Hi-Arts agency axe 10 staff after funding cuts

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A cultural development agency in the Highlands and Islands is axing its 10 staff after funding cuts to the body.

The future of HI-Arts, which introduced the Screen Machine mobile cinema to the region, is now in doubt, according to director Robert Livingstone.

Inverness-based Hi-Arts said it was legally obliged to seek redundancies while it tried to secure its financial future.

The organisation has promoted arts and heritage in the Highlands, Moray, Northern Isles and Western Isles as well as Argyll since 1990.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which set up the arts body, and also Creative Scotland, are HI-Arts’ main sources of funding.

However, the two organisations’ financial support will end within the next three months.

In a statement, the HI-Arts board said: “The company has been awarded short-term extensions of its present funding agreements with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Creative Scotland, as part of an ongoing process of restructuring the company’s activities and programmes.


“Although HI-Arts is working with HIE and Creative Scotland to safeguard the continuation of a number of the agency’s key programmes, while at the same time scoping the potential for working more closely with the University of the Highlands and Islands, amongst other options, nonetheless, as part of this process, the Board of HI-Arts has this week issued formal notices of redundancy to all staff.

“It is hoped that many of the staff will be able to transfer to new hosts and new initiatives, but while those options remain to be resolved, the Board agreed that it could not avoid the formal step of issuing redundancy notices.”

HI-Arts has played a highly significant role in the cultural growth of the Highlands and Islands, and more recently also in the North East of Scotland.

In 2012 HI~Arts staff worked with, or provided advice and support to, over 200 groups and organisations across the Highlands and Islands, and the rest of Scotland, as well many hundreds of individual writers, artists, craftworkers, theatre workers, event organisers and promoters, and heritage workers.


The statement added: “Both HIE and Creative Scotland provided ‘transition’ funding for Hi-Arts for the financial year 2012/13, but subsequent strategic and structural changes in both organisations mean that past funding arrangements cannot be continued into 2013/14 and beyond.

“This additional assistance, however, will ensure that HI-Arts has sufficient time and resources to complete a process of restructuring by the end of June.

“HI-Arts currently employs ten fulltime and part-time staff, six based in the company’s Inverness office, and four based in Argyll, Knoydart, Lewis and Aberdeen.”

HI-Arts was originally established by Highlands and Islands Enterprise in 1990, has been contracted by HIE ever since, and has also been funded by the Scottish Arts Council, and then Creative Scotland, since 1994.

Its many successes have included a number of now independent initiatives, such as the Screen Machine mobile cinema, the Go North creative industries showcase, the Highlands and Islands Theatre Network, and the Artsplay programme of work with pre-school children and carers.


Recent initiatives have included the Growing Audiences North East programme, the Atlas Visual Arts team on Skye, and a major visitor survey for the members of the Highland Museums Forum.

A Creative Scotland Spokesperson, said: “Creative Scotland is aware that this is a difficult time for the staff of Hi-Arts and that the Board has made this decision after careful consideration.

“Together with HIE, Creative Scotland has offered funding from April to end of June 2013 to assist the agency in finding a positive way forward.

‘Creative Scotland recognises the significant impact that HI-Arts has made on the development of the arts infrastructure in the Highlands and Islands over the 20 years.

“Within that time, the arts scene has changed considerably and the infrastructure, parts of which had been developed by HI-Arts, are now free-standing and networks have become increasingly connected.


“Following discussions over several months, Creative Scotland and HIE have worked with HI-Arts to consider alternative business models in order to support a future for the agency’s work within the changing Highlands and Islands arts and cultural environment.

“To these ends the agency has received £90,000 for the year 2012/13 to help it in its transition to a new business model based on securing contracts for work from a number of sources. It is regrettable that to date, that model has not proved deliverable.

“In the meantime, Creative Scotland continues to work with and support individuals and organisations in the area, distributing funding support of over £9million 2011/12 throughout the Highlands and Islands.”