Creative Scotland shelves awards ceremony

CREATIVE Scotland has shelved its controversial awards ceremony after just one year, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.
Janet Archer: will focus on strategy. Picture: Neil HannaJanet Archer: will focus on strategy. Picture: Neil Hanna
Janet Archer: will focus on strategy. Picture: Neil Hanna

New chief executive Janet Archer said it was likely the arts agency would not take on the organisation of such an event again.

Last year’s awards were dogged by controversy over the £100-a-head cost to attend the black-tie event, its all-male panel and that it went ahead while the organisation was at loggerheads with artists.
Key to the decision not to repeat the event this year is feedback from artists and arts organisations that the quango had spent too much effort promoting itself rather than their work.

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The running of the organisation is set to be overhauled over the next year, particularly to address concerns about over-complicated funding programmes, while Archer draws up a long-term vision.

Some form of awards scheme may be revived, although it is almost certain to have a different title. One possible model would be a scheme similar to the Scottish Album of the Year Awards, which Creative Scotland helped fund and were held for the second time this year.

December’s lavish awards bash at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow cost the agency £30,000. Shortlists were drawn up across 12 categories following more than 350 public nominations.

Despite the threat of a boycott, more than 400 guests attended the event, with winners including the hit film The Angels’ Share, the late artist George Wyllie, indie-folk favourites Admiral Fallow and writer Janice Galloway.

Kenneth Fowler, Creative Scotland’s director of communications, said: “We are not planning an awards ceremony this year. There is a lot of other work to be done this year which takes priority.”

He added: “It’s very unlikely that they’ll happen in the same format. That’s not to say there won’t be some kind of awards in the future. If we decide to go down an awards route, then we have to be very clear that it is very much about celebrating artists and their work. Last year’s were about celebrating but it got caught up in a whole bigger debate and took on a different set of contexts.”

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Creative Scotland was plunged into crisis last October when it emerged 100 leading artists had put their names to a letter demanding wholesale change within the organisation.

It called for a “fresh start” for the body, which it accused of “ill-conceived decision-making and a lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture”.

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Despite initially insisting he would be staying, chief executive Andrew Dixon was forced to resign in early December after it emerged the running of Creative Scotland had been damned by internal reports.

Archer was unveiled in early June after a protracted recruitment process to find a replacement for Dixon.

She said: “We have no plans for another awards ceremony at the moment. Our job is to really focus on developing an intelligent strategy that is going to maximise opportunities for people working in the arts and creative industries to be able to do their work. Our focus has got to be on the people out there and helping that along.

“We’ve also got to make sure we’ve got the right funding in place that can make it as straightforward and simple for people to able to achieve that.”

Creative Scotland was formed three years ago out of a merger of the former Scottish Arts Council and film agency Scottish Screen.

It is also responsible for the wider “creative industries” and for distributing National Lottery money to arts projects, as well as funding the country’s flagship performing arts venues, festivals and events.

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