Arts diary: The £110,000 question
IS Creative Scotland getting back on track after the disasters of last year? We’re now two dates into a tour of “Open Sessions”, organised “to encourage open debate on Creative Scotland and its place in a healthy and thriving future for the arts, screen and creative industries”.
Dundee and Edinburgh’s sessions are now past, but anyone who works in the arts and has opinions to express about Creative Scotland can still do so at: The Beacon, Greenock on 11 April; Eden Court, Inverness on 16 April; Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Skye, on 23 April; Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries, on 25 April; Platform, Glasgow, on 26 April (already fully booked); and the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, on 29 April.
That’s a lot of open debate. And it certainly is open – the website www.csopensessions.com has audio files of all the speeches at the events, so those who can’t make it along in person can easily keep up with what is being said. At time of writing, all the speeches from last Friday’s session in Dundee were already up, with material from Tuesday’s Edinburgh event promised shortly.
Pat Kane, pictured, who is chairing all the events, is also writing a blog for the website following each session. Kane is already looking like a good choice – rather than just blandly and dispassionately reporting what’s been happening, he seems completely absorbed in the arguments, and thorough in his attempts to create what he calls “a tool for further thinking”. As he writes in his first blog, “let’s try to make something together. And then, let’s take whatever that is to the next session.”
What’s more, if anyone thinks Creative Scotland is trying to whitewash the sessions – omitting awkward questions from its reports, perhaps – they can make that opinion very public, very quickly. Numerous people have been Tweeting from the first two events and – providing they use the hashtag #csopen – all comments will appear instantly and uncensored on www.csopensessions.com.
All very positive, then, from an organisation that last year stood accused of arrogance, a lack of accountability, and a failure to listen to artists. If there’s a slight cause for concern, it’s that the advert for Creative Scotland’s new chief executive appeared online on Tuesday, just two dates into the tour. It’s a curious strategy, this – host a series of public debates asking artists what kind of organisation Creative Scotland should be, but recruit a replacement for the not-much-missed Andrew Dixon at exactly the same time.
Needless to say, this advert will be scrutinised to within an inch of its life, so it has been worded very carefully, emphasising that the successful candidate must have “good listening skills”, and be someone who “values the remarkable contribution that the Scottish arts can make”. Who can argue with that?
It still begs questions, though. “Candidates must identify with the core values and aims of Creative Scotland,” it says. But aren’t those core values supposed to be up for revision just now?
Some clearly are, but perhaps others aren’t. The new boss is being offered £110,000 per year, plus pension – a figure which has already prompted some derision. How can someone credibly represent the interests of artists while earning over ten times as much as most of them? And doesn’t this level of salary suggest that the corporate culture which has come in for so much criticism over the past year is still firmly in place? It might be taken for granted by bankers (and, perhaps, Creative Scotland chairman Sir Sandy Crombie, former boss of Standard Life) that the “best” people will only apply for a job if huge amounts of money are offered, but it’s an idea alien to most people working in the arts, who are motivated by passion more than money.
The counterargument is that few people in the arts face the intense public scrutiny that a Creative Scotland CEO has to deal with. Also, the figure is not out of line with all comparable arts jobs – former National Theatre of Scotland director Vicky Featherstone, for example, earned £92,000.
Lots of questions, then – but also lots of opportunities to ask them publicly, from Inverness and Aberdeen to Dumfries and Glasgow.
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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