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About The Arts Desk | reviews, news & interviews

About The Arts Desk

About The Arts Desk

Welcome to This is who we are

The Arts Desk, or, is a website created in 2009 by leading British professional arts journalists and critics to offset the decline in supply of arts coverage in the print media where most of them worked.

Launched on 9 September 2009, it publishes daily updating reviews, interviews and features by its member writers that aim to combine the best of print journalism standards with the speed, accessibility and technical opportunities of the web.

Its particular strengths are overnight reviews of live plays, concerts and dance, in-depth Q&As with leading arts figures, weekly international culture reports, and an increasing development of the use of video, photographic, audio and other illustrative material.

The Arts Desk originally began with a group of some two dozen writers, whose numbers have risen to more than 70. Its writers - or “Deskers” - are experienced journalists mainly from national broadsheets, and they cover classical music, comedy, dance, film, new music, opera, theatre, television and visual arts. In 2010 Sir John Tusa, former managing director of the BBC World Service and Barbican Arts Centre, became The Arts Desk's Chairman.

Technically has had three phases: the dummy was built by dance critic Ismene Brown from February 2009 using Apple's iWeb software on her iBook. After being built on the Joomla! open-source platform, making use of the K2 module, The Arts Desk launched in September 2009. The K2 software's creator rated it was rated the number 1 K2 site worldwide. After two years of increasing traffic and load, in September 2011, Kevin Madden, the site's publisher, had it rebuilt on the Drupal open source platform.

The Arts Desk has been hailed throughout the national press, in the Telegraph, The Times, The Independent and on BBC Radio 5, as well as in specialist arts publications. Its critics are routinely quoted in publications of leading performing organisations from orchestras and ballet companies to galleries and new music festivals.

In June 2012 at the annual Online Media Awards, The Arts Desk was named Best Specialist Journalism Site of 2012, tying with The Economist, and beating the Financial Times, Nature News and Comment and the Guardian Datastore.




The Arts Desk’s writers are all associated with particular areas of arts coverage, but many of them move across borders to reflect the breadth of their interests. They include:

Classical & opera: Igor Toronyi-Lalic (classical editor), Alexandra Coghlan, David Nice, Graham Rickson, Edward Seckerson, Stephen Walsh, David Benedict, Geoff Brown

Theatre & comedy: Matt Wolf (theatre editor), Veronica Lee (comedy editor), Aleks SierzSam Marlowe, Hilary Whitney, Carole Woddis, James Woodall, Bella Todd

Film & TV: Adam Sweeting (TV editor), Jasper Rees (film editor), Graham Fuller, Emma Simmonds, Demetrios Matheou, Nick Hasted, Sheila Johnston, Howard Male, Emma Dibdin, ASH Smyth, Graeme Thomson

Visual arts: Fisun Güner (visual arts editor), Sarah Kent, Judith Flanders, Josh Spero, Marina Vaizey, Sue Steward

New music: Peter Culshaw (new music editor), Russ Coffey, Bruce Dessau, Thomas H Green, Mark Kidel, Howard Male, Joe Muggs, Peter Quinn, Sue Steward, Graeme Thomson, Kieron Tyler, Matilda Battersby, David Cheal, Natalie Shaw

Dance: Ismene Brown (dance editor), Judith Flanders, Roslyn Sulcas (New York)

Photographers: Jillian Edelstein, Charlotte MacMillan

Overseas contributors: Anne Billson (France, Belgium), Tom Birchenough (Russia), Graham Fuller and Markie Robson-Scott (New York), ASH Smyth (Sri Lanka)

Editorial staff: Jasper Rees & Graeme Thomson (editorial coordinators)

Publisher: Kevin Madden


Press and recognition

  • Online Media Awards 2012: "Specialist Journalism Site of 2012: The Arts Desk"
  • The Times, 1 April 2011: “The 100 greatest arts tweeters: No. 3 The Arts Desk @theartsdesk” 
  • The Independent, 22 April 2010: “Journalism - the next generation: High-quality reporting is flourishing outside traditional newsrooms. A new wave of writers are going online to get their message across” by Ian Burrell
  • Classical Music magazine, April 2010: “Critical point - as arts coverage is slashed in national newspapers, online publishing has become an ever more attractive proposition for reviewers in need of a platform. Andrew Stewart investigates”
  • ARTicles, 31 March 2010 (National Arts Journalism Program) “Not-Really-an-Editor interview: Jasper Rees, The Arts Desk” by Laura Collins-Hughes
  • The Times City Diary, 20 January 2010 “In celebration of the critic - in the blue corner: Sir John Tusa” by Martin Waller  LINK
  • BBC Radio Five Live, 1 January 2010: “Five essential sites of 2009 - theartsdesk

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