Creative Scotland: We failed to get message across on funding, says boss

Creative Scotland boss Andrew Dixon has admitted a failure of communication at his agency over a funding shift that has triggered a huge backlash in the arts community.

Creative Scotland boss Andrew Dixon has admitted a failure of communication at his agency over a funding shift that has triggered a huge backlash in the arts community.

Soon after he posted his remarks on a public website, Creative Scotland promised to open a new round of talks with the arts sector on its funding strategies.

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Critics urged Mr Dixon not to “sidestep” real issues.

The pledge came a day after The Scotsman reported how one major Scottish arts project, involving about 500 people in sewing a tapestry history of the country, had been turned down for funding.

Prominent backers, including the author Alexander McCall Smith, questioned why Creative Scotland staff had not even met with them.

But the agency yesterday turned the focus on to the stage, saying “some commentators” had doubted its commitment to Scottish theatre.

Prominent playwright David Greig has called on the Creative Scotland to admit a mistake, inviting people to tweet examples of successful Scottish productions.

“We want to be absolutely clear on this. Creative Scotland is committed to ensuring that Scottish theatre continues to thrive, in the same way that we are committed to all aspects of arts, culture and creativity in Scotland,” the agency said yesterday.

It pledged to create “the right platform for discussion as soon as is feasible” for an “open, collaborative and face-to-face dialogue”.

A spokesman said: “What we are saying is we definitely have been listening to what’s been going on. We need to think about who we need to be talking to and the best format for doing that.”

Three weeks ago, Creative Scotland announced that nearly 50 Scottish arts organisations, including several prominent touring theatre companies, galleries, and festivals, would be moved from annual “flexible” funding to one-off grants for individual projects or programmes of work.

The move provoked a furious reaction, in the press, and on Twitter and Facebook, in an internet revolt rated worse than periodic rows that engulfed Creative Scotland’s predecessor, the Scottish Arts Council.

Critics have said the move puts the agency in the position of being an “artistic director” for Scotland, with bureaucrats picking and choosing performances or shows. Others warn that companies will be drowned in paperwork filing multiple applications.

Mr Dixon chose to make his remarks on a blog run by arts consultant Anne Bonnar. “I can accept that we haven’t got the communication on this right despite advising people over a year ago of the plans,” he wrote.

“More than anything I want to remove uncertainty. In the longer term, we would hope to see increases in the core support for theatre in Scotland.”

It remains to be seen if Mr Dixon can answer confusion surrounding a review of the Scottish theatre sector due to be delivered next month.

Critics have questioned why the funding changes went ahead before the report was delivered. Its author, Christine Hamilton, responded to Mr Dixon’s remarks that it “did not deal with the funding review and the changes to flexible funding”.