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Creatives sacked as university launches new direction for the arts

One of the jobs given to the new VP (I) is to manage The Edge, the £11million building intended ‘to refocus and reboot the direction of travel for the arts’ at the university. Four weeks before the building’s official opening has sacked its three creative producers and shifted half of the remaining ICIA staff over to Accommodation and Hospitality.

When this move was announced in January, UCU worked with the creative producers on an alternative plan that would keep two of their jobs and build on their excellent work with artists and students. The proposal was rejected, despite having wide support from academics and arts organisations. It’s no secret that ICIA’s work did not suit the artistic tastes of some very senior figures at the university. Documents considered by the Vice Chancellor’s Group described it as a ‘drain’. The same documents called for

‘a lighter touch … enabling us to develop new audiences … still challenging when required but with a less intense, and perhaps more humorous approach, that has direct relevance to the ambitions of the university whilst allowing audiences to engage more easily.’

The reasons for this ‘lighter touch are entirely financial. The VCG documents go on to say that

‘We will have a variety of venues that can be used for performance and this will allow more income generation with the aim of regenerating a surplus, and ‘ the building contains several spaces that are very attractive and lend themselves to a variety of commercial uses. A strategy for maximising income from these spaces and as a result ensuring the profitable operation of the Bar and Café is an urgent priority.’

It’s no wonder there is some pressure to sacrifice the University’s arts programmes – the salaries of the three sacked creatives will not cover the cost of the new VP (I). The money for the university’s latest high earner has to come from somewhere

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