TAITMAIL  How Wonder Boy and Captain Chatter are breaking the funding mould

TAITMAIL How Wonder Boy and Captain Chatter are breaking the funding mould

There’s a mystical charm about how Ross Willis’s play Wonder Boy is being got on national tour that is counterintuitively uplifting in this worst of times for the arts economy. A play, whose subject matter you would think would make it out of the question for any hard-pressed presenting house, is going to get a 12-week 11 theatre tour, with a message its supporters are saying should get it into the national curriculum.

ACE backs off from 'activism' threat

ACE backs off from 'activism' threat

Arts Council England has backed off from threats to cut funding to organisations they find are “engaging in activism”, admitting that its update “was open to misinterpretation”.

Canadian Saltzman to be Barbican arts director

Canadian Saltzman to be Barbican arts director

Devyani Saltzman, the director of public programming at the Art Gallery of Ontario, is to be the Barbican’s director for arts and participation, completing the arts centre’s management reconstruction under CEO Claire Spencer.

Birmingham cuts arts budget by 100%

Birmingham cuts arts budget by 100%

The city of Birmingham, once the flagship for local authority support for culture, is cutting all its arts funding from the next financial year.

TAITMAIL    The Albany, Lewisham’s cultural anchor

TAITMAIL The Albany, Lewisham’s cultural anchor

The craze for “Year of Culture” designation seemed to have got out of hand after Brexit when we lost qualification for the European City of Culture, so famously and successfully celebrated for the UK by Glasgow and then Liverpool.

‘Scary’ ACE threat over 'political statements'

‘Scary’ ACE threat over 'political statements'

Culture organisations have been warned that they may lose their Arts Council England funding if they are found to be “engaging in activism”.

Albany and Hamlyn embed culture in the community

Albany and Hamlyn embed culture in the community

A south London arts centre is taking lessons learned from Lewisham’s year as Borough of Culture to expand its community culture programme.

THE WORD  Where are the missing 6m art lovers who aren’t buying?

THE WORD Where are the missing 6m art lovers who aren’t buying?

Gallerist Ann Petherick on the crisis facing commercial art galleries

Sam McShane moves to Kings Place

Sam McShane moves to Kings Place

Manchester Camerata’s creative director, Sam McShane, is to be King’s Place’s new artistic director.

Kwei-Armah quits Young Vic with arts funding side-swipe

Kwei-Armah quits Young Vic with arts funding side-swipe

Kwasi Kwei-Amah is to leave his job as artistic director of the Young Vic, with an attack on the standstill in arts subsidy and calling for government intervention.

Leveson moves to RSC

Leveson moves to RSC

Andrew Leveson, director of finance and administration at the Bridge Theatre in London, is to be the next executive director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

TAITMAIL   Who is Surrey, what is she?

TAITMAIL Who is Surrey, what is she?

How can your neighbourhood’s ambitions for a cultural presence be realised, with the conventional sources of help - local authorities facing bankruptcy and central government turning a blind eye - unavailable?

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM   Image of the Month

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the Month

Baby Feet by Roger Bamber, 18th February 1993, The Guardian.

ENO strike postponed

ENO strike postponed

The Musicians Union and Equity have suspended the strike by musicians and chorus of English National Opera, due to start tomorrow with the opening of the company’s new production of The Handmaid’s Tale, which will now go ahead.

£15m levelling up arts boost

£15m levelling up arts boost

Another £15.2m is being available by the government to boost levelling up for access to cultural venues, DCMS has announced.

Surrey leads the way with county culture strategy

Surrey leads the way with county culture strategy

Surrey has published a ten-year culture strategy for the county as “a rallying cry to all those who believe in the power and the impact of the arts in changing lives in our society”.

TAITMAIL   Don’t stop your culture!

TAITMAIL Don’t stop your culture!

DSYF! is the text message issuing from the postings of Idris Elba and his supporters, short for “Don’t Stop Your Future!” Their message is, of course, against knife crime which has reached epidemic proportions, particularly in London, Elba’s home.

King Charles banknotes go on show

King Charles banknotes go on show

New banknotes with the head of Charles III are to go on public display for the first time next month, before they go into circulation.

ACE extends Portfolio by a year

ACE extends Portfolio by a year

Arts organisations subsidised through Arts Council England’s National Portfolio are to have an extra year’s funding “in response to the external challenges our sector is facing”, it was announced today.

ENO strike goes ahead

ENO strike goes ahead

English National Opera’s musicians, chorus and music staff are to strike from February 1.

Dimbleby to chair Bristol Beacon

Dimbleby to chair Bristol Beacon

Journalist and broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby is to chair the Bristol Beacon, formerly Colston Hall, as its CEO since 2011 Louise Mitchell steps down.

Jay Hunt to chair BFI

Jay Hunt to chair BFI

The TV creative director Jay Hunt has been appointed chair of the British Film Institute, culture secretary Lucy Frazer announced today. She will take on the four-year unpaid role on February 16.

Suffolk to cut all its arts budget

Suffolk to cut all its arts budget

East Anglian arts organisations have warned of the devastating damage that would be done if Suffolk County Council follows through with its pledge to cut 100% from its arts budget.

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the Month

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the Month

Salvador Dali by George Elam, 5th May 1959, The Daily Mail

The hardening of soft power

Great jubilation this week at the Arts Council’s findings that the value of the creative industries has zoomed 10% to be worth nearly £12bn a year to the UK economy (even though the figures relate to 2014-15, before the effects of Brexit have been recorded). The debate about why none of this largesse is manifested in funding for the arts is for another time.


Because more significant is the report from King’s College called The Art of Soft Power, the first academic attempt to quantify soft power, which is the use of “stand out” national qualities to influence, persuade and seduce foreign institutions and populations, and its use in diplomacy. And in the pre- and post-Brexit years its importance will never have been more crucial.  
 
The report coincides with research by Edinburgh University’s Institute for International Cultural Relations, commissioned by the British Council, which finds that the soft power of national culture is having a significant impact on foreign investment, overseas student recruitment, tourism and influence in places like the UN General Assembly (all, coincidentally, under threat from Brexit).
 
The trouble has been that there are no tangible statistics, and it seems that the diplomatic corps on all sides are keen to keep the whole thing opaque. Their basic tool is subtlety whose usefulness is compromised once its components are quantified.
 
The King’s report reveals that this soft power is actually used pretty hard. Back in February six paragraphs appeared in the Daily Telegraph announcing that the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, was creating a new £700m “empowerment fund”, soft power to help UK interests abroad, specifically to counter Russia’s influence. How this was to be done was not elaborated on, and there was no comment from the Foreign Office, but it came as the European Union was declaring the need for new strategies to put culture at the very heart of international relations.
 
The Kings researchers, Melissa Nisbett and James Doeser, talked to 20 diplomats from ambassador rank down and found that there’s nothing very soft about the way these resources are being deployed. They found embassy staff and politicians using art to form new divisions in confrontations and that it is being provocatively used (particularly by the Russians) to “bring forth acts of violence and extremism”, as one of their diplomatic interviewees told them, and “to use theatre in a way that really changes how a broader conversation is being held” according to another.
 
They found the whole world of diplomacy to be a kind of performance art, ritual and performance that is perfectly suited for using the arts. This has gone way beyond instrumentalisation, politics and the arts are now indivisible in the context of diplomatic relations. As another of their envoy respondents said, “We can disagree on Crimea, on Georgia, but we all love Chekhov”. The United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), the microcosm they chose for their research, has its own cultural programme that last year put on 28 exhibitions, ten concerts, nine film screenings and four poetry readings.
 
Soft power, the report cautions, should not be confused with cultural diplomacy. The first is using our cultural profile to win business, gain leadership and be universally known; the latter is about finding common ground, communicating, educating. The irony is that our two most powerful agents in both have been the BBC World Service and the British Council, both funded by the Foreign Office and both savagely cut by the government. The double irony is that this report was launched last night in Bush House, the headquarters of the World Service until, in its shrunken state, it was withdrawn in 2012. The building is now part of the King’s College campus.
 

 

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