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Ruth McKenzie to Revamp BBC/Arts Council's The Space

By Classicalite Newsdesk on Nov 15, 2013 11:01 PM EST

It has been hailed by some, but castigated by more as a waste of money. The Space is a digital arts initiative jointly launched by the BBC and Arts Council England. And its 2013 pilot projects have met a decidedly mixed reception, but a lack of a coherent overarching vision is a criticism that comes up frequently. New BBC Director-General Lord Tony Hall (formerly of the Royal Opera House) was thought to not have been too impressed so far and some expected him to junk it altogether (though the amount of taxpayers' money already spent on it makes that difficult). However, he has just announced a new director for The Space, and a relaunch.

Few will quibble with his choice of director. Ruth McKenzie has long been viewed as one of the brightest and most interesting arts administrators in the UK. She works with interesting people, she works on interesting projects and she gets things done. Under Hall she ran the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad -- so nobody can accuse her of not knowing how to get to grips with potentially messy and expensive cultural projects. And before the Olympics, she jointly ran the Chichester Festival Theatre and the Manchester International Festival.

Before all that, she had berths at Scottish Opera, the Vienna Festival, Nottingham Playhouse, the South Bank Centre and was special adviser to the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Not a bad resume, that.

Quite what she will make of The Space is anyone's guess. I suppose the fact that it has been perceived as relatively directionless means she will have a clean slate. On the other hand, nothing is as difficult, surely, as being asked to come up with a vision on demand. One thing, however, is for sure. This odd, pricey BBC/Arts Council venture just got a lot more interesting.

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TagsBBC, Arts Council, Ruth McKenzie, The Space, Manchester International Festival, Chichester Festival Theatre, London 2012 Olympics, Cultural Olympiad

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