Edition number 81; dateline 4 April 2014
Manchester’s literary jewel reopens
Eighty years after it first opened, Manchester’s central library has reopened following an extensive refurbishment programme, which began in 2010. The £50 million project has included the removal of asbestos in the building’s roof, work to make 70% of the building accessible and the extension of the exhibition areas open to the public. Hundreds of thousands of the library’s books have been removed from specialist storage facilities sited in a salt mine in Cheshire and returned to the library’s shelves. Among the treasures coming out of storage are a Shakespeare Second Folio, dated 1632, and a manuscript of the Codex Justinianus, dating from the 12th century. Engineers have also worked hard to address the issue of the acoustics in the central reading room that tended to amplify rather than dampen sound.
A new setting for Sutton Hoo
Some of the UK’s most celebrated archaeological treasures have been given pride of place in a newly refurbished gallery in the British Museum. Room 41 has long been home to the objects from Sutton Hoo, the burial site uncovered 75 years ago, but it was widely acknowledged that the grandeur of the setting never quite matched the grandeur of the objects. With a new roof bringing new light, a new floor to brighten the gallery, improved lighting design and brand new display cases, the objects, including the famous Sutton Hoo helmet, one of only four complete examples of Anglo-Saxon helmets found in England, are now much more visible and their importance that much more apparent. Previously these objects were contained in cramped cases to side of the gallery and many visitors apparently failed to notice some of the UK’s most celebrated archaeological finds from Europe’s richest intact burial site amid the rest of the gallery’s displays.
Happy to help: wellbeing and employment
A study of wellbeing and public policy recently published by the Legatum Institute, one of the many thinktanks currently offering their views of the world, includes a list of overall job satisfaction within particular employment sectors. Publicans were found to be among those least content with their working lives, while theologians were up at the top. In the top 20 of the most satisfied employees were fitness trainers, who, along with company secretaries and school secretaries, are not particularly highly paid but rank themselves as happy in their work. The report’s authors comment within the report that “there is a growing recognition that the measures of a country’s progress need to include the wellbeing of its citizens”.
High-street opportunities for leisure
Research from the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) suggests that the role of the traditional British high street is evolving, with chain retailers moving out and service-providers moving in. Michael Weed, BIRA deputy chief executive, explained: “As chains cut their links with high streets our towns are showing signs of reverting to older models of economic activity, where they serve the needs of physical customers in physical stores: alter their clothes, style their hair and mend their broken iPhones.” In 2013 more than 15,000 independents closed but some 16,000 opened. With an estimated 43,000 shops empty across the UK, some 14% of the total, leisure might be one of the market sectors that could bring innovative opportunities to the high street.
Funding decisions provoke furore
Kelly Gallagher won the visually impaired super-G competition in Sochi and secured GB’s first ever gold medal on snow. This was good news for UK Sport following their considerable investment in winter sports and Paralympic sport but the decision to confirm the withdrawal of elite funding for a number of sports saw the afterglow of Olympic success cut short by criticism from some associated with the sports in question. David Sparkes, chief executive of British Swimming, commented: “Where is the logic? This is about judgement call and this is a poor judgement call.” Roger Moreland, performance chairman at British Basketball, called for a debate on how elite sport is funded. “Basketball has a grassroots base bigger than any other British Olympic team sport. A funding system with nearly £350 million available for elite sport cannot be working to the best of its ability if it can leave sports like basketball behind.” However, Liz Nicholl, UK Sport’s chief executive, rebutted the call for the medal-focused approach to funding to be reassessed. “Once you start to take a broader approach and start to invest in sports that are a long way off medal potential you reduce the amount for those that do have medal potential,” she said. “That would be compromise and we have a no-compromise approach.” Peter Keen, now director of sport at Loughborough University but the person who set the UK on course for much of its medal success in his roles at British Cycling and then UK Sport, supported the no-compromise concept: “We can’t say we want to win things and we want to have a culture of aspiring to be the best and at the same time in effect reward something that isn’t.”
La Flamme Rouge: A memorable swish for Amaechi for the Leisure Review diary’s view.
Degenerate art: never bettered
The Neue Gallery in New York is hosting an exhibition titled Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937, which reconstructs the infamous exhibition staged in Berlin by the Nazi authorities to demonstrate all that was pernicious, degenerate and depraved in modern art. The original exhibition, which became one of the most notorious exhibitions of the 20th century and was also one of the best attended, is still a touchstone for debate regarding the freedom of artistic expression and the potential conflicts of interest in government funding for the arts.
Rome fights for caffe culture
The UK cultural sector is familiar with the conflict between commercial sustainability and heritage value but one might expect that in Rome they would already have reached an accommodation. However, the future of the Antico Caffe della Pace in the historic centre of Rome hangs in the balance as the building’s owners want to turn the site into a hotel. The bar, which has been trading since the 19th century, is fighting back with petitions from its extensive clientele and support from former customers such as Monica Bellucci, the Pope, Sophia Loren and, in spirit at least, Federico Fellini.
Free being me
Girlguiding UK’s has launched a new badge aimed at challenging the negative body image that is prevalent among girls and young women across the UK. Titled “free being me”, the badge follows a survey of attitudes that shows one in five of girls of primary school age had been on a diet and that 87% think they are judged more on looks than ability. Chief guide Gill Slocombe explained that the organisation was committed to helping girls develop into happy, self-confident young women and that the new badge would have a significant impact on thousands of lives. The “free being me” initiative includes the BRAVE pledge, which equates to: be myself – and be proud of myself; recognise and reject body image myths; accept how I look and how others look; value my body by treating it well; and encourage more people to be body confident.
Find out about the BRAVE initiative at www.girlguiding.org.uk
News in brief even briefer
DC Leisure, acquired by Places for People, has become a not-for-dividend organisation and will be trading as Places for People Leisure. Roger Wright has announced that after 15 years he will be leaving his post as controller of Radio 3 and director of the BBC Proms, to become chief executive of the Aldeburgh music festival and arts centre in Suffolk. Gladstone Health and Leisure has launched MobilePro, a new smartphone marketing app for leisure operators. The Sobell Badminton Club, based at Sobell Leisure Centre in London, has launched a weekly all-girl badminton session. Over 2,400 artists from 43 nations have been invited to perform at the Edinburgh Festival, the annual showcase of the world’s great performing artists; festival director Jonathan Mills revealed the full programme for his final Edinburgh International Festival. The FitPro Convention, now called FitPro Live, will be at ExCeL London 18-19 July; bigger and better, inspiring, hands-on, groundbreaking and innovative are just some of the adjectives that will be on display. A former nightclub in Yate near Bristol has been transformed into an Anytime Fitness club by franchisee Robin Drysdale; it will feature Precor equipment. Notts Sport has secured an exclusive three-year contract to provide safe surfacing for Glasgow City Council. Tonbridge and Malling borough council has entered a partnership with the newly established Tonbridge and Malling Leisure Trust (TMLT), who will manage Larkfield Leisure Centre, Angel Centre, Tonbridge Swimming Pool and Poult Wood Golf Centre under the brand tmactive.
News in brief
Staccato reports from the cultural typeface