Issue 202
March/April 2018

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Mar 25, 2018
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    Editorial Comment

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    Time for some very Creative thinking

    THE APPOINTMENT of Robert Wilson as the new chairman of Creative Scotland, thus replacing the banker, Ben Thomson, suggests that Mr Wilson is like a Knight of the Round Table who is prepared to pick up the poisoned chalice in defence of the arts.

    Mr Wilson has won fame as the multi-millionaire owner of Jupiter Artland, the 100 acre sculpture park in the grounds of Bonnington House, the Jacobean mansion on the outskirts of Edinburgh that Mr Wilson and his wife bought in 1999.

    Snce then, he has spent his time collecting works by people such as Charles Jencks, Antony Gormley, Nathan Coley, Jim Lambie, Laura Ford and Cornelia Parker.

    Collecting sculpture could, however, prove to be easy compared with sorting out Creative Scotland.

    Since it announced its budget just before Christmas, it has been the centre of an almighty row that has embraced accusations of inaccurate minutes of its board meetings and has imposed cuts on some 20 theatrical companies – including those dedicated to children in the Year of Young People – plus the city's Kings and Festival theatres and Edinburgh's Fringe.

    Also affected were the Edinburgh City of UNESCO Literature Trust, the dance company Plan B, the Ayr Gaiety Theatre, the Transmission Gallery in Glasgow, Dundee Contemporary Arts, the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland.

    Support for their protests came from the Citizens and Tron in Glasgow, and the Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

    To this must be added an open letter to the Scottish Government demanding that it give artists and art organisations more say in how key decisions are made.

    The letter had more than 350 signatures, including those of Joe Douglas, Adura Onashile, Nicola McCartney, David Leddy, Aly Bain, Findlay Napier and Mary Macmaster.

    Much of the trouble arose from how Creative Scotland's £99m budget was divided up – and suggestions of a shortfall in the current budget due to a drop in Lottery funding have been disputed because the government has allocated an extra £16.6m to take account of this.

    Nevertheless, accusations that the distribution of funds has been 'flawed' have been backed by the resignation of two Board members – the broadcaster and journalist, Ruth Wishart and Maggie Kinloch, former deputy principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

    The Scottish culture secretary, Fiona Hyslop, has been forced to intervene to reverse cuts in some of the theatrical companies. This has led to Creative Scotland raiding £2.6m from other budgets to pay for its climb down.

    Clearly, Creative Scotland's decision-making would appear to be in an awful mess and, according to Ms Wishart, the body has never fully recovered from the unexpected death of its former chairman, broadcaster executive Richard Findlay, who was appointed to its chair in 2015. Mr Thomson was his brief replacement.

    Ms Wishart has also said that Creative Scotland is "a family at war with those whom it seeks to serve."

    Such is the situation that Mr Wilson now has to sort out. It is, indeed, a poisoned chalice, and we wish him the very best of luck in his task.

    Tragedy on London Road

    THE PROMISED closure of the hugely worthwhile Edinburgh Palette complex of studios, galleries and workshops on Edinburgh's London Road – reported in the pages of this issue – is very unwelcome news.

    The somewhat austere former government building quickly filled its hundreds of spaces with artists, crafters, small businesses and good causes relieved to find affordable and convivial premises.

    Not least among the building's attractive qualities was the opportunity it gave to bring together people of a like mind to pursue their callings in a welcoming social environment.

    The speed with which all available space in the building was taken up underlines the crying need for the provision of such spaces.

    Today's fragile economy demands that an ever greater number of people have to forsake any idea of long term secure employmnt to plough their own furrow and become self-employed.

    This makes the provision of sound, affordable premises of even greater importance.

    Perhaps those bodies that exist to support people keen to do their own thing – particularly in the arts and crafts – should pay more attention to answering these needs.

    Value judgements about which particular artistic activities to support are famously fraught with difficulty, as the trials and tribulations of Creative Scotland have made clear.

    The predecessor to this modest organ – Craftwork – was conceived and born of a very different body to those 'enterprise' bodies that exist today. Perhaps something like SICRAS – the highly respected and effective Small Industries Council for the RuralAreas of Scotland – should be born again.

    The need for sensitive, practical assistance is greater than ever.

    Dark days for glib renewables PR

    DURING the balmy days of last summer (remember them?) we were treated to frequent cosy announcements from the renewables lobby that coal was 'finished' and for several days on end no power at all had been generated from the dusky substance on these isles.

    We have been hearing a little less from them these days. Why? Because on many recent days coal has been contributing almost a quarter of our generating needs.

    Producing robust and reliable green energy demands more than putting out smug press. releases.

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