Collins gets new No 2 role at Opera North

Collins gets new No 2 role at Opera North

David Collins, Opera North’s director of external affairs since 2016, has been promoted to the new role of executive director, answering to the CEO Richard Mantle.

Sarah Hopwood to step down as Glyndebourne’s MD

Sarah Hopwood to step down as Glyndebourne’s MD

After almost 25 years at Glyndebourne Sarah Hopwood is to retire next year as managing director.

‘Platinum’ festival gets a name and a shape for the future

‘Platinum’ festival gets a name and a shape for the future

The national arts festival for 2022, seen as a new version of the 1951 Festival of Britain and variously nicknamed Platinum, in recognition of next year being the 70th year of the Queen’s reign, and Brexit in accord with the Prime Minister’s alleged wishes, has an official name: UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK.

£150k award for civic arts

£150k award for civic arts

Invitations for applications were opened today for the second Award for Civic Arts Organisations, with £100,000 to the winner and £25,000 each to two runners up.

MY STORY	Blood and wonder of the gipsy opera

MY STORY Blood and wonder of the gipsy opera

Carlo Rizzi, artistic director, Opera Rara

Opera Rara, the company that rediscovers, restores, records and performs lost operatic masterpieces, is reviving Ruggero Leoncavallo’s second most popular opera (after Pagliacci), Zingari, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Cadogan Hall in December. It will be conducted by Carlo Rizzi, the former music director of Welsh National Opera and Opera Rara’s artistic director since 2019.

Oldest astronomy map on show for the first time

Oldest astronomy map on show for the first time

 The 3,600 year old Nebra Sky Disc, the world’s oldest map of the stars, is to go on display in Britain for the first time next year.

Royal Docks to be London’s £5bn new cultural quarter

Royal Docks to be London’s £5bn new cultural quarter

The mayors of London and Newham have declared the Royal Docks a new cultural quarter for the capital that could generate £5bn in investment over the next 20 years, as a new festival, Royal Docks Originals, opens.

TAITMAIL   Wars of empire as real people saw them

TAITMAIL Wars of empire as real people saw them

TOTAL WAR! the didactic shouts at the start of the Imperial War Museum’s new permanent exhibition: the concept realised for the first time with the Second World War that non-combatants as well as combatants were considered legitimate targets.

Lost Tiepolo drawing turns up in Sitwells’ attic

Lost Tiepolo drawing turns up in Sitwells’ attic

An exquisite drawing by Tiepolo, one of the masters of Venice’s 18th century golden age, has been found in an attic, covered in bubble-wrap.

Anne Seymour Damer: the forgotten ‘female genius’

Anne Seymour Damer: the forgotten ‘female genius’

Horace Walpole described the sculptor Anne Seymour Damer as “a female genius”, yet her work is barely known now, almost 200 years after her death.

Rail boost for regional theatres

Rail boost for regional theatres

A railway company has teamed up with a group of regional theatres to boost their audiences following the Covid emergency.

Tiny Alnwick museum is UK's most friendly

Tiny Alnwick museum is UK's most friendly

The tiny Bailffgate Museum & Gallery in Alnwick, Northumberland, is the winner of this year’s Family Friendly Museum Award.

Cornwall and Durham longlisted for City of Culture 2025

Cornwall and Durham longlisted for City of Culture 2025

The government has announced the eight cities and conurbations that will vie to be City of Culture 2025, in succession to Coventry this year.

GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE    Borough culture power versus Covid

GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE Borough culture power versus Covid

In 2019 Waltham Forest was the first of mayor Sadiq Khan’s London Boroughs of Culture. Lorna Lee, assistant director of culture at Waltham Forest Council, shows how the structure built then helped its communities through the pandemic

Ex-director quits Science Museum board over sponsorship

Ex-director quits Science Museum board over sponsorship

Chris Rapley, the former director of the Science Museum, has resigned from its advisory board in the escalating row over its sponsorship by Shell.

£1m to give the world new British films

£1m to give the world new British films

The UK Global Screen Fund is to give £1m to help 18 new productions to get international showings.

MIMA offers first curating apprenticeship degrees

MIMA offers first curating apprenticeship degrees

In a ground-breaking move for careers in museums and galleries Middlesbrough’s MIMA School of Art and Design is offering the UK’s first combined masters and higher degree apprenticeship (HAD) in curating.

New £2m fund to help museums make ‘miracles on a shoestring’

New £2m fund to help museums make ‘miracles on a shoestring’

Art Fund today announces the first round of a new £2m grant stream, Reimagine, to enable museums, galleries and historic houses to connect with their communities better.

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the month

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the month

Into the Twilight Zone, 6.45pm, 25th September 2018, by Roger Jackson

Alan Sparrow with an image of St Paul’s and the City a sunset

Museum of Childhood’s £13m transformation – to Young V&A

Museum of Childhood’s £13m transformation – to Young V&A

Work has begun on the £13m transformation of the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, East London. It is due to reopen in 2023.

UK arts councils combine for international fund

UK arts councils combine for international fund

The four nations’ arts councils have collaborated on a new fund to encourage international partnerships on arts projects.

Double sculpture makes Shard London’s international meeting point

Double sculpture makes Shard London’s international meeting point

A new public sculpture by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa that celebrates both internationalism and diversity has been unveiled at the point where the Shard, London’s tallest building, meets London Bridge Station.

Fund opens for ‘arts for social change’ projects

Fund opens for ‘arts for social change’ projects

Two charities have combined to cdevise a fund that supports arts collaborations for social change.

Courtauld reopens in November after £57m make-over

Courtauld reopens in November after £57m make-over

The Courtauld Gallery is to reopen in November after three years’ closure following its £57m modernisation, the most significant in its history.

MY STORY Empathy Day’s literacy challenge

he first ever National Empathy Day is on June 13,
created by EmpathyLab, a new organisation started by Miranda McKearney OBE who founded The Reading Agency to confront the social issues created by low literacy and to enhance the role of the public library in the community.
She ran it for 12 years but has now launched EmpathyLab
to explore how empathy, literature and social action
working together can improve the lives of 4-to-11 year-olds, and build stronger communities.

What will happen on Empathy Day?

The DAY highlights empathy’s importance in our divided world, and the power of stories to develop it. There is a #ReadforEmpathy social media campaign – everyone sharing books that help us understand other people better. Plus a free downloadable Empathy Reading Guide, with 21 “must read” books for 4-11 year olds.

Flagship events around the country feature authors talking about the power of empathy and sharing with children how they create empathetic characters. They include media presenters Gemma Cairney and Katie Thisleton, and children’s authors Cathy Cassidy, Jo Cotterill, Elizabeth Laird, Alan MacDonald, Ross Montgomery and Tamsyn Murray.

What is EmpathyLab and what are its aims?

EmpathyLab’s mission is to harness the power of stories to bring about an empathy revolution in homes, schools and communities. We’re a start-up, aiming to create a new national children’s empathy programme.

With hate crimes and cyber-bullying on the rise, we want to make the world a better place by equipping our children with stronger empathy skills. In three years’ time we want thousands more 4-11 year olds to understand the importance of empathy, and be putting it into action.

What influenced you to start EmpathyLab?

I “retired” from The Reading Agency to go trekking and spend less time on the 7.48 to Waterloo. But I also wanted to explore the fascinating research showing that reading fiction builds real-life empathy.

Four colleagues, who have now become EmpathyLab’s founders, were as fascinated as me. In 2014 we started reading, and meeting, and searching out experts who could tell us more. As well as learning more about how reading builds empathy, we heard from psychologists that empathy is an especially key strength from the basket of social and emotional competencies children need to thrive. They welcomed strategies to develop it using literature. We tested our initial ideas at South Bank Centre Think-In, and got a major thumbs up, especially from teachers who said they were increasingly worried about the impact of social media on children’s ability to empathise.

How do literature and the concept of empathy work together?

An exciting body of neuroscience research is proving that reading builds our understanding of how other people
feel and think - what psychologists call “theory of mind”. Scientists say that our brains react to fictional worlds
as if they were real, and the empathic emotions we feel
for characters wires our brains to have the same sort of sensitivity towards real people. This has major implications for how society uses books with children, because it means that they can build their reading and empathy skills at the same time.

We produce tools which help children take a different pathway through a text, focusing more on characters and their dilemmas and feelings than on the plot, and using lots of drama and immersive activities so they can really feel, and name, the emotions of the characters.

You have a group of EmpathyLab pioneer primary schools. Where are they and how are they experimenting?

We’re working with 14 very different schools across the country, from Sheffield to the New Forest. With them, working individually and as a group, we’re testing our approach and sharing the learning from having a sharper empathy focus.

EmpathyLab provides input from psychology and literacy academics; a conceptual framework and creative ideas and resources. We work with headteachers on strategy and many are changing the school development plan to embed an empathy focus. Teachers and parents are introduced to the psychology of empathy and the research showing how reading is empathy-boosting. Then children are taught the meaning of empathy
in assemblies and circle time, and teachers give a new empathy focus to reading and writing. Pupil-led activities include Empathy BookSpotters, with teams recommending great empathy texts; Empathy Awards where the whole school votes for the most empathic book character, and Empathy Detectives, a club investigating issues like homelessness through stories. Parents might attend an Empathy Reading Café.

You have produced an evaluation of what they have done to date. What does it say and how can their findings influence other schools across the country?

EmpathyLab’s experimental, pro-bono work with the pioneer schools has yielded stronger results than we anticipated. The report is at www.empathylab.uk/ schools. Embedding EmpathyLab’s approach into
the School Development Plan and subtly refocusing teaching and whole school activities can impact positively on: children’s pleasure in reading and their literacy and empathy skills; teachers and parents’ skills and understanding of the child; schools’ community connections. It can build pupils’ understanding of social issues and fuel their desire to put empathy into action.

This was EmpathyLab’s first major “proof of concept” step. Our partners tell us that a more systematic, funded programme has enormous potential to build children’s empathy skills, wellbeing, literacy and social activism. Our approach of combining stories, empathy and social action gives schools a framework for achieving different priorities simultaneously. Vitally, in can be fused into normal school activities, so it is not a bolt on, or yet one more thing to do.

What will your pioneer schools be doing on Empathy Day?

EmpathyLab’s pioneer schools will be running wonderfully creative whole school empathy-focused events.

In Great Yarmouth children at Moorlands Primary Academy are focusing on refugees, working with author Elizabeth Laird whose book Welcome to Nowhere was researched in Syrian refugee camps. Then the children want to mount a sleep-out to raise money for the Mandala Trust in Syria.

At Shef eld’s Beck Primary School children are voting on Empathy Awards for book characters showing exceptional empathy; their choices will be announced by visiting authors Cathy Cassidy and Alan MacDonald.

St Michael’s in Rochdale is also presenting Empathy Awards. CBBC presenter Katie Thisleton will visit
to talk to the children about empathy, and ask
for their ideas in answering letters from
children who write to Katie about their problems. The letters and Katie’s answers
will be published in Dear Katie in 2018.

How did the role of libraries in our communities change after you started the Reading Agency?

Libraries really embraced their role in promoting reading, offering a lively, social mix of reading groups, author events and other creative, community based activities. The Reading Agency contributed, with other

charities and researchers, to a growing understanding of the importance of children enjoying reading if they are to become fluent readers. The charity worked with national library organisations and individual local authorities to help libraries join forces to run big reading for pleasure programmes across the UK library network. The biggest of these was the Summer Reading Challenge, which has become a huge magnet for primary aged children, with hundreds of thousands taking part each year. It is libraries’ biggest and most successful shared marketing programme. Research shows its impact on children’s reading enjoyment, frequency and range.

How have they changed since you left in 2013?

Libraries have been entrepreneurial in developing their national role, focusing on universal offers to the public. They have strengthened their health and digital roles, with powerful developments such as Books on Prescription, coding clubs and Makerspaces. Together, they also focus on particular needs – for instance they have recently launched an Autism Friendly Libraries strategy.

Locally, libraries are under major pressure from budget cuts, and work to maximise capacity by working with partners like Children’s Centres.

How is EmpathyLab working with libraries?

We’re at the very start of the relationship. After several workshops with national library bodies, it was clear that there was a real appetite for this work, and for Empathy Day. We’re very excited to be taking our first formal steps.

We’re delighted that seven library services are testing activities for #EmpathyDay this year - Essex, St Helens, Sheffield, Libraries Unlimited (Devon), North Tyneside, Hampshire and Sandwell. These include empathy book displays, green screen selfies with recommended empathy books and events. Essex is running an after- school story challenge focusing on the different perspectives of squabbling crayons in the book The day the crayons quit.

Are schools using public libraries enough, and are libraries making satisfactory contact with schools?  

The picture is enormously varied, so it’s not easy to answer this. So much depends on staf ng capacity, and sadly there are fewer specialist children’s librarians as library cuts come into effect. In many areas there is strong partnership working during the Summer Reading Challenge, in others, the schools library service plays an important linking role.

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