Fury as Fringe and theatre companies have funding axed by Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland chief executive Janet Archer would not comment on any of the specific funding cuts.
Creative Scotland chief executive Janet Archer would not comment on any of the specific funding cuts.
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The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the city’s King’s and Festival theatres and the body that promotes its Unesco “City of Literature” status have had their funding stripped by Creative Scotland.

They have all lost long-term support from the arts quango - despite its funding from the Scottish Government going up by more than £16 million per annum.

Creative Scotland has dropped 20 organisations from its three-year funding programme, but added 19 following a shake-up of how its £99 million budget is spent.

The wider theatre sector has been hit by a number of funding cuts, including to the Ayr Gaiety and the children’s companies Catherine Wheels and Visible Fictions, despite 2018 being promoted as Scotland's Year of Young People by the government.

Creative Scotland has announced that a new £2 million touring fund for theatre companies will be instigated from 2019, with transition funding offered to unsuccessful applications to the three-year programme.

The funding cuts, which were broken to affected organisations on Thursday morning, have already triggered a furious response - weeks after Creative Scotland lavished praised on the government for its increase in funding from the government.

Read more: Creative Scotland wins extra funding to offset lottery slump

But the quango has pointed out that its budget for three-year "regular funding" - which has been awarded to 116 different organisations, venues and events - is being pegged at the same level due to a decline in national lottery funding and that it received £154 million worth of applications.

Creative Scotland’s chief executive, Janet Archer, last month said she was "really delighted" with the quango's settlement from the government, which covers the next three financial years.

But today she said: “Regular funding is a highly competitive application process where demand has once again, far outstripped available funding.

"While we can’t support everyone, we seek to provide a range of different opportunities to access support across all of our funding routes."

Read more: Creative Scotland name Janet Archer as new chief executive

The Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Celtic Connections, the Wigtown Book Festival and the Glasgow Film Festival are among the events which have had their funding protected or enhanced.

The Fringe has received £200,000 over the last three years, while the Festival City Theatres Trust, which runs the two historic venues on behalf of the council, had been funded to the tune of £315,000.

The Royal Lyceum Theatre, in Edinburgh, has had a controversial funding cut imposed three years ago reinstated, but its nearby neighbours, the Traverse, has been kept on standstill funding, despite also being targeted in the previous funding round.

Birds of Paradise, Rapture, Fire Exit and Lung Ha’s are among the other theatre companies who have been cut, along with dance company Plan B, the Hebrides Ensemble and the Dovecot arts centre in Edinburgh.

Glasgow-based arts group NVA, which is leading efforts to turn the former St Peter’s Seminary in Argyll into an arts complex, has lost £450,000 worth of funding.

The pop, rock and indie music scenes have been boosted after the Scottish Music Industry Association was awarded £500,000, while the Federation of Scottish Theatre has been granted £795,000.

Other new recipients including the Creative Edinburgh and Creative Dundee networks, the Stills Gallery photography centre and the Tinderbox Collective, a youth orchestra in Edinburgh.

Ms Archer said she could not comment on any specific applications which had been turned down.

However Fringe chief executive Shona McCarthy said: “On behalf of the thousands of artists, producers, venues and companies that make up the Fringe family, we’re extremely disappointed not to be included in the regular funding programme.

“As the world’s greatest platform for creative freedom, the Fringe showcases the very best of Scottish and international culture, making the arts as accessible as possible to an audience of millions.

“The Fringe generates over £170 million a year for the economy but receives less than five per cent of its funding from the public sector.

"It is no exaggeration to say it is one of Scotland’s greatest cultural exports – helping it punch well above its weight in terms of cultural influence, artistic excellence and creativity. The Fringe is globally recognised and valued.

"The Fringe Society works year-round to support artists and shares Creative Scotland’s ambition for a Scotland where everyone values and celebrates arts and creativity. We will continue to work with Creative Scotland to ensure that Scotland’s national agency for the arts supports and values the Fringe.”

Duncan Hendry, chief executive of the Festival City Theatres Trust, said: “Whilst we’re extremely disappointed, we will continue to work with Creative Scotland and our many other partners to bring the best national and international work to our stages.”

A spokesman for Fire Exit, a Glasgow-based theatre company which has staged shows all over the world, said: "We're shocked and disappointed to receive this news.

"Without a guarantee of funding beyond spring 2019, the company will face closure after creating award-winning performance work for the last 17 years in Scotland.

"Without a certain level of Creative Scotland funding it is impossible to plan and execute work to the standard that venues and audiences have come to expect from Fire Exit."

A spokeswoman for Catherine Wheels said: "As Scotland’s most celebrated and prolific producer of children’s theatre we are devastated by Creative Scotland’s decision to cut our funding.
"Our company has been at the heart of establishing high-quality children’s theatre in Scotland, to a standard which has earned us, and Scotland, the reputation as world leaders in the field.

"Our way of working enables us to produce a variety of work which is created not only by our artistic director but by artists who are supported by the company.

"This ensures a programme of exciting and diverse work which is artistically supported, produced, and managed by Catherine Wheels.

"We are being penalised for our success. We are nationally and internationally renowned for critically-acclaimed artist-led work, work which creatively engages and inspires young people.

"We are instrumental in supporting artists and organisations’ development. This work can only happen with consistent funding.

"Scotland is the now the only country in Europe without a regularly funded children’s theatre company and this is an embarrassment for a progressive nation."

A spokeswoman for Visible Fictions said: "Whilst we appreciate that funds are limited and recognise the importance of bringing new companies into the regular funding portfolio, we're saddened to longer be in this network.

"This decision leaves Scotland with no regularly funded children’s theatre organisations as we enter into the Year of Young People.

"Our regular funded status has allowed us to build a robust infrastructure over the years, which in turn has enabled us to deliver high quality work to young audience’s all over Scotland and beyond.

"We're concerned that without this stability we may find it challenging to continue to produce the quality and volume of work we have previously and forge strong links with delivery partners and communities, in what could be a very different funding model.

"Over the years touring companies and venues have worked tirelessly to build relationships and grow audiences, this can only happen when touring companies have the longevity to be able to strengthen these links.

"Cutting companies from a three-year funding cycle will be damaging to the future of touring in Scotland and the cultural provision for venues and audiences alike."

WINNERS - AND WHAT THEY GOT

21CC (21Common): £245,000

Alchemy Film and Arts: £348,462

Arts and Business Scotland: £600,000

Bodysurf Scotland: £586,277

Creative Carbon Scotland: £450,000

Creative Dundee: £332,031

Creative Edinburgh: £284,000

Federation of Scottish Theatre: £795,000

Lyra: £300,000

Magnetic North: £300,000

NEON Digital Arts Festival: £271,000

Panel: £270,584

Scottish Contemporary Art Network: £387,000

Scottish Music Industry Assocaition: £500,000

Starcatchers: £300,000

Stills Gallery: £441,000

Theatre Gu Leor: £420,000

Tinderbox Collective: £300,000

Toonspeak Young People’s Theatre: £180,000

LOSERS - AND WHAT HAS BEEN CUT

Ayr Gaiety: £225,000

Birds of Paradise: £450,000

Catherine Wheels: £641,000

Dance House Glasgow: £240,000

Dovecot Studios: £300,000

Dunedin Consort: £300,000

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: £210,000

Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust: £285,000

Festival City Theatres Trust: £315,000

Fire Exit: £525,000

Hebrides Ensemble: £550,000

Janice Parker Pojects: £350,000

Lung Ha’s Theatre

Company: £440,000

Mischief La Bas: £615,000

NVA: £450,000

Plan B: £740,000

Rapture Theatre: £375,000

Film Hub Scotland: £188,820

Transmission Gallery: £210,000

Visible Fictions: £660,000