Monday 13 September 2010

Creative Scotland Chaos

Scotland’s arts community requires a creative solution
Published on 13 Sep 2010

Creative Scotland’s launch at the beginning of July was accompanied by a warning from its director, Andrew Dixon, that funding choices would have to be made.

So far, other than a suggestion that there will be more collaboration with the BBC and STV, there has been no indication of how funding for the arts will change.

The statement that Creative Scotland “will not be a funding body in the old sense of the Arts Council but a strategic body” in an email exchange between Mr Dixon and an individual inquiring about funding will therefore cause real alarm in every arts organisation in Scotland.

Having waited long years for the arrival of the body to replace the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen (at a cost of £3.3m), the arts community is naturally impatient for details of how it will operate. It has £60m to ensure that funding commitments already undertaken by the Scottish Arts Council will be fulfilled, so Mr Dixon’s warning at the launch party for the new body that nothing can be taken for granted will take on added resonance when the new financial year begins next April. The unease that warning caused was not helped by the revelations about the cost of the bash, which, at £17,000, would have been enough to sustain a struggling artist, musician, actor or writer for a year. By that calculation the £35,000 cost of the new logo of “creative” inside a circle and “Scotland” inside a square would amount to a whole year’s work by two artists. The undisclosed cost of the move from the Scottish Arts Cuncil’s headquarters to newly refurbished offices also raises questions about the costs of running the organisation at a time when every penny is desperately needed for the core purpose of funding the arts.

Robin Harper, the Scottish Green Party MSP, intends to raise these issues in the Scottish Parliament. It is with good cause that he wants government ministers to require Creative Scotland to produce a strategic plan and mission statement within a reasonable timescale.

It is sensible to carry out a review of the foundation grants given to all 52 major arts companies and bodies which come under the Creative Scotland umbrella and the increased partnership exhorted by Mr Dixon is essential to stretch limited funds as far as possible. However, at a time when the other main sources of funding for the arts, local authorities and charitable trusts, are making severe budget cuts, it must be recognised that partnerships will become far more difficult to put in place. The emails from Creative Scotland suggest that it will not deal with individuals but through “agencies”. If this means an extra layer of bureaucracy it bodes ill for arts funding. It is imperative Scotland’s arts sector not only improves the quality of life in general but is also an increasingly important part of the Scottish economy. Neither will be the case unless Creative Scotland makes its absolute priority direct support of the arts, its creators and perfomers.


Warning of chaos for the arts amid confusion about funding
  • Confusing: Andrew Dixon’s e-mail said Creative Scotland would not be a funding body but a strategic one
EXCLUSIVE: Phil Miller, Arts Correspondent

13 Sep 2010
The arts in Scotland are in danger of sliding into “inexcusable chaos” because of confusion over the role and responsibilities of the new national funding body Creative Scotland, it has been claimed.

In a stinging attack, Kenneth Roy, founder and editor of the Scottish Review, said the current lack of detail concerning Creative Scotland could potentially be disastrous for the arts.

Creative Scotland (CS), a merger of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen that cost more than £3 million, was officially launched in July, with a £35,000 new logo and £60m in funds

It expressed intentions to work with STV and the BBC on broadcasting issues, but so far little detail has emerged on how exactly CS will fund arts companies and artists in the future.

Andrew Dixon, its chief executive, has suggested it will review its core funding for 52 “foundation” arts and drama companies, theatres and festivals.

Mr Roy particularly takes issue with Mr Dixon’s view, expressed in an e-mail conversation with an artist, “that we will not be a funding body in the old sense of the Arts Council but a strategic body.”

Mr Roy says this conflicts with another statement, on the CS website, which says Creative Scotland “inherits the funding commitments and investment strands of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen”.

Mr Roy writes in the latest issue of Scottish Review: “I am still no clearer what the chief executive of Creative Scotland is trying to say about his own organisation.”

He adds: “The abject performance of Creative Scotland would be hilarious were it not so potentially disastrous for the arts in Scotland and for the thousands of creative people – some of the best people in this country – whose livelihoods depend on public funding of their work.

“It seems that the present Holyrood administration, intelligent and honourable in so many other ways, is content to surrender the arts, a central part of our national life, to inexcusable chaos.”

Also perturbed is Robin Harper, the Scottish Green Party MSP. He has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament expressing concerns over the body and the “remarkable uncertainty over that organisation’s function.”

The motion adds: “This uncertainty has not been allayed by the reported statement made by Creative Scotland’s chief executive, Andrew Dixon, that the organisation is not a funding body in the sense of the former Scottish Arts Council.”

It goes on: “[We] urge the Scottish Government to meet representatives of Creative Scotland as soon as possible and demand sight of its strategic plan and mission statement within a reasonable timescale and for Creative Scotland to undertake minimum expenditure on offices, staff and equipment until such time as its function can be fully defined.”

Mr Roy concludes by calling on Fiona Hyslop, the culture minister, to “clarify its purpose and policies, assuming they have any. ”

A spokeswoman for CS said Mr Dixon had written to Mr Roy to discuss the issues.

Creative Scotland insiders said it remained a young organisation, with its first full board meeting only three weeks ago and its senior management team in place for a month.

There are also questions surrounding the move of the Creative Scotland headquarters from the current home of the Scottish Arts Council in Manor Place, to a refurbished office in the Waverleygate centre.

The costs of the move, and the refit of the offices by JM Architects, have not yet been announced. The rent for the site is on a 15-year lease, which includes an initial rent-free period, it is understood.

A spokeswoman maintained the costs were not at the expense of investment in the arts, screen and creative industries. The move to the new offices is scheduled for the turn of the year.


Time to batten down the hatches before the cuts hit home

6 Sep 2010
Michael Tumelty worries about the funding of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland.

During the recent concert in Glasgow given by the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, a regular concert buff, chatting about the standard of young musicians in Scotland, commented: “At least they’ll be immune to the uncertainties facing the professional orchestras.” Really? He was referring to the recent government instruction to Scotland’s national companies to prepare scenarios for cutbacks in the autumn.

That group of companies includes the RSNO, the SCO and Scottish Opera. The scale of cutbacks they face ranges up to 10%. Julian Clayton, chief executive of NYOS, expects his teaching and coaching staff to be affected. Clayton’s NYOS turnover is £1.2m: 18% of that came from the Scottish Arts Council, which has been superseded by Creative Scotland. He awaits an invitation to meet the Creative Scotland chief executive to discuss the future.

Local authority cuts will hit music education and local music services hard. Clayton is concerned about that too. And, year on year, as he goes through the application forms for his youth ensembles, he detects an ominous trend: “The number of students coming here solely through the state sector, who don’t have private lessons, don’t go to any of the music units or through the Junior Academy, is in decline. There are very few of them: fewer than 10 years ago, and fewer than 20 years ago.”

It’s going to get a whole lot worse in what is a worrying time for anyone in the music business in Scotland, whether in the youth, education or professional sectors. And Clayton has yet another issue on his mind: accommodation.

The NYOS office is situated in an elegant terrace approaching Charing Cross, just on the periphery of the city centre, one minute’s drive from the motorway and ideally placed for a hefty orchestra truck, laden with heavy-duty flight cases and myriad instruments, returning from a tour.

Getting down the tight stairway to Clayton’s office is one thing; getting into his office and finding space to cross your legs, never mind swing the proverbial cat, is quite another. As we talk, I become aware of twin looming presences peering over the chief executive’s shoulder. These are the NYOS harps. There is a single lonely space at one wall: that’s for the NYOS celeste, out of office today on celestial business.

Archives, CDs, instruments and music demand space which is non-existent. The storage room for instruments and flight cases is the ultimate defence barrier. It is packed beyond description. It is impenetrable. How they actually get the instruments out, never mind get them organised into a performing orchestra, is the stuff of logistical nightmares.

And how they get them into that micro-room in the first instance is beyond me. There is no rear entrance. I can see that the configuration of the staircase down to the basement precludes the passage of the big boys in the orchestra, such as the fat-bellied timpani and tubular bells I have to ask. The answer is devastatingly simple; it’s rudimentary joinery. Every time the timps, bells and all the big boys come in, or go out, the back basement window has to be removed.

It gets worse. The passageway from the back lane to the removed window is across a three-foot drop into the basement. An improvised ramp has to fit the bill. It’s medieval. They have to cross what is, in effect, a moat (without water or fish).

NYOS owns the ground floor and the basement. They need more space. They have been well-supported by the Scottish Arts Council, now defunct. They’ve formed a committee to look into the issue of buildings.

Frankly, I think they should forget it and batten down the hatches. As the country declines into neo-Thatcherism, with crushed, honest LibDems crawling off into corners while their ultra-right Tory masters take society on a heartless descent towards nihilism – threatening everything from free nursery milk, the heart and health of our society, to the UK Film Council and anything that smacks of culture – the best option for Julian Clayton is, metaphorically at least, to fill that moat with water and hungry piranhas. God help us all.

Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201