Top theatres tell of dismay after losing funding

Gabriel Quigley in John McCann's play Spoiling, at the Traverse. Picture: Peter Dibdin

Gabriel Quigley in John McCann's play Spoiling, at the Traverse. Picture: Peter Dibdin

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LEADING Scottish theatre groups have expressed dismay after losing out on funding in the wake of a long-awaited 
Creative Scotland shake-up.

Two of the nation’s best-known performing arts venues – the Traverse and Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh – were singled out for significant cuts by the ­national funding organisation.

The Scottish Youth Theatre (SYT) company, whose patrons include actors Emma Thompson, Bill Paterson, Blythe Duff and Brian Cox, has lost all of its regular funding.

One of Aberdeen’s leading cultural events, the Sound Festival, which showcases new music every autumn, described the news that it had lost its long-term support as “devastating”.

Bids for long-term funding from Creative Scotland were hugely oversubscribed and the quango was able to approve only 119 applications out of 264 submitted earlier this year. Previously, it gave regular backing to just 45 groups.

Yesterday, the Royal ­Lyceum and the Traverse warned they would have to immediately ­rethink and revisit future plans.

However, the quango insisted both the Lyceum, which saw funding cut by 17.5 per cent, and the Traverse, which faces an 11.1 per cent cut, would still get “substantial” grants – of £3 million and £2.6m respectively – over the next three years.

It has urged the venues – 
located just yards away from each other – to work together more closely but denied it wanted them to merge.

Despite the cuts, Creative Scotland approved an extra £10m to groups across the country, raising the total cash pot to £100m.

A statement from Lyceum ­executive ­director Alex McGowan and artistic director Mark Thomson, said: “We are extremely disappointed and surprised by Creative Scotland’s decision to cut funding by 17.5 per cent.

“After seven years of standstill funding, this latest decision will create an effective funding cut of almost £1.5m over a ten-year ­period. It is a powerful statement and one we will seek to understand with Creative Scotland at the earliest opportunity.”

A spokeswoman for the Traverse said: “Although obviously disappointed, we look forward to discussing this further with Creative Scotland.”

SYT is based in Glasgow, but runs courses across the country. Its chairman, John Scott Moncrieff, said: “We are extremely disappointed but are working directly with [Creative Scotland chief executive] Janet Archer and her team to identify the best ­approach to long-term funding.”

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

Ms Archer said about £1m a month in “open project funding” was being made available to support organisations, venues and events that had not secured long-term support.

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