tue 22/06/2021

Happy Birthday To Us: theartsdesk is Five | reviews, news & interviews

Happy Birthday To Us: theartsdesk is Five

Happy Birthday To Us: theartsdesk is Five

Huzzah! We're blowing out the candles on half a decade of cultural coverage

Don't stuff your faces - but do celebrate with theartsdesk!

The Arts Desk is, astonishingly, five years old today. Launched on the numerically pleasing date 09/09/09, its survival and indeed thriving state is testament to the hard work, flair and critical nous of its contributors – a mixture of experienced writers and new writers we have brought on.

We’ve also been supported by venues, festivals, PRs, record, film, theatre and arts companies who recognised and supported the value of what we have been doing, even as we have sometimes been rude about what they have been doing.  

Pioneering advertisers supported us when it was not clear in the early days how big the audience was. And of course, more than anything, we are nowhere without our readers, many of whom have become loyal regulars and supported us by signing up for annual subscriptions.

The idea has developed but remains at the core high-quality critical writing about the arts. When the site started there was considerable doubt amongst media types that it could be sustained – wasn’t everything moving towards tweets and shorter attention spans? In a social media envirionment in which everyone was a critic, would such a venture work? In fact, despite or perhaps because of the huge amount of information out there, there remains an appetite for an informed, critical filter.

We built up a steady audience fairly rapidly and in 2012 the site won the specialist section of the Online Media Awards against a tough shortlist that included the Economist and the Guardian. This year has seen further developments, including the arrival of a “soft paywall” which kicks in after four articles have been read, and partnerships with the likes of Glyndebourne and Brighton Festival, with further developments in the pipeline.

The site sprang into life partly in response to both the post-crash paycuts and squeezing of space for the arts in the UK national newspapers. From the start the site aimed to include both the big concerts and blockbuster exhibitions, but also leave enough room for the sometimes more esoteric enthusiasms of its writers. As it happens, quite often it turned out there was an audience out there who shared the passion of writers for more left-field and sometimes overlooked artists, films or performers. We also managed numerous scoops of in-depth interviews of arts practitioners and, while we are based in London (surely now the world’s greatest city for the arts), we have had regular reports from everywhere from Rejkyavik to La Réunion.

It’s not all been plain sailing and there have been squalls and the odd minor tempest along the way, but thousands of articles and millions of hits later, we move into the new, uncharted and exciting seas of our sixth year. In a world that seems to reveal new barbarism and destruction every news cycle (while arts writers are being laid off across the English-speaking world) we remain committed to supporting the creativity and inspiration of the arts which can nourish the soul in both dark and happier times. 

If you haven’t yet subscribed, please do consider it. We think it remains sterling value – the price of a round of drinks for a year’s enlightening, entertaining and sometimes provocative reading. Here’s to the next five years.

The site sprang into life partly in response to post-crash paycuts and the squeezing of space for the arts in national newspapers

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