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Creative Scotland promises major funding revamp

Janet Archer, Creative Scotland's Chief Executive. Picture: Neil Hanna

Janet Archer, Creative Scotland's Chief Executive. Picture: Neil Hanna

  • by BRIAN FERGUSON
 

ARTS agency Creative Scotland is set to scrap all of its controversial funding schemes from next year and has vowed to create a new “level playing field” for artists.

As many as 18 different funding pots will be simplified down to just three under a proposed new regime drawn up following the appointment of new chief executive Janet Archer.

Artists and organisations who have lost out under the current system have been promised there will be “no second class citizens” in future, with a fairer and more transparent system of securing financial backing.

Confusing terminology and jargon, as well as controversial funding hierarchies, are all being ditched in favour of straightforward applications for “regular, project or targeted” funding.

The shake-up is likely to mean much greater support for the film and television sectors from Creative Scotland, with producers unable to secure any more than £300,000 for individual projects at present.

But it means long-running arts organisations - such as theatres, festivals, galleries, arts centres and music groups - who have secure funding in place at the moment will not be guaranteed any future support beyond the spring of 2015.

Creative Scotland promise ‘clarity’

All organisations will have just a few months to submit applications when final guidelines are published in the spring of next year, under the quango’s current timetable, with detailed bids due in by next summer, when Scotland’s “bigger ever cultural event” will be at its height to coincide with the staging of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Successful applicants will be informed by the autumn.

But despite the prospect of another bout of widespread upheaval, Creative Scotland insists the shake-up will result in a “clear and easy-to-access” funding system. Officials insisted organisations would be offered “stability and support” until new funding arrangements are in place.

The plans were outlined at the first of a series of roadshows the quango is taking around the country ahead of the publication of a new long-term plan in the spring.

The organisation, which has a budget of almost £100 million at its disposal next year, has been in upheaval for almost 18 months following a major rebellion triggered by a previous shake-up of the way grants are distributed, which saw dozens of organisations lose regular support.

Funding ‘fundamental to agency’s work’

Ms Archer outlined a proposed new vision for the fledgling agency which commits the body to “deliver public funds in support of creative and artistic excellence.” She said Creative Scotland would be a development agency “providing a route map and brokering connections for artists and creative people.”

Deputy chief executive Iain Munro told the event at the Lighthouse centre in Glasgow that funding was the most “fundamentally important” function of Creative Scotland to most people in the arts.

He said: “We’ve heard loud and clear that the funding model we’ve been operating could be better and must be better. We want to go back to basics and think about what is a good model and, in the best sense of the words, be a good bureaucracy.

“It has to be fundamentally simple, clear and accessible for as many people as possible and as level playing field as possible right across the arts, screen and creative industries.

“We want to see all great ideas having the ability to come forward and have a route into the organisation and be taken seriously and decided on fairly. Being a good funder is as much about the quality of how we are able to say no as it is about how we say yes.”

Ms Archer added: “We have a responsibility to deliver large amounts of public money. We need to get better at being a funding body. There is no question about that.”

Background

The series of open sessions, which are also visiting the Borders and Inverness over the next few days, are being held almost a year to the day since chief executive Andrew Dixon quit in the wake of mounting protests led by some of Scotland’s best-known artists.

At their heart of wide-ranging complaints were concerns that the body was run with a “confused and intrusive management style married to a corporate ethos that seems destined to set artist against artist and company against company in the search for resources.”

An open letter, sent to the chair of the quango’s board, former Standard Life chief executive Sir Sandy Crombie, also accused Creative Scotland of being dogged by “ill-conceived decision-making, unclear language, and a lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture.”

Ms Archer took over the running of the organisation, created by the Scottish Government out of a merger of the Scottish Arts Council and film agency Scottish Screen three and a half years ago, in July.

She was only appointed after Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop laid out her own vision for the cultural sector in a keynote speech at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh, where she rejected the idea of the arts being used as a “commodity” to boost the economy and insisted artists no longer had to make an economic or social case to justify public funding.

The speech was widely seen as signalling a major change in direction for Creative Scotland from its previous ethos and the government later insisted the speech was effectively a new policy for the sector to take its lead from.

Following Mr Dixon’s resignation, his replacement was initially supposed to inherit a new long-term vision for the organisation, but Creative Scotland’s board instead decided to allow Ms Archer to take charge of the mission statement.

The most significant development since then has been a decision to create a new management structure, which will see Creative Scotland boast a dedicated film and media director, following industry concerns that the film sector, in particular, had been relegated since the scrapping of Scottish Screen.

 

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