remains to be seen if Yorkshire Dance will be interviewed on camera about this latest debacle in the wide world of dance.

Have a nice weekend.

[ Direct Link To This Entry ]

The Week March 10 - March 14

published on Friday, 14 March, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment

WEEK.jpgWelcome dear readers to our latest roundup of the madness that is culture, culture funding and the refusal of arts organisations to hand out giant plushy teddy bears to those that ask for them.

This Made Up England

We lead off this week with a thorough debunking by Arts Professional of an Arts Council England report titled "This England" (stop laughing at the back!) ACE claims that the report is some sort of analysis of how they spend all the money they have on the arts in England.

Arts Professional, in the guise of Liz Hill, begs to differ with a detailed mauling of the Funding Monolith's use of selective numbers to make their case. Few bother to actually read such reports but Ms Hill ploughs in, gets filthy and comes out, barely alive, on the other side.

"Next up on page 11 is a map showing investment in England's 'core cities', although what constitutes a 'core city' is something of a mystery. Included is little ol' Cambridge, with a population of around 134k, but bad luck Southampton (237k), Leicester (330k), Brighton (273k), Hull (256k) - the list goes on - you're not core, apparently. ACE believes its pretty map "shows how our investment is spread geographically if you compare spend per head by core cities, rather than by government region". But what baffles me is how this is meant to help anyone understand the efficacy of ACE's investment strategy"

If you actually wade into the mire yourself you will discover fantastic nuggets of selective thinking such as describing "Central London" as a "region" of London itself in order to make arts spending per head look more reasonable than it really is.

Ms Hill also points out that in measuring the amount money spent around the country lots of very large and very flashy organisations are excluded to make the numbers, once again, sound a lot better than they really are.

"But, setting aside the purpose of these figures for one moment, it's worth looking at the analysis behind the map showing National Portfolio investment in core cities and surrounding areas. In the small print we read that this excludes investment in most - but not all - of England's largest cultural organisations: English National Opera, Royal National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Southbank Centre, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Royal Shakespeare Company, Welsh National Opera, Opera North and Northern Ballet."

Just one reason among many as to why numbers are not a good way to assess the impact of the arts or a good way to get ACE to explain how it spends the money given to them by other people.

[ Source : Arts Professional ]

Hogwarts

Wayne McGregor (the dance maker that gets a huge amount of money to run a dance company that never tours anywhere in the UK) has been made a Professor of Choreography at the Laban Centre in London reports Londondance.com (seriously, stop laughing at the back).

If you go to Laban and expect Mr McGregor to be teaching you anytime soon then that is probably not going to happen because this sounds an awful lot like a job in name only but you never know. One day you may be taught how to make the same piece of work, give it a different name and just keep on trucking like nothing ever happened.

"The connection between imagery and creativity in dance making has been a significant focus of our research partnership with Random," says Anthony Bowne. "Our recent co-hosting of an interdisciplinary seminar on imagery and creativity placed the artistic process in the spotlight and drew on approaches in clinical psychology, sports psychology, cognitive and neuroscience to interrogate the practice."

If you can make sense of the above paragraph then answers on a used PhD certificate to the usual address. As always we congratulate LD.com on it's ability to make press releases sound even more boring than they really are.

[ Source: Londondance.com ]

Oil Money

The Guardian reports today that some crazy old fool in Australia think arts organisations should be punished if they refuse to accept money coming from organisations with questionable business practices.

This would include companies that make products that kills millions of people every year (tobacco), companies that cause massive environmental damage (oil) and companies that sell products that cause huge damage to children's health (looking at you Coke).

"George Brandis has not ruled out penalising arts companies and festivals for refusing funding from a tobacco company under a new policy he has asked the Australia Council to create.
Arts organisations could be penalised with a reduction or refusal of federal funding if they reject sponsorship from corporate sponsors on "unreasonable" grounds under the policy being developed.
The arts minister has asked the Australia Council, which distributed commonwealth arts funding, to develop the policy after Biennale Sydney parted ways with Transfield Holdings and its chairman, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, after artists objected to the company's links to Transfield Services, a contractor at Australia's Manus Island detention centre."

Arts organisations in Australia are, understandably enough, unwilling to take money from junk food companies to sponsor children's festivals etc so they have told Mr Brandis to bugger off, sort of.

Mr Brandis is almost certainly the kind of disconnected and completely stupid individual you imagine him to be. He is a politician after all. At the moment his idea is just a proposal but in these times of madness madness itself always seems to win.

[ Source: The Guardian ]

The Week In Tweets

This week Dance Touring Partnerships refused to give us, here in TheLab™, a giant plushy teddy bear that we can jump around on because that's how we roll.

Turns out the prize was actually an iPad Mini. Who the hell wants one of those?

Have a nice weekend.

[ Direct Link To This Entry ]

The Week February 3rd - February 7th

published on Friday, 7 February, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment

WEEK.jpgJoin us dear readers as once again we plunge into the important stories that affected the arts this week.

Crony Funds

Arts Professional magazine brought us the story of the DCMS (Department for Culture Media and Sport) and their unusual connection to the National Funding Scheme (NFS), a fund raising charity specifically for the arts.

"The NFS has been both high-profile and controversial from the start, with one critic accusing it of replicating the functionality of the long-established fundraising platform JustGiving.com, and another arguing for "a better due diligence process from both the government and from funders to ensure that they are not paying to reinvent the wheel." These comments came in the wake of the unusual step by the DCMS to host a launch event to publicise the plans of scheme founder William Makower and his private IT company Panlogic Ltd."

The NFS cost about £600,000 to set up and keep running and the return on that investment has been a slightly disappointing, to say the least, £14,500 for the organisations allowed into the pilot programme.

When Article19 covered the NFS and their "Donate" scheme last year we pointed out that using their service instead of the numerous others available meant less money going straight to any arts organisation that used it because of higher fees.

AP continues;

"The original vision was for the NFS to become self-funding by charging a 4% fee on each donation and by selling donor data. Self-sustainability was a pre-condition of setting up the charity, but while it scales up its operations it will continue to need financial support."

So, unless the NFS can actually sustain itself with the 4% fee it charges on donations then the people propping up this idea with financial support will probably do more good giving their money directly to the arts.

The lesson to learn here is that if a system already exists along with the technology to support it then just use that. Don't spend massive sums re-inventing the wheel because what you will end up with is a wheel.

[ Source: Arts Professional ]

Basil Brush Mayor

If you are unfortunate enough to live in London then you will be more than familiar with the mayor of that particular city and the fact that he's completely crazy.

Arts Professional, again, reports that Boris Johnson (Bojo) has put the brakes on a massive redevelopment of the eyesore that is the Southbank Centre because, well, because he's crazy.

"Southbank Centre has announced that its £120m development plans are now in limbo following Mayor of London Boris Johnson's recent insistence that the development "should not be at the detriment of the skate park which should be retained in its current position." The Centre had planned to achieve commercial income for the refurbishment of its 1960s buildings, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery"

It's not at all clear why the Mayor of London cares about a skatepark because he doesn't seem to care at all about cyclist being killed on London's roads while using his blue paint cycle network but there you have it.

The Southbank Centre development had offered to build a completely new skatepark (at a cost of £1Million last we heard) just across the road but apparently, if you use a skatepark then location is everything.

For the residents of London keen to see the Southpark Centre turned into somewhere nice that more folks might want to go the way forward is not clear. Getting rid of crazy mayors might be a good start though.

[ Source: Arts Professional ]

Give It Back

The Stage is reporting (stop laughing at the back) that one Charlotte Jones from the Independent Theatre Council has suggested that the huge amounts of money made from commercially successful and publicly subsidised theatre productions should go back to Arts Council England.

"Speaking at a symposium on the future of small-scale touring at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester last week, Jones said: "I am delighted that the National Theatre made such a success out of War Horse, I am delighted that the Royal Shakespeare Company has made a success out of Matilda [the Musical], but shouldn't some of that come back into the arts council?"

Ms Jones would like the money to go toward supporting small and mid-scale touring companies to "level the playing field" as apposed to paying the massive salaries of people like Nicholas Hytner.

These musings come on the back of a report that revealed, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, that arts funding is not distributed fairly.

The National Theatre didn't comment for the piece in The Stage and even if they did their response would probably be incoherent. Little more than the mutterings of a raging drunkard, probably.

[ Source: The Stage ]

The Week in Tweets

Following the end of British Dance Edition in Edinburgh and (for purely symbolic reasons) Glasgow this past weekend Dance Umbrella tweeted;

We've said it once, we've said it a thousand times. Dance, always talking about the wrong things.

Have a great weekend.

[ Direct Link To This Entry ]

The Week January 20th - January 24th

published on Friday, 24 January, 2014 | Comment | Make A Comment

WEEK.jpgJoin us, dear readers, as we journey through the crazy and not at all heartwarming or life affirming stories from another week in the arts.

B*stards

Just as Arts Council England, the DCMS and anybody with an agenda was talking up last week's story about the culture sector generating billions for the country while simultaneously curing all known illnesses and giving birth to multiple baby unicorns something sinister was afoot in Wolverhampton.

The BBC reported that the local council has decided to cut all funding for anything to do with culture or the arts;

"Wolverhampton council is to cut funding it gives to arts and voluntary groups in the city, to save £1.6m. It is planning to stop subsidies to 13 organisations in April, while 17 groups will continue to receive money for the next financial year only.
Among those affected are the Wildside Activity Centre, Community Transport and the Central Youth Theatre, which has said it may be forced to close."

Wolverhampton Council blamed central government, central government blamed the Labour party, the Labour party blamed the Daily Mail, and so on.

We prodded ACE Chairman Peter Balzagette to say something about it but he didn't, because he was unable to engage his low rent media training and call somebody by their first name despite the fact he's never met them.

[ Source The BBC ]

MoMA is a Funny Word

On the other side of the Atlantic, the ocean not the magazine, the Wall Street Journal was reporting that the Museum of Modern Art in New York has lost its way.

The reason for this lack of focus, according to writer Eric Gibson, is the fact that MoMA's building is far to big for its boots, metaphorically speaking that is, we don't think the museum has any actual boots although it is MoMA so anything is possible.

He writes;

"...there is what can only be described as MoMA's rapacious campaign of deaccessioning. In a May 2004 article, cultural journalist and blogger Lee Rosenbaum reported in the Journal that MoMA had sold nine paintings from the permanent collection at that year's spring auctions for a total of $25.65 million."

First of all, kudos for being able to use the words "rapacious" and "deaccessioning" in one sentence, we had to look both of those words up.

Secondly, it appears the museum is selling off the family silver so they can build more gallery space to show less paintings and art work to people. Which makes sense if you're running an art gallery we suppose.

A more simple explanation can be found with the gallery's director Glenn D. Lowry. He's a man, and men like anything that gets bigger and costs a lot of money, why do you think Viarga spam is so effective?

On that note we shall move on...

[ Source: The Wall Street Journal ]

Gold Plated Tickets

The BBC, again, is reporting that tickets for popular shows in London are being shifted on the black(ish) market for thousands of pounds.

Essentially, rapacious individuals (see what we did there?) are buying tickets for shows at face value from a theatre box office then promptly try to re-sell those tickets for massive sums online.

"The problem affects most of the UK's biggest venues, including theatres that are subsidised by the state. At the time of writing, one website was offering two tickets to see Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse for £2,015. The face value was originally £20-£35 each."

To be perfectly honest with you, if you're stupid enough to buy tickets for the theatre at more than £1,000 a throw then you probably deserve all that's coming to you. Such folk are probably the same ones who buy new iPhones from Ebay for double their retail price, just because they can.

Theatre's like the Donmar offer no solutions to the problem both they and their customers face. We, here in TheLab™, helpfully suggested something very sarcastic and very funny but we were rebuffed.

Some folk are just ungrateful...

[ Source: The BBC ]

The Week in Tweets

We mentioned it above and here it is live, from Twitter, uninterrupted coverage of ACE Chairman Peter Balzagette with absolutely nothing to say about arts funding cuts.

Have a nice weekend.

[ Direct Link To This Entry ]

The Week January 13th - January 17th

published on Friday, 17 January, 2014 | Comment | Make A Comment

WEEK.jpgAll the news that's fit to type as we bring you another instalment of what the hell happened over there last week in the arts. We know the graphic on the left says a "week in dance" but that's the GFX Dept for you...

We're Rich!

The Stage is reporting (stop laughing at the back) another one of those stories telling the world at large just how much money the arts makes for the country. This time the number is £4.6Billion for 2012. This was apparently an increase of 13% from the previous year.

"The data was compiled from the Office for National Statistics information as part of this year's creative industries' economic estimates. Of all the sectors included in the report, the performing arts, music and visual arts showed the second largest percentage increase in value between 2011 and 2012. They were behind the advertising and marketing sector, which experienced a 26% rise."

The news story from The Stage is a blizzard of numbers each more confusing than the last. We, here in TheLab™, have no idea what any of the numbers mean, whether or not they are real or imagined or why they are more than a year out of date.

One question remains however. If the arts and culture are making all of this money why is everybody apart from Antonio Poppano (head stick waggler from the ROH) so poor? Where the hell is all that money going?

Answers on the back of a used lottery ticket to the usual address.

[ Source: The Stage ]

Nod As Good As Wink To Blind Man

From the pages of Arts Professional we have the news that some research is going to be done into the progress of fundraising in the arts ever since the government of the day took a hatchet to the arts budget.

"A new research project is preparing to explore the revenue generation models being adopted by contemporary performance artists and organisations, both in the UK and internationally. Although business models in the performing arts are starting to include philanthropy and higher levels of earned income or commercial revenues, this path is proving challenging for many. "

Unless research is being done by somebody with a Phd, a lab coat and a detailed understanding of what a mass-spectrometer does we tend not to believe a word they say.

In this case we have this;

"The project has been commissioned by Forced Entertainment, Gob Squad and Quarantine, and the survey is being developed by the agency Arts Quarter with support from Arts Council England's Catalyst Arts: Building Fundraising Capacity Programme."

So, the project run by ACE to try and get arts companies to raise funds for the arts is also funding research to find out whether or not that programme is actually working? Okay then, got it [nudge nudge wink wink]. Also, "Gob Squad", that's got to be a made up name.

[ Source: Arts Professional ]

A Posh Man Speaks

Some dudes by the name of Open Boundaries who are an "... open symposium on the role of culture in 21st century society accessible for established cultural leaders and for those who are discovering their leadership role." have published a video.

This video contains the words of one Benjamin Barber, political theorist (which is apparently a real thing) on how you explain the value of arts to stupid people politicians.

He basically makes the point that once you get into economic discussions about the value of the arts then you've lost the argument. We've been saying that for years, but it's nice when smart people agree with us.

He also makes a convincing argument that plain doughnuts are the best and you can shove that iced, sprinkled crap where the sun don't shine. (we might be making that up).

This Week In Tweets

Dance companies continue to tweet or retweet things that don't make any sense, almost supporting the very people who are cutting culture budgets to the bone, for some.

Protein Dance decided to retweet the below from Culture Secretary Maria Miller, we made short work of it. Think before you tweet people!

Enjoy your weekend.

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The Week January 6th - January 10th

published on Friday, 10 January, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment

WEEK.jpgSo what happened in this, the first week of the new year in the wacky world of the arts, well, not that much.

ACE Grand Bargain

The Stage is reporting (stop laughing at the back) that Arts Council England is going to start using lottery money to prop up help out the NPO organisations because of cuts to central funding.

"...from 2015/16 to 2017/18, it will employ an estimated £60 million of Lottery money annually to help fund its national portfolio organisations."

Just in-case you are not up to speed, regular ACE funding comes from taxes and all the other money comes from the National Lottery. The money from the Lottery is supposed to be "additional" to the regular core funding, the so called "additionality principle" which until now you thought was a bad Liam Neeson movie! (there are good Liam Neeson movies? Ed!)

"The arts council has said that it believes that the funding arrangement does not breach the additionality principle because the extra Lottery money will allow it to fund additional organisations that it would not have been able to afford to fund solely using grant-in-aid money from 2015/16."

Some would say that using Lottery money for core funding is just asking for that core funding to be cut entirely. We say that Lottery money has been used to fund massively expensive white elephant projects for years (hello Rambert Dance Company's new building) so what else is new?

Also, if you have money and some rules say you can't use it to save organisations and companies that actually matter then there's not a whole lot of point having the money in the first place.

The Stage also insists on continuing to use a photo of Alan Davey (ACE CEO) which makes it look like he has no teeth. There is apparently no image that illustrates Mr Davey's, very obvious, complete lack of a spine. (ouch, Ed!)

[ Source: The Stage ]

Among Friends

This just in from The Civil Society. If you don't know who the Civil Society are then take a number and get in line but it's the first week of the year so we'll take what we can get.

Apparently the folks at the Tate gallery have been up to no good. Not only are they getting slapped around by the Charities Commission for buying work from their own trustees they are also giving priority to exhibit work from those same trustees;

"In 2006 the Tate was condemned by the Charity Commission for showing "serious shortcomings" when it bought artwork from its own trustees. This included work by Chris Ofili, a former boyfriend of [Tomma] Abts. (one of their trustees)"
Critics have complained of a conflict of interest at the charity as paintings by German artist Tomma Abts are being displayed as part of the gallery's 'Painting Now: Five Contemporary Artists' exhibition. Abts is one of 14 trustees appointed by the Prime Minister to oversee the running of the organisation.

So far so apparently evil and up to no good. What's that we hear you say? Corrupt practices, favouritism and blind faith in the arts, say it aint so! The Tate, for their part, claim they are not despicable, mendacious, neer-do-wells with all the ethics and morality of a North Korean supreme leader. Or, you know, whatever....

[ Source: The Civil Society ]

This Week in Tweets

ACE announced that the process for applying for NPO funding was open, we had a straight forward response.

The Big bad never did reply, because they never do, see reference above to lack of spine.

Have a nice weekend.

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Creating Without Conflict

published on Wednesday, 19 June, 2013 | Comment | Make A Comment

The Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU) has launched a campaign to counter the problem of bullying in the arts industry across the UK. Entitled 'Creating Without Conflict' the campaign kicks off with a survey via all of the major arts related unions including BECTU and Equity.

Initially the campaign aims to find out just how wide spread the problem is across the industry from dance companies to television stations (looking at you BBC). The FEU suggest that bullying arises, in many cases, because of the lack of job security in the industry as a whole.

"There are always others who can take your place if you complain. Unpaid internships are widespread which puts young people in a vulnerable position. Many workers are self-employed or freelance and are denied the protection that being on staff can afford,"

The campaign information thus far does not make it clear what the unions intend to do about the problem once the survey is complete.

In October of last year we interviewed Anne Marie-Quigg, a freelance arts consultant, who has written a book specifically about bullying in the arts; "Bullying in the Arts: Vocation, Exploitation and Abuse of Power". Ms Quigg explained at the time that getting the larger arts organisations to address the problem of bullying was an uphill struggle.

When dealing with Arts Council England Ms Quigg told us;

"When I got to the Arts Council my first email was directly to Alan Davey (ACE CEO) to ask him if he was able to make a statement and I got no reply. A month later I sent another email to Alan Davey and this time I got a reply from someone in his organisation who said that he was unable to reply to me at this time.
That person trotted out a few of the things about the Arts Council's policies, which I already knew, which was that they themselves have an internal policy, a dignity at work policy, but that it is not their business to interfere in the internal management practices of the organisations that they fund."

Discovering the extent of the problem would appear to be the logical first step but without widespread reforms and protections for those that come forward the research itself may be of little practical use.

You can find out more about the project on the BECTU website.

[ BECTU 'Creating Without Conflict' ]
[ Full Interview with Anne-Marie Quigg ]

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