UNDER-fire arts agency Creative Scotland announced a partial climbdown tonight over the funding threat hanging over dozens of organisations.
All 49 groups who faced the prospect of “flexible funding” grants running out in March have been promised they will now be extended until September.
Bosses have admitted a major funding shake-up - which has seen established groups lose out on the promise of guaranteed funding - was being rushed through and have apologised for “anxiety” caused to affected groups.
Creative Scotland has agreed to keep grants running for longer to give groups and organisations more time to discuss future grant schemes - and also allow the agency to publish detailed strategies for the dance, theatre, music and visual arts sectors.
Among those told they would have to rely on one-off project or programme funding were theatre companies like Grid Iron and Visible Fictions, the Edinburgh Mela, the Hebridean Celtic Festival, the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh and the CCA arts centre in Glasgow.
Among the most high-profile critics have been the Federation of Scottish Theatre, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and the Cultural Alliance.
Creative Scotland’s chief executive Andrew Dixon had also faced a mounting rebellion from the likes of actor Alan Cumming, jazz musician Tommy Smith and playwright David Greig, who has led a twitter revolt against the funding changes, warning that many artists were afraid of speaking out in case they were “left exposed” in future funding decisions.
Despite earlier insisting that the criticism had come about as a result of a failure of communications, Mr Dixon has now admitted that the funding review may have been “premature or out of sync” with the various reviews still ongoing.
He also admitted that while the agency was still committed to its overall strategic direction, “some adjustments would be beneficial.”
Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “I am pleased that Creative Scotland has responded to concerns.
“As it has said, no organisation has been cut financially as a result of this review. However, Creative Scotland has recognised that this review has changed the way in which funding is delivered and has therefore moved to meet the concerns expressed by the sector.”
Under a package of compromise measures agreed by Creative Scotland’s board, further talks are being planned with a host of leading arts organisations and umbrella bodies over the next few months.
Creative Scotland’s own corporate plan is also to be partly rewritten in the wake of the funding rows, which have seen Mr Dixon and some of his highly-paid directors come under increasing pressure.
Critics have warned that the shake-up, unveiled in May just before Mr Dixon led a delegation to the Cannes Film Festival, puts the agency in the position of being an “artistic director” for Scotland, with bureaucrats picking and choosing performances or shows. Others have warned that companies will be drowned in paperwork filing multiple applications.
Mr Dixon said: “While we remain committed to the overall strategic direction laid out in this plan, we acknowledge that some adjustments would be beneficial.
“The concerns raised recently have substantially, though not entirely, been caused by the speed of change which has been over ambitious. We apologise that this has inadvertently caused anxiety amongst a number of arts organisations regarding their future.
“We also accept that some of our communication on future funding has not been as clear as we would have liked.”
Mr Dixon said he now wanted to “move on” from the recent debate and work together with artists and organisations to spread the word on success stories and future potential about the arts in Scotland.
He added: “I hope that the action we are taking in response to recent feedback also demonstrates that we are willing to listen, to adapt and are committed to constructive dialogue and engagement with artists and organisations in the delivery of our work.”
However David Greig told his twitter followers: “Concerns were never about the speed of change. They were about the principles behind it.
“It’s good that dialogue seems to be opening up though, a significant gesture. I hope the representative organisations are listened to.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West