TAITMAIL Don’t ask football magnates the way to the future, talk to young artists…

One of the justifications for the quickly aborted European Super League this week was that young people had lost interest in football and needed to be enticed back or else the game would die. 

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TAITMAIL A non-fungible silver lining

The search for a silver lining in this coronavirus shitstorm has been depressingly disappointing, but there has been one gleam for our sector, particularly for the visual arts: digital technology.

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TAITMAIL Stretching the philanthropy lifeline

Well, we made it - didn't we? As of Monday we can start to open with shops and outdoor events, come May 17 museums and theatres can open and on Midsummer’s Day almost everything will be back to normal. We think.

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TAITMAIL Uneven recovery?

By Patrick Kelly

It’s the hope that keeps you going. Ask any artistic director or CEO of an arts institution how they have survived this calamitous year and most will say that the prospect of re-engaging with live audiences is what has sustained them through the long months of lockdown. 

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TAITMAIL The final curtain?

Despite the V&A’s protestations there’s widespread belief that it intends to finally close its theatre and performance department. 

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TAITMAIL Days of bread and roses

“Bread and roses” was a stroke of soundbite genius used over a century ago by the American workers’ rights activist Helen Todd to represent her campaign for “fair wages and dignified conditions”. It was invoked again this week in support of creative industries’ freelance workers by the actor Siobhan McSweeney.

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TAITMAIL The aftershow sweet spot

It’s all very well venues and museums being allowed to open again from May 17, but how are they going to lure their audiences back from the newfound comfort and safety of their laptops? And how do presenters know their audiences’ tastes are still the same after all that’s changed in the last year? 

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TAITMAIL Going nuts in May

The Covid experience has taught us a lot about the value of art and how it is valued, and many see the government’s apparently new attitude as positive. 

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TAITMAIL A finger on the balance of history

The government has it in for museums. AI had to change its report on Boris Johnson’s “roadplan” on Monday three times because it wasn’t clear when museums were to be allowed to open. Not till May 17 is the final word.

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TAITMAIL The room where it didn’t happen

By Patrick Kelly

The news that the National Theatre is abandoning any plans to tour its productions in Europe is a stark reminder that decisions have consequences.  The decision of the culture secretary and his department, and his government colleagues, not to back the creative industries will haunt us for many years to come.  

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TAITMAIL London, sniffing the cultural coffee

When we finally awake from this nightmare, and by my calculation that should be just in time for the last few shopping days to Christmas, the world will look completely different. And the world at Christmas, before we went into our Covid coma, was the high street.

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TAITMAIL The miracle of museums

The Canterbury Miracle Windows are a miracle in themselves, in that they have survived the kind of vandals that tear down statues of people they disapprove of.

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TAITMAIL The arts, healing with kindness

That The Guardian should devote its entire leader column on Saturday to the arts was encouraging, but that it should be so positive – under the headline The arts, though dealt a terrible shock, will help Britain recover – was uplifting. 

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TAITMAIL The absence of what we do together

As expected, the Brexit deal was taken to a cliff edge, and as ever the arts were left hanging by the fingers, bemused and white knuckled.

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TAITMAIL But I get up again…

Founded ten years ago, STEAM Co. is on a mission to encourage creativity in schools and communities across the disciplines - Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths - and it has never been busier than in this Covid year. The Co. is for Collaboration. 

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TAITMAIL Our museum walls are closing in

In the circumstances it seems like a pragmatic decision for a national museum. Almost obvious. Never mind arbitrary closing of some galleries, limited cafe service, skeleton-staffed shop. Just close the place for a couple of days a week.

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TAITMAIL Woke up and smell the politics

The chair of the Charity Commission has waded into the wokeness row in the context of how it is being felt in the heritage sector, following the National Trust’s revision of the history of some of its properties.

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TAITMAIL Free the freelancers

The Comprehensive Spending Review isn’t comprehensive and it doesn’t spend: it’s selective and it only promises to do things, mostly cut. One word is particularly missing from Rishi Sunak’s statement this week: freelance.

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TAITMAIL. Coming soon: the wrap around arts festival

Festivals, which have been in a darkened room for the last year, are emerging with their plans for post-Covid liberation, but they have been changing during their hibernation. Get ready for the wrap around arts festival.

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TAITMAIL Covid, the liberation of Nell Hardy… and Mary Wollstonecraft

The actor and writer Nell Hardy has taken experiences most of us would prefer to shove at the back of our memory bank and has made art out of it.

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TAITMAIL The adventure of The Rose

By Simon Tait

Not a rant this week. I’m shoving aside the American omnishambles and the lockdown to talk about something that’s fascinated me for more than 30 years and never stops giving: the Rose.

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TAITMAIL Making a lifeline lead to something better

So did the culture department make praising the government a condition of getting money from the culture recovery fund? Well, yes… and no.

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TAITMAIL A glimmer from Coventry

Tentatively, it seemed, and with nervous sideways glances at whatever new horrors fate might have lurking, Coventry has announced its programme as City of Culture 2021. 

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TAITMAIL One false move and the dancer gets it

The image here has become infamous, and the more it’s seen the more outrageous it becomes, so here it is again. Wrong on so many levels it is a glimpse, more than a glimpse, of how the government sees jobs in the arts. It doesn’t.

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TAITMAIL How to turn ‘catastrophe’ into ‘early recovery’

This week an Arts Council commissioned report told us that the arts economy will have recovered in 2022, a year early. This week too the RSC announced it would have to cut 90 jobs, the Royal Opera House said it would sell its most valuable asset to make ends meet and Rishi Sunak appeared to tell artists to get retrained if they wanted to work.

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TAITMAIL Cultural education is a precious commodity too

By Patrick Kelly

Good news is hard to find in these pandemic-infused times, so let’s raise a cheer or two for the Clore Duffield Foundation, which is handing over £2.5 million to 66 cultural organisations across the UK to support their learning and community work during the Covid crisis.

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TAITMAIL Not so much a dogwhistle as a flogwhistle for our museums

The Royal Academy is famously our one world class art venue that is independent. It gets no subsidy and relies entirely on sponsorship, box office and what it can earn, and runs an art school for which it charges no fee (because that’s what society did 250 years ago). So if museums and galleries are in trouble, you can say that again for the RA.

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TAITMAIL High art

Enthusiasm for the high street as our local cultural hot spot seems to have reached fever pitch this week.

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TAITMAIL We don’t want to be politically incorrect, but by jingo if we are…

What a sad way for Tony Hall to exit the BBC after a ridiculous teacup-sized media-manufactured row, and with his last decision overturned the minute his successor took over.

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TAITMAIL The arts future is bright – in Sunderland

By Patrick Kelly

It’s easy, perhaps even reasonable, to be pessimistic about the future of culture following the ravages of the pandemic.

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TAITMAIL The Southbank, and pearls before jewels

Gradually the “String of Pearls”, as Richard Rogers once called the cultural attractions along the south side of the Thames, are coming back to life, but it’s patchy and their futures are as murky as the river itself. 

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TAITMAIL Drawing a post-Covid future

There’s something eerily Gothick about the New River Head engine house, a delight for illustrators and an image that would send Mervyn Peake on a maelstrom of weird invention. No wonder Quentin Blake fell for it.

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TAITMAIL Estuary speak

“Unlovely” is how one of the PRs associated with the Thames Estuary development describes the region. “It’s hard to see Joseph Conrad”.

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TAITMAIL Arts centres: investing in the bottom line

There was a poignant throwaway line on Front Row’s edition devoted to Rethink last week when the panel was lamenting any meaningful suggestions from the government about how to avoid the black hole our cultural infrastructure is heading headlong for. “In the absence of large art” said the equality campaigner Amanda Parker “people found local”.

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TAITMAIL No normal, no more

At the start of Radio 4’s Front Row on Tuesday presenter John Wilson seemed bucked to be able to say that the government had announced a couple of hours earlier that museums, galleries and cinemas could reopen from July 4.

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TAITMAIL Slaving for a living

Artists and writers such as Yinka Shonibare, Ben Okri and Anish Kapoor, and museum curators like Hartwig Fischer at the British Museum, have called for a national museum devoted to, they say, the “transatlantic slave trade and its racist legacy”. But is that what they really want, and is racism slavery's legacy?

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TAITMAIL Inequality we all connive at

Black Lives Matter has hit the arts, and so it should. Our culture is who we are, and BLM is telling us that some of us haven’t noticed who we have become.

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TAITMAIL Trusting in a new foundation

Negotiations on saving our culture from apocalypse, behind closed doors rather than in the correspondence pages of the national press, have begun and are expected to take until the end of the month, at least in their initial stage. Not long to build a new horizon.

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TAITMAIL Staging the apocalypse

Most theatres can’t open before the autumn and those that do will have to operate at 30% box office to meet social distancing requirements, producing an income that would be well below costs. Apocalypse.

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TAITMAIL A humble muse for our time

This little fellow, all of four inches tall, is a muse. Not one of the official ones, but one that some enterprising local museums in Kent hope will generate sweet music. Actually he’s a Lar, but I’ll come back to him.

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TaitMail Do our museums ever have to open again?

The irony of the National Gallery’s situation last Friday, the 75th anniversary of VE Day, was not lost on its director Gabriele Finaldi. 

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TAITMAIL The best way to predict the future is to create it

By Patrick Kelly

It’s hard to lift the gloom these days, as the cultural industries survey the wreckage of the Covid-19 crisis and the hapless efforts of the UK government to address it.

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TAITMAIL The gifted keep giving

“If you can’t come to art then art will come to you” says the artist Sam Harris, and never has that been truer than in this eerie Covid envelope in history. 

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TAITMAIL ‘But no decision has yet been made’

That seems to be the sentence that every government announcement ends with. But as Keir Starmer told the government on Tuesday, you can’t just park this. The pandemic will end, nothing will go back to normal, the economy will be unrecognisable, and the plan to deal with it is…

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TAITMAIL Minding the gap

By Patrick Kelly

This week we hear that The Film and TV Charity has set up an emergency relief fund for freelancers who have been hit hardest by the closure of productions across the country. Netflix, BBC Studios and the BFI are all stumping up so that grants of up to £2,500 will be available for applicants in hardship.

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TAITMAIL The moment of shock

Before I launch into this week’s diatribe, take four minutes for this, from the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. It will put you in the mood.

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TAITMAIL What is to be done?

The news that Halifax’s Square Chapel has gone into administration demonstrates the fragility of arts organisations in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

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TAITMAIL The show doesn’t go on

This is the week the coronavirus crisis really hit the industry, with a tsunami of closures affecting every single sector of the cultural world, from theatre to television,  museums to music venues.

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TAITMAIL Budget busting for coronavirus and Culture Britain

For Wednesday’s Budget, Covid-19 has been a veil behind which civic Britain is dying. Our high streets are commercial cemeteries, our pubs - as the Chancellor noted - closing at the rate of 18 a week, local theatres and concert halls struggling to survive and shopping malls almost deserted. 

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TAITMAIL Face, nose Brexiting from

We’ve learned this week that Dominic Cummings detests humanities and the arts, underlining the theory that the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has only survived his scythe because he needs it to hit the BBC with, and duly the new culture secretary’s first speech has been about the BBC.

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TAITMAIL Rubbish Rembrandt

How did Rembrandt become the world’s finest painter from being barely competent in what could be as little as two years?

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TAITMAIL Knowing our place

We learned this week that the Creative Industries are now worth £111.7bn a year to the economy in gross value added, up from £104.8bn in the previous reckoning according to new economic growth figures, and that the next two London “boroughs of culture” are going to be Lewisham and Croydon. There’s a connection, and the link is a fairly new word in artspeak: place.

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TAITMAIL Terry, Greg, Will and William

In 2017 Greg Doran had to start his annual RSC press conference by announcing the death of Peter Hall, the RSC’s first artistic director, who had died that morning. On Tuesday he couldn’t do it for Hall’s successor but one because Terry Hands died that day but a couple of hours later. Trevor Nunn, Adrian Noble and Michael Boyd will be planning a very quiet day when Doran’s next press conference is scheduled.

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TAITMAIL Seeing straight in ACE’s 2020 vision

Next week Arts Council England is expected to announce its cultural strategy for the next ten years, and already it’s being forestalled by another report, called ACE in a hole.

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TAITMAIL Collision economy

Is there life for the creative industries after Brexit? Well, yes, but it’s the quality of that life (and its consequent earning power) that’s the point. 

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TAITMAIL Here's to a long life and an arty one

Happy new year.

OK, we need creativity in our schools. Keep on saying it and maybe, just maybe, it’ll be made to happen just to shut us up. But hang on, what’s this? Arts involvement later in life helps you live longer?

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TAITMAIL Philanthropy – it's about passion, not money

Troy: myth and reality is a truly fabulous exhibition. It opens at the British Museum today with objects loaned from all over the world and tells probably the greatest story ever told, in that it has inspired, horrified and delighted all those who have encountered it for at least 3,000 years, and probably more. 

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TAITMAIL On antisemitism being, literally, senseless

I’d known Marcel Berlins for maybe 25 years: lawyer, journalist, critic, broadcaster, poetaster, omnivorous music lover, gourmet, most marvellous raconteur. He never referred to his Jewishness, it was of no relevance, and it was not until his memorial service this week that I knew he had spent the first four years of his life hiding in a French attic from Nazis.

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TAITMAIL The 1170 election rerun

So, the swords are out, rhetoric is already echoing and the familiar chorus seems to be in every corner of our lives, the cries echoing across Europe. And it all kicks off on Monday, I can’t wait.

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TAITMAIL Come to Dada

What do you think this is, a swastika or two noodle strands arranged in a visual pun? And how seriously should you take it?

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