Independent on Sunday confirms departure of arts critics with new 'forward looking' section to be unveiled in September

The Independent on Sunday has revealed more details of its stripped-down arts section and confirmed the departure of seven of its critics.

The new Arts & Books section will debut on Sunday 8 September and will focus on interviews, features and comment instead of traditional reviews.

As a result, all seven of its current roster of critics will see their contracts terminated. As none of those leaving are on full-time contracts, they are not among the 27 planned compulsory redundancies at the Independent titles.

Columns and reviews from Independent on Sunday critics will end on 1 September, although they may still contribute to the paper on a freelance basis.

The paper’s deputy editor James Hanning said reports claiming the axing of the critics was a precursor to the Independent on Sunday stopping its arts coverage were “well wide of the mark”.

“This is quite wrong and has never even been discussed,” he told Press Gazette. “What is happening is that we have had to bring to an end our critics’ contracts, and that we are reconfiguring the arts pages.

“They will be more featurey, thematic and forward-looking, and will be as thoughtful and provocative as our readers would expect them to be.

“This is a difficult time for everyone, but of course we still hold those in question in high regard, and if topics come up that they would like to write about in a different format in occasional features, we would be absolutely delighted. Our books pages will remain unaffected by the changes.”

The arts section will be edited by Mike Higgins, while Katy Guest will take charge of the books section.

Meanwhile, discussions are understood to be continuing between management at the paper and National Union of Journalists representatives ahead of planned strike action this Friday over the redundancies.

If it goes ahead, the action will be in the form of a mandatory chapel meeting between 4pm and 6pm.

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