Arts chief to quit after row with chairman

THE director of the Scottish Arts Council is expected to stand down from the position this week after just two years in the job, it was revealed yesterday.

It is believed Tessa Jackson has lost the confidence of James Boyle, the chairman of the council and a former controller of BBC Radio 4, and several of the 13-member council who disagree with her softer management style.

Ms Jackson’s lawyers have been in discussions with the council over the past week.

A spokeswoman for the SAC could not confirm or deny reports that Ms Jackson is to stand down, saying: "The director has not resigned and she has a full diary for this week."

Sources at the council told the Sunday Times that the situation within the council is "appalling". One insider said: "Tessa has been amazing this week, very cool and collected. But this is an appalling position for the council.

"It seems as if the council has lost confidence in her. Boyle and Tessa have very different styles: he is decisive and wants things done tomorrow, she is more cautious. He sees that as prevaricating."

In an interview earlier this year, Mr Boyle identified a number of issues he felt the SAC should improve on in the coming year. It is believed Ms Jackson was alarmed by some of Mr Boyle’s ambitious plans.

A meeting of the council members last week to review the director’s performance during the past year is thought to have sealed her fate.

While attempting to downplay his role, Mr Boyle emphasised that any decision taken was made by "the full council".

There is believed to have been a clash of style and personalities between Ms Jackson and Mr Boyle. He was known for his hardline approach at Radio 4, where he caused irritation by axing Kaleidoscope, moving Farming Today and revamping The Archers.

He has made it known that he is unhappy with the way the council presents itself to the public and believes it does not explain well enough to Scotland why it supports certain arts and artists and not others.

He said: "The arts council has to be tough, it has to be the champion of the arts, so it has to speak out. That’s why I don’t duck it. If there’s something to be said, I will say it."

Mr Boyle also feels the SAC spends too much time explaining decisions to arts groups that are refused funding.

His differences with Ms Jackson came to the fore last summer when she supported proposals for Scottish Ballet to change artistic direction.

Mr Boyle admitted her comments had caused "considerable problems".

Earlier this year, Mr Boyle revealed plans to set up a hall of fame to honour artistic Scots. However, Ms Jackson immediately pointed out a number of problems with the idea.

A council source said: "They didn’t see eye to eye on that one at all. She wondered what the implications of it will be, whereas he would set it up next week if he could."

However, Mr Boyle has been the first to admit that he did not run the SAC and that was the job of the director.

One council member said: "There has been trouble for months - each one wants to go in a different way. It’s been very difficult, although they have been perfectly civil in public."

Another added: "They have not been getting on for a long time - James feels the communications strategy should have been sorted out by now.

"He is even more of a hands-on chairman than [his predecessor] Magnus Linklater, and that’s saying something."

Ms Jackson, who previously ran the Arnolfini Centre in Bristol, is still attending meetings and committing herself to business for months ahead.

When she became director , she said: "Inevitably, people pick up on things that are not right or don’t satisfy their needs. Any public body responsible for distributing so much money is bound to be criticised for what it does.

"There will always be the problem of balancing support for national arts organisations, like Scottish Ballet or Scottish Opera, with support for smaller-scale acts. Fortunately, we live in a democracy where an expression of different views is fine ."

She was unavailable for comment last night.