Creative Scotland forced into funding review after climbing down over cuts

Funding cuts for five announced by Creative Scotland Janet Archer last month have been overturned by its board.
Funding cuts for five announced by Creative Scotland Janet Archer last month have been overturned by its board.
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Arts quango Creative Scotland is to overhaul the way it provides long-term funding after caving in to demands to reverse cuts to five companies.


Birds of Paradise, Catherine Wheels, Lung Ha, Visible Fictions and the Dunedin Consort have all had three-year deals restored following Scottish Government intervention.

The reprieves were rubber-stamped by Creative Scotland’s board less than a fortnight after being unveiled by the government agency’s chief executive Janet Archer.

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, who was targeted in social media campaigns along with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, insisted ministers had “no role” in the its decision-making process.

Creative Scotland has reallocated £2.6 million from other budgets to focus more on “excellence and experimentation, theatre for children and young people, and companies led by and working with disabled people.”

Facing growing calls for change, Ms Archer revealed the quango would review how it allocates funding in future, adding: “We must, and will, learn lessons for the future.”

The quango has raided £2.6 million from other budgets to pay for the climbdown, which has been announced in the wake of widespread criticism online and an intervention from the Scottish Government, which has instigated a “Year of Young People” in 2018.

Read more: Joyce McMillan: Creative Scotland’s decision to axe funding defies logic

Ms Hyslop was particularly critical over the cuts for children’s theatre companies Catherine Wheels and Visible Fictions. Lung Ha and Birds of Paradise specialise in working with disabled artists, while the Dunedin Consort are a leading classical music ensemble.

The reallocation of the £2.6 million will also pay for another company, Stellar Quines, which works with women and girls, to have a 22 per cent funding cut over the next three years reinstated.

However there is no reprieve, as yet, for another 15 companies who lost out when Creative Scotland announced how a £99 million “regular funding” budget would be spent.

These include the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature Trust, dance company Plan B, the Ayr Gaiety Theatre and the Transmission Gallery in Glasgow. Creative Scotland said the 116 organisations awarded three-year funding deals in the original announcement were unaffected by the rethink.

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

Two board members - Ruth Wishart and Maggie Kinloch had resigned ahead of Friday’s emergency summit. Ms Wishart admitted Creative Scotland was a “family at war with those it seeks to serve” in the wake of a shake-up which saw 19 companies win three-year deals for the first time.

Ms Archer said: “The board met last week to take stock on Creative Scotland’s recent regular funding decisions. The outcome of the meeting was a decision to adjust our overall budget and increase regular funding, enabling us to include five more organisations in the network.

“Alongside this, we will be reviewing how we fund in the future and will engage with as many people as possible as part of this process. We recognise that this round of funding decisions has been challenging and that we must, and will, learn lessons from that for the future.

“We acknowledge that the news will be disappointing for all those we are unable to fund through regular funding. We will continue to meet and discuss options for other routes to funding with individuals and organisations concerned.”

Ben Thomson, acting chair of Creative Scotland, said: “We’ve listened to the extensive and constructive feedback we received from many individuals and organisations working across the arts and culture in Scotland.

“We have reviewed our budget for regular funding and, within the limits of the alternative funds available to us, we have been able to re-allocate £2.6 million over three years, allowing us to include five further arts producing organisations in the network.

“We have also reaffirmed our commitment to other funding, which will include touring, equalities, diversity and inclusion, and new support for artist led work.

“I would like to acknowledge the dedication of Creative Scotland staff throughout this process. I would also like to thank the Scottish Government for replacing funding lost to through falling National Lottery income enabling us to support more organisations through regular funding than ever before.

“However, I also appreciate that, even now, these decisions do not address all of the issues currently being raised by individual applicants. I am sorry that, in this process, some will be disappointed by our decisions.

“Everyone at Creative Scotland is committed to working positively and collaboratively with those involved in arts and culture in Scotland, whether in the regular funding network or not, providing support to build on the success of a thriving sector.”

Ms Hyslop said: “Decisions on funding are taken by Creative Scotland and Ministers have no role in this process. This government recognises the role that culture and creativity plays in people’s lives across Scotland, which is why our budget includes an increase in culture funding of almost per cent.

“I am pleased Creative Scotland has listened to the concerns of stakeholders and has reviewed the decisions.”

A statement from Catherine Wheels, which is based at the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh, said: “The staff and board are hugely relieved by Creative Scotland’s decision to reinstate the company’s regular funding.

“To our friends, supporters and colleagues close to home and around the world who wrote with such passion and persistence to Creative Scotland and voiced their support online, we cannot thank you enough.

“We remain extremely concerned about the original funding decisions. We will work with the sector to ensure we are all central in the continuing discussion about the way the arts is funded in Scotland.”

Alfonso Leal del Ojo, chief executive of the Dunedin Consort, said: "Since sharing the news that we were to have our funding cut a fortnight ago, we have received an overwhelming swell of support both from the public and from our colleagues across the arts and cultural sectors.

"We would like to thank everyone that voiced their support and forwarded their concerns both to Creative Scotland and to Scotland’s culture secretary. There is little doubt that this support played a significant role in Creative Scotland’s decision to increase investment in the regular funding programme."

However theatre company Fire Exit said was "bewildering" the company had been left without any long-term funding.

A statement said: "Fire Exit has never been more successful. In the last two years we’ve toured contemporary, experimental work all over Scotland from the Borders to the Highlands and Islands.

"We are devastated that Creative Scotland has not reversed its decision to remove our core funding. As a result, we now face closure next year.

"We still have not received an explanation for why we’ve been cut and are deeply disappointed that we learned of this decision via social media.

"We requested a meeting with Janet Archer last week. We are waiting to hear back."