Theatre workers urge Nicola Sturgeon to intervene on funding cuts

Dozens of theatre workers across Scotland have demanded a rethink over controversial funding cuts from the national arts quango.

Children's theatre company Catherine Wheels is one of 20 organisations to be stripped of long-term funding deals by Creative Scotland.
Children's theatre company Catherine Wheels is one of 20 organisations to be stripped of long-term funding deals by Creative Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and culture secretary Fiona Hyslop have been urged to intervene after children’s theatre companies lost long-term funding deals despite the Scottish Government spending several million pounds promoting 2018 as the “Year of Young People.”

Nearly 80 production staff and technicians have signed a letter of support for Catherine Wheels, one of two companies specialising in children’s theatre which were stripped of three-year deals last week.

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The open letter, which has also been sent to Janet Archer, chief executive of arts agency Creative Scotland, describes Catherine Wheels as “too important for the Scottish cultural sector to risk losing.”

Catherine Wheels says it has been left “devastated” after being rejected for a three-year funding deal and insists it is being “penalised” for its success as Scotland’s most celebrated and proflic producer of children’s theatre.

The Scottish Society of Playwrights has already attacked the decision to impose 100 per cuts on the long-term funding of Catherine Wheels and Visible Fictions, as well as two theatre companies working with disabled performers.

The new open letter states: “The community of technicians and theatre production staff across Scotland want to urge a reconsideration of the decision to cut funding for Catherine Wheels Theatre Company.

“The potential loss of employment, vital network and support system awarded by Catherine Wheels is too important for the Scottish cultural sector to risk losing.

“As a prolific creator of touring productions, Catherine Wheels employ a range of technical staff and offers significant employment opportunities to many of us.

“Their value extends well beyond this: their vast experience of international touring means they are ideally placed to advise and support others.

“We strongly urge you to reconsider the decision to remove regular funding.”

Creative Scotland has insisted that all touring theatre companies will be eligible to bid into a new £2 million fund which will operate from 2019, with transition funding made available to companies with existing deals until then.

A spokesman for Creative Scotland said: “We are listening seriously to the feedback we are currently receiving in relation to some of our recent regular funding decisions and respect all the clearly articulated views being presented.

“We profoundly value and respect Catherine Wheels, both for their widespread work in Scotland and their international reputation for originality and excellence, and as such are in dialogue with the company around options for future funding.”

Last week Ms Hyslop insisted that all funding decisions by Creative Scotland were "independent" of the Scottish Government.

But she pointed out that an additional £6.6 million had been allocated to the quango in its budget settlement to allow it to "maintain the same level of funding for regular funded organisations."

However with criticism mounting over the weekend, she intervened to describe the making of children's theatre in Scotland as "brilliant."

Posting on her Twitter account, she said a lot of angst and worry could be avoided by Creative Scotland if it was "clearer" about its support for the sector.