Exclusive:Creative Scotland: Dismay as grassroots theatre project falls victim to ‘decimation of the arts’

‘Testing ground for new ideas’ pulls plug after second funding snub

Creative Scotland has been accused of "pulling the plug" on grassroots theatre after turning down one of the country's main showcases for new writing twice in the space of a few months.

Page2Stage, which describes itself as "a testing ground for new ideas", has called all future events after this week off for the foreseeable future in the wake of the snub from the Scottish Government's arts agency.

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Michelle McKay, the founder of Page2Stage, which stages extracts of new work before live audiences and brings in industry experts to help develop new talent, said it had become a “casualty” of what it describes as “the current decimation of the arts in Scotland”.

The Scaff, by Stephen Christopher & Graeme Smith, was recently staged at Oran Mor in Glasgow and the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, after being developed as part of the Page2Stage project. Picture: Tommy Ga-Ken WanThe Scaff, by Stephen Christopher & Graeme Smith, was recently staged at Oran Mor in Glasgow and the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, after being developed as part of the Page2Stage project. Picture: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
The Scaff, by Stephen Christopher & Graeme Smith, was recently staged at Oran Mor in Glasgow and the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, after being developed as part of the Page2Stage project. Picture: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

The body has called a halt to future events as theatre companies across Scotland finalise applications for long-term funding, ahead of Creative Scotland’s biggest round of decisions for six years in the autumn.

Page2Stage has staged showcases at Assembly Roxy, the Scottish Storytelling Centre and the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh since it was founded in 2018.

Emerging writers and directors showcased so far include Laila Noble, Ellen Ritchie, Emilie Robson, Roisin Sheridan-Bryson, Graeme Smith, Stephen Christopher, Jack MacGregor, Ben Ramsay, Wren Brian and Anna McGrath.

Established writers and directors who have worked with Page2Stage include David Greig, Gareth Nicholls, Jemima Levick, Jo Clifford, James Ley, Caitlin Skinner and Douglas Maxwell.

Michelle McKay is the founder of the Page2Stage grassroots theatre project. Picture: A P WildingMichelle McKay is the founder of the Page2Stage grassroots theatre project. Picture: A P Wilding
Michelle McKay is the founder of the Page2Stage grassroots theatre project. Picture: A P Wilding

In a statement confirming its second rejection from Creative Scotland, Page2Stage said it had too much respect for freelance artists to expect them to effectively work for free on future events after being able to offer them “lifeline” support thanks to the funding it had previously secured.

The statement said: “We know funded events like ours are rare and that without those funds only the privileged few can participate.”

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Ms McKay said there was “outrage” in the theatre community over the lack of support for Page2Stage.

“We believe in paying people fairly for work, especially at a time where everyone is struggling in the current economic climate and as such we will not run our event expecting people to participate for free,” she said.

Chloe-Ann Tylor starred in Ellen Ritchie's play Hot Dog. Picture: Tommy Ga-Ken WanChloe-Ann Tylor starred in Ellen Ritchie's play Hot Dog. Picture: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
Chloe-Ann Tylor starred in Ellen Ritchie's play Hot Dog. Picture: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

“I started Page2stage in 2018 in response to a lack of opportunities for creatives to develop and perform work and build networks in Edinburgh.”

Ms McKay added: "We’ve established it as the testing ground for new ideas, the place for emerging talent and the place to network. We’ve proven ourselves as a pipeline for new work to develop and this year we have had two plays that started with us go on to be part of the current season of A Play, A Pie and A Pint.”

A Creative Scotland spokeswoman said: “We recognise the importance of the space Page2Stage provides for theatre-makers and audiences, and understand that this is disappointing news. While we are able to support a broad range of fantastic projects through our open funds, demand is increasing while the funding available to us is not.

"This means that, increasingly, we have to disappoint many applicants who would otherwise be supported through our funding.

“For context, we are currently only able to support 30 per cent of open fund applications, despite 75 per cent being recommended for funding. Difficult decisions are being made on a daily basis.”