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Blondie, Ellie Goulding, Imelda May headline Somerset House July gigs

If you're looking for an open-air live music experience in London this month, take a look at the line-up set for the Summer Series in Somerset House's 18th century courtyard from 7-17 July.

There's a strong mix of established names and high level new acts, with Blondie, Ellie Goulding, Eels and Imelda May among the highlights at the historic venue on The Strand on the Victoria Embankment.

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RCA exhibitions

South of the Thames after six months in Kilburn, I took the chance to stop and review the RCA's end-of-year shows.

With a network of light industrial buildings around Battersea, hemmed in by real industry and car workshops, this is truly culture as industry; manufactories of creativity. The first building I visited was the sculpture building, There is a breadth of work on show here, from David Pringle's massed ranks of Kodak Carousel slide projectors making an unholy racket to Evy Jokhova's giant architectural printmaking and book-work. Both of them have produced solid, intelligent work in very different ways.

But sadly, that's all I can tell you about the next generation of edgy, exciting British artists. Before I got any further, I was 'challenged'.
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All the artists

Revolutionary Arts was formed in October 2000, originally around a manifesto scrawled on a studio wall. Since then, the Worthing-based organisation has founded Worthing open houses, Horsham open studios (Both as part of the bigger Artists and Makers Festival), the Made In Worthing festival and the Empty Shops Network. To mark the next birthday, founders Dan and Tracey Thompson are planning a limited edition artwork.

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Photographer captures 21st century Butlins

Documentary photographer Anna Fox records the modern face of Butlins in a new exhibition called 'Resort' at Pallant House Gallery

For two years Fox has been photographing life at Butlin’s Southcoast World in West Sussex. The 'Resort' photographs marks the 75th anniversary of Butlins: a British institution and established cultural phenomenon, with a very particular character, history and identity. Having attracted tens of millions of holidaymakers since its creation in 1936, Butlins’ popularity peaked in the 1970s, but, today it is making a comeback.
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Report shows visual arts professional development hit

A new report looks at the likely impact on artists after the Arts Council England (ACE) decisions on fifteen previously Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) that were unsuccessful in the new National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) process application.

It shows that a disproportionate number of artists’ membership and development agencies and practice-based organisations lost core funding, despite ACE’s aim of creating a “balanced portfolio”. Many of these organisations are ambitious, punch above their weight and play a crucial strategic development role within the visual arts ecology.

Organisations include galleries Artsway and Castlefield, production companies s Folly, Isis Arts and PVA and membership organisations NewWorkNetwork and Contemporary Glass Society. They have all developed bespoke professional practice activity and expertise over a number of years across diverse visual arts practices, and provide significant, quantifiable opportunities for artists at early and mid-career. Consequently, they feed strategically into the work of bigger organisations that have neither capacity nor remit to undertake this depth of specific artist-centred development work.
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Regeneration at the Bubble Chamber

The Bubble Chamber has shown how art and culture can regenerate city centres by reimagining empty shops for artistic ventures throughout the West Midlands.

Over 18 months the Bubble Chamber has been animating void spaces with live performance, film and computer technology. In Coventry, the initiative has been so successful that a resurgence of interest in a small but significant part of the city can be credited to local artists making a regenerative statement. Oliver Scott explains:

‘There are many artists in Coventry looking for creative spaces to develop their projects. Working in empty shops presents a new platform for engaging the public at street level’.
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Best of British burlesque

Burlesque is a beautiful and very English thing. Slightly risque, but never pornographic; slightly smutty, but never filthy.  So Worthing's most seaside venue, the magnificent Pier Pavilion, should be a perfect place for A Night of Burlesque.

All the acts tonight are excellent at what they do, but they do struggle at times. The audience is keen; a mix of drunken women out for parties, metrosexual couples and a smattering of elderly couples who I suspect saw this stuff first time round. But there's a problem with the size of the venue. With no stage set, props or dressing, some of the more subtle moves are lost in the Pavilion's large auditorium. Certainly comedy act Piff loses some of his magic tonight; finger puppets don't work ten rows back. A couple of the dancers fail to get the whoops and cheers for small moves that they might get in a more intimate venue too.

Amber Topaz is the official headline act, and she certainly knows how to reach the back of the auditorium. She's old-school end-of-the-pier stuff, great moves and dynamite tunes. As you'd expect, she's also a lady who knows how to remove a stocking.  

Slinky Sparkles doesn't need to, with stocking seams tattooed up her legs and finished with bows below a Marilyn-esque bottom. She does anyway, thankfully. And lots of other rather charming stuff with feather fans. She's a classical pin-up girl, great looks and lots of attitude.

Ginger Blush gives burlesque a brilliant twist. Proving that men will always go for women with a sense of humour, she uses the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme for a rap about the life of Queen Elizabeth 1 and a wonderful costume - an ironing board that transforms into an Elizabethan dress. It's a mix of masterful burlesque, traditional variety and modern music that  means Ms Blush stands out from the crowd.

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Comedy club headliner set to stand and deliver

Manchester-based but Stoke-born funny man Andy Kind returns to Matt's Comedy Club for his third Worthing gig, and an eager audience looking forward to his winning mix of daft stories, lively banter and charm all wrapped up in a clean comedy outlook.

Kind tops the bill at The Dome Function Suite, Marine Parade, Worthing on Thursday 23 June (8pm).

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Windows wow shoppers

A new, free exhibition by Mercurial Dance will bring an unexpected glow to Coventry’s City Arcade in May and June. ‘Glow’ – an interactive digital art piece – will excite the public as their movement is captured on three TV screens and multiple cameras, bringing to life the windows of the Bubble Chamber, an empty shops venue at 8 City Arcade.
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Liverpool fills empty shops

Liverpool is suffering the effects of the recession like any other Northern city, and although new developments may be encouraging people into the city, it has left it with too much retail space, and thus a large number of empty shops. This article reviews three different responses to this problem.

Dot-Art is a Liverpool based non-profit organisation that works with local artists to provide a means for them to display & sell their art. Dot-Art provides website space, office rental of art, advice for artists, & pop-up art gallery. The latest pop-up galleryis situated in the Met Quarter.

The home of All Saints and Armani, this is a high-end shopping centre. Focusing on paintings, there was a range of styles and mix of media. Some were more conventional representations, others completely abstract, and differing levels of skill and execution. The art on display varies in affordability from £250-2000, which felt a good range to appeal to a wide audience, and the variety of art could mean that both seasoned collectors and people who have never bought an original before might find something that appealed to them. There was no explanation or descriptions of the paintings or artists.

The shop felt very much like a non-intimidating art gallery, rather than a scruffy ex-shop; it was neat, smart & a good use of space, although hidden away in the upstairs corner of the centre. You couldn’t refer to this as a particularly exciting or innovative way to use an empty shop, but it is revenue generating and aims to provide exposure and sales for those who artists who may struggle to gain such public recognition normally. Dot- Art may be relatively straightforward in the way it displays art, but the organisation is unusual and if it can remain a success, is cause for celebration. Their next gallery is from 2-4th June 2011.