When Creative Scotland announced their regular funding decisions towards the end of last year, it showed just how much Scotland’s arts funding quango hasn’t changed since the appointment of a new set of administrators following the departure of its previous incumbents at the end of 2012.
While the decisions highlighted justified winners, including the likes of Vanishing Point and Grid Iron theatre companies, as well as contemporary music producers Arika, 28 organisations who received funding in 2014-15 were declined regular funding for 2015-18. Those who missed out included Scottish Youth Theatre and Untitled Productions, whose show Paul Bright’s Confessions of A Justified Sinner has been lauded at home and abroad. Untitled have announced that the company is being left dormant for the foreseeable future, while Scottish Youth Theatre is to receive funding directly from the Scottish Government for the next three years, in the run-up to Scotland’s Year of Young People in 2018.
Others who didn’t make the cut included three major Edinburgh galleries – Stills, Talbot Rice and Inverleith House – as well as Artlink, a vital community-based body that provides access to arts for disabled individuals. Neither Aberdeen’s pioneering sound festival of contemporary music nor Live Music Now Scotland, which takes performances to vulnerable people in the community, will receive funding from 2015. Both the Royal Lyceum Theatre and Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, meanwhile, received substantial cuts that will affect future programming.
How these companies survive may require some genuine creativity. It may result in a grassroots culture that learns to operate outwith the institutions – and which arguably already exists in lo-fi ventures such as Edinburgh’s 30-seat Discover 21 space, the Embassy and Rhubaba galleries, in LeithLate and the Village Pub Theatre, all of which receive little or no public subsidy, but which create increasingly vital work despite this.
Nobody working in the arts is under any illusion that an imposed austerity culture is the cause of the current round of cuts, but Creative Scotland’s top-down philosophy doesn’t help. This is something that needs to be addressed by the organisation’s incoming chair Richard Findlay, a man who, as former chair of bodies including the National Theatre of Scotland, STV and the Royal Lyceum Theatre, arguably has more experience in Scotland’s arts scene than Waverleygate’s tranche of senior managers combined.
There are some eminently qualified people working at the coalface of the organisation to enable artists the best they can, but it still isn’t clear who makes the decisions. Ultimately, instead of fostering a culture of competition that creates a scenario of winners and losers as a business might do, Creative Scotland needs to allow artists to lead the way while they get on with the business of administrating, enabling and serving those artists while arguing harder for extra resources. That way, major organisations such as sound, Artlink and Live Music Now and won’t be left struggling to survive.
The List, February 2015