Creative Scotland funding budget reaches £100m

Beacon Arts Centre is one institution receiving funding for the first time. Picture: Contributed

Beacon Arts Centre is one institution receiving funding for the first time. Picture: Contributed

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SCOTLAND’s main arts funding body has raided £10 million from its budget to meet the demand for long-term funding from groups across the country after an initial cash pot was dramatically over-subscribed.

The extra National Lottery funding is to be ploughed into the core running costs of venues, arts bodies, events and festivals after Creative Scotland was inundated with applications earlier this year.

The surprise decision to raise the amount available for crucial “regular funding” - from £90 to £100 million - has helped the body provide crucial long-term backing to a host of new applicants and avoiding cutting regular funding for the vast majority of organisations.

The number of groups receiving regular backing has more than doubled, from 45 to 119, over the next three years under its new simplified regime.

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However more than half of those who applied for support over the next three years have been turned down - with Creative Scotland’s chief executive Janet Archer admitting it could easily have funded another £40 million worth of projects if it had more resources available.

No major venues have lost their financial backing and among those to receive regular funding for the first time are Ayr’s historic Gaiety Theatre, which was rescued from closure several years ago, the new Beacon Arts Centre, in Greenock, which opened last year, and two of Edinburgh’s main performing arts centres, the Festival and King’s theatres.

However two of the capital’s other most popular venues, the Royal Lyceum and Traverse Theatres, both received funding cuts, of 17.5 and 11 per cent respectively, and have been told to work more closely together in future.

The only other organisation to receive a significant cut - of almost 30 per cent - is Horsecross, which runs both Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre. However the latter venue is currently undergoing a £14.5 million refurbishment not due for completion until 2017.

Scottish Youth Theatre is aguably the most high-profile arts group to lost out on regular funding completely.

Creative Scotland insisted other routes remained available to unsuccessful applications, including an “open funding” cash pot, which will see more than £10 million made available each year through a rolling programme. Other support will be offered through “targeted” progammes.

Creative Scotland’s board approved an eleventh-hour shake-up in its planned budget just weeks after Ms Archer warned that deciding on the volume of applications was going to prove “extremely challenging”. She said at the time that the standard of applications had been been “extremely high”.

A major overhaul of Creative Scotland’s funding regimes was promised two years ago by its board in the wake of a full scale rebellion by artists and organisations over a previous shake-up, which saw dozens of them stripped of regular funding.

The campaign, which saw 100 leading cultural figures demand change over the running of the quango, led to the resignation of then chief executive Andrew Dixon, and one of his most senior officials, Venu Dhupa, within the space of a few weeks.

Mr Dixon resigned just days after the Creative Scotland board issued a formal apology over the breakdown of relationships between the body and many of those in the cultural sector. It stated: “Stability is a core concern of many companies, not least in this difficult financial climate.”

Creative Scotland’s board pledged to end a “perceived heirarchy” of funding organisations, which saw them supported for either one, two or three years at a time. The quango, which revealed it had received £212 million worth of bids from 264 different applicants, had refused to guarantee funding to any beyond the current financial year.

All but 20 of those who have been pledged regular funding from next April have received some form of support in recent years from Creative Scotland, leaving many new applicants empty-handed.

Other successful applicants for the first time were the Wigtown Book Festival, the Dovecot arts centre in Edinburgh, Glasgow Women’s Library and Timespan, a museum and arts centre in Helmsdale, in Sutherland.

Among the major winners were the organisers of the Edinburgh and Glasgow film festivals, who received increases of 42 and 164 per cent respectively, Aberdeen Performing Arts, which has seen its support double to run venues like the Music Hall and Lemon Tree, and the Scottish Book Trust, which has received a 75 per cent increase.

Ms Archer, who said 41 per cent of Creative Scotland’s total funding was now committed to the new grants, said the range of approved appliations would ensure a “greater geographical spread” of support and said the decision to offer increased funding to some organisations meant they could “provide high quality work, strengthen audience bases and be operationally resilient.”

She added: “We received 264 applications for regular funding, of which a significant number could have been supported through this funding route if more resources were available.

“While this is a clear illustration of the scale of creative potential and ambition that exists across Scotland, it also means that many of these organisations will be disappointed by the outcome this time round.

“While we will be able to fund some organisations through open project and targeted funding, this underlines the importance of Creative Scotland’s role in making the case for culture at every given opportunity in order to increase levels of support available in the future.”

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