Guarded welcome for BBC arts initiative - Museums Association

Guarded welcome for BBC arts initiative

Concerns expressed that BBC's proposals are too London-centric. By Gareth Harris
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Gareth Harris
Culture professionals have broadly welcomed a raft of arts initiatives announced by the BBC director-general Tony Hall in March, although some have raised concerns about the extent to which museums and galleries will benefit (see box).

In a speech given at New Broadcasting House, Hall said there would be coverage of high-profile Royal Academy of Arts and British Museum exhibitions, as well as the Liverpool Biennial, Manchester International Festival and the work of National Galleries of Scotland.

There will be broadcasts from museums and galleries across the UK, while the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2 and the One Show will cover this month’s Museums at Night in partnership with Culture24.

“We are going to break down the walls between us and all the wonderful institutions that make Britain a world leader,” Hall said.

Tate director Nicholas Serota will lead a group of arts leaders “to act as a sounding board” for the BBC’s output, added Hall. The group will include Manchester International Festival director Alex Poots, who will focus on new commissions and collaborations.

Museum consultant Len Pole says: “I am broadly in favour of any increased coverage provided by major media outlets. However, it would have been good to have seen a major museum professional on the proposed board or acting as an adviser.”

Nick Poole, the chief executive of the Collections Trust, says Serota and Poots "have been passionate champions for museums".

He adds: “My only concern is that they remember to champion all museums, not just the nationals or those in large metropolitan centres.”

As part of the new arts strategy, The Space, an online digital platform that the BBC runs with Arts Council England (ACE), will be relaunched in the summer under the leadership of Ruth Mackenzie, former director of the Cultural Olympiad.

A spokeswoman for ACE, which has committed a further £8.1m to The Space, says it is about encouraging access to cultural experiences for the widest possible audience. “Even though it is based in London, it has an impact and reach beyond its postcode,” she adds.

“The first version of The Space wasn’t a great platform for people to experience the breadth and depth of what museums have to offer in their collections,” Poole says. “In this new version, we need to ensure that having piqued their interest, we can lead them into experiencing the museums for themselves, whether online or in person.”

The sector’s view

“In spite of the dramatic changes happening across the museum sector, and in terms of visitor engagement, we are experiencing a heyday. Anything that gets more people visiting museums and galleries online, in person or through interactive TV services, has got to be a good thing.”
Nick Poole, chief executive, Collections Trust

“It all sounds a bit ‘high art’. When they include industrial museums – but not as a hotbed of weird anoraks – and small community museums, as an essential part of strengthening social groupings, I will be proved wrong.”
Kathy Gee, heritage and cultural consultant

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