Peter Doig;Canoe-Lake c Saatchi

The period of reflection after the rapids to the referendum is open-ended but the scope and pace of the Smith Commission suggests that the arts and cultural community need to focus efforts immediately to build on its leadership role in shaping Scotland’s future.

The impact of the binary process of the referendum where the only voting choices were yes or no is more profound than the results of the votes, with 97% voter registration and 84% turnout. Artists have been deeply involved, and their influence recognised across civic society in Scotland, not only at an individual level but through movements such as the National Collective with its 2000 members.

Lord Smith of Kelvin has stated that the process of his Scotland Devolution Commission will involve wider civic society and not just representatives of political parties. This has the potential to be a forum for a leadership effort in Scotland wider than the pre-referendum traditional power system, where politicians and business leaders make decisions based largely on economics. Much of the recent debate has been around the values people in Scotland share to a higher degree than the aggregate whole of the rest of the UK. These are about fairness and equality, which influence our culture and identity, and leadership in these areas comes not just from the traditional powers but also from the third sector, unions and the cultural community.

The arts and cultural community, so engaged during the referendum debate through movements such as the National Collective now need to be involved in a wider civic participation in Scotland’s constitutional reform. Culture Counts, the grouping of umbrella organisations and agencies across the wider arts, cultural and heritage sector in Scotland, is advocating for the value of culture to be enshrined in constitutionally-agreed statement of principles, stating simply that culture is core to Scotland’s people and its future and that taking part in cultural life is a human right. Business leaders have already pitched in to suggest that the “touchstones of the new devolution settlement must be boosting business and growth”.

What has emerged during this recent period is that Scotland’s values are wider than the economic. The Smith Commission is an important opportunity for both the UK and Scottish governments to recognise the value of culture to a flourishing Scotland.

At the same time, we need to pick up our connections, exchange and collaboration with the arts community in other parts of the UK, recognising common cause with political movements such as What Next.

Tea cake dancers Glasgow 2014

Tea cake dancers Glasgow 2014

 

Policy makers are expert at posing leading questions and many in Scotland’s cultural sectors are equally expert at expressing views which go beyond narrow lines of enquiry. In my analysis for Cultural Trends of all the public consultation on matters of cultural policy undertaken by successive ministers, parliamentarians and publicly appointed commissioners since 1999, its clear that, no matter how firm the steer provided, artists and others who care deeply about culture in Scotland are clear and consistent about what matters. And that where those views seem unheard, they return during the next consultation, and the next until they are resolved. Those who value culture in Scotland may care to respond to the current public consultation on the Draft Independence Bill and the guts of a draft constitution by answering not only the questions posed but by asking for the value of culture to Scotland to be enshrined in the proposed draft constitution, as a right.

 

“What does culture mean to you?” and “What should be the aims of a cultural strategy?” were the first tentative questions posed in 1999 alongside a series of questions focussed on areas that the Scottish Executive considered to be the key elements of a national cultural strategy including structures, roles and interfaces between national institutions and local authorities; the creative industries; international relations; education; wider audiences; and ‘indigenous elements whether Gaelic or Scots’. No questions were posed in 1999 on those matters reserved to Westminster, several of which might be viewed as critical to any fully developed cultural policy, including broadcasting, foreign and diplomatic policy, the National Lottery and the use of tax incentives. However, the consultation, involving over 1000 individuals and organisations, elicited not only responses to the questions set but also views on areas of Westminster jurisdiction. There was strong support for the idea that Scotland might identify and celebrate its own culture, a concept unimaginable to many before devolution; for celebrating the past as well as imagining and planning for the future; and for the harnessing of disparate agencies and perspectives.

Beyond a unanimous agreement that increasing access to all aspects of culture to all people – especially young people – was a good thing, the responses to the set questions varied. There was broad consensus that the cultural agency infrastructure was uncoordinated and ineffective, that the absence of Scottish culture from the education system was not only conspicuous but had multiple negative impacts on Scots’ understanding and appreciation of their own identities and that a major overhaul of the international image of Scottish culture was required to reflect a diverse and contemporary Scotland instead of the ‘tartan and shortbread’ image generally perpetuated. Other, more specific areas generated fewer responses; however there was evident support for a review of the manner in which the national companies were funded and for the Scots language to be recognised alongside Gaelic and English.

There were varying perspectives on the definition of culture from a narrow focus on funding the arts through to a more anthropological understanding that encompassed lifestyles, value systems and beliefs, aligning with the definition offered by UNESCO. Less predictable at the time was the reaction to the phrase ‘creative industries’ that had increasingly begun to appear as a tenet of cultural policy led by DCMS. Offered an opportunity not afforded to their peers in the rest of the UK, the arts and cultural community in Scotland queried what was meant by the term ‘creative industries’ and its relevance to cultural policy as they understood it.

Perhaps the deepest and most complex issue to emerge during the consultation was around the intertwined aspects of the principle of encouraging the widest possible participation in culture and the relative responsibilities and resources of local authorities. The concept of ‘entitlement’ to culture appeared during this process, implying a citizen-led rights approach to the provision of culture. This concept resonated with the principle of equality of access which has been a longstanding key component of Scottish ethics, encapsulated during the Scottish Enlightenment and evoked in the regular comparisons with the Nordic States throughout the consultation . And whereas some respondents challenged the rhetoric of the creative economy, none challenged the view that access should be extended to all.

While arts, heritage, tourism and education were amongst those areas transferred, amongst those powers reserved to Westminster were broadcasting and foreign affairs. Of the key themes and issues identified, some were resolved, some superseded and some repeatedly aired and contested through a series of consultative processes, a cultural commission and three draft legislative bills. Those issues which were firmly within the domain of the devolved Scottish Parliament with regard to structures, education and language recognition were tackled over the next 14 years. Issues requiring the cooperation or consent of other authorities were more vexed and remain unresolved to a greater or lesser degree. For example, the issues around broadcasting, under the control of Westminster, was flagged up in 1999, with questions raised primarily around the quality and quantity of Scottish content rather than the underlying issue of control of channels.

Now the debate surrounding independence and the publication of the SNP’s white paper has seen a new shift in what some of Scottish politicians appear to view as the key terrain of cultural policy. The focus is increasingly moving to matters of communications and broadcasting and cutting free from the old staples of funding for the arts and the quagmire of contested definitions around creativity, creative industries and the creative economy that has been a hallmark of cultural policy in the last 10 years.

As there is no reference to a cultural policy in the White Paper, the value of culture should surely be enshrined in the statement of values. The draft independence bill published by the Scottish Government includes the guts of a draft constitution for an independent Scotland.

A written constitution is the basis of everyday life, setting out and protecting the rights and aspirations of the people of Scotland. It will be the highest and strongest of laws – a statement of the fundamental principles by which a country chooses to live, regardless of the political party in power

Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister Scottish Government in the foreword to the consultation on the Independence Bill

 

However, the draft has no reference to culture, whereas those of some other nations do, including those Nordic states to whom Scotland refers, for example in Sweden “The personal, economic and cultural welfare of the individual shall be fundamental aims of public activity” and the recent draft in Iceland “The government shall endeavour to strengthen the welfare of the country‘s inhabitants, encourage their culture and respect the diversity of the life of the people, the country and its biosphere”

The consultation on the constitution poses only six questions but states that  “The purpose of the Bill and consultation paper is to facilitate as wide and open a debate on the constitution of an independent Scotland as possible. Views on any matter related to the constitution of an independent Scotland are welcome, whether they are topics specifically mentioned in this paper or not.”

Culture is core to a flourishing Scotland and should be enshrined in any constitutionally-agreed statement of principles. The statement of value should state simply that culture is core to Scotland’s people and its future and that taking part in cultural life is a human right.

 

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reviving the 50p seat at Citizens Theatre 21012 - ©

In today’s highly codified and regulated subsidised arts sectors, all sorts of business and quasi-business behaviours are required. Strategies, plans, systems for delivering objectives and for measuring success are all extremely useful tools.  But in the days before market principles were applied to public expenditure, and before 25 years of increased public expenditure on the arts led not only to more investment in artists, arts activity and buildings but also to a proliferation of policy makers and monitors, there were far less requirements.  The weight of encouragement which public agencies provide to extol arts organisations to  ‘innovate’  , to improve or change their ‘ business models’ and to train their boards and leaders in being more ‘entrepreneurial’ and strategic, for example, could give the impression that arts leaders do not naturally do these things for themselves – left to their own devices.

But successful leaders in the arts have always taken risks and often demonstrated a razor-sharp instinct for business as an essential element of achieving ambitions to create great art and to attract audiences to enjoy and appreciate it.  Long before Glasgow had any cultural policy or arts development officers and when the Scottish Arts Council was a small organisation with a few officers, these was some serial innovation happening in the Gorbals under the direction of Giles Havergal, Philip Prowse and Robert David MacDonald.  Not only did they transform the Theatre artistically but they attracted an audience of a size and demographic mix which would turn today’s  ‘audience development’ agency green with envy.  The reputation of the productions was the greatest factor in this and there were also all sorts of experiments including the radical ‘All Seats 50p’ policy.  I have gone back to the box office and financial records to assess the effect of this and the detailed results are in this article for the Scottish International Journal of Theatre and Screen. This shows how, at the same time as its cheap seat policy,  the Citz increased and diversified audiences at the same time as increasing its box office income while also attracting additional subsidy and putting more money into the work.  It did this through some luck  and some clever tactics, not least an extremely commercial approach to its annual pantomime, for which the tickets were not 50p.  It was not all plain sailing, with the SAC at one point granting  the Citz 5% less than the other Scottish producing theatres on the ground that the Citz refused to increase its ticket prices. And subsequent innovations, like no advance booking, were less successful.

Havergal was a risk taker, refuse-to-take-no for an answer leader with a mission to produce and present great work for the audiences of Glasgow. The Citz directors did not use business plans or strategies to shape their innovation but rather an intuitive experimentation. The simple mantra for all innovation, whether artistic or business was, as Philip Prowse often said “Not to change in art is to die”. A ‘taught’ entrepreneur AKA a manager using established business tools and techniques, would not have considered a flat ‘low’ ticket price after what had been three years of growth in revenues and attendances. But for Havergal, there was no formal strategy, no management objectives, no annual review. “ I don’t think we knew what had happened. We just looked at the money we had for the year ahead”.

Havergal and Prowse did it to shatter the inherited mould of complicated ticketing and to see if that might attract more and different people. The experiment was successful not only in its contribution to attracting additional audiences but in achieving more income from public bodies. The Havergal regime led the way on innovation, income generation and audience development and the public funders followed. In today’s arts funding system which is heavy on policy, strategy, measurement and evaluation, could similar theatrical entrepreneurialism flourish?

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Temple of Apollo at Jupiter Artland

Much of the recent furore over Creative Scotland is about how it communicates with and engages with artists. Several meetings are to take place, some open events organised by individuals and more with the various umbrella organisations which represent particular sectors. The problem with umbrella agencies like Playwrights Studio and Federation of Scottish Theatres is that they are funded directly and indirectly by Creative Scotland. While they can advocate, and do so, their ability to do so is dependent on funding from Creative Scotland. They are all part of the subsidised arts society where control begins with the Scottish Government which appoints the board members of Creative Scotland. Creative Scotland then funds subsidised arts organisations most of which are run as charities.  Some of these subsidised organisations also pay memberships to umbrella organisations who are also funded by Creative Scotland.  Their independence is therefore limited.

Many leading and eminent artists are not bound up in the hegemony of the subsidised arts.  With  fingers on the pulse of the wider cultural community in Scotland, it is their leadership which has achieved a clear response from Creative Scotland. Artists must  be able to play a lead role in culture not only through dialogue with Creative Scotland and its board but outwith Creative Scotland providing a vital counterweight to the state subsidised system.

The idea of an artists academy for Scotland has been around for some time and the time is right for it to be established. This should not be an agency or an instrument of state. Its members should be eminent artists, the primary function of the academy to recognise artists as civic leaders, and the role to contribute to cultural and wider policy and provide leadership, a bit like, but not the same as, the Irish Aosdana.  It should not be involved in the administration of funding, this is the role of Creative Scotland. Above all, it must be independent. If the artists academy had existed in 2002, when the idea of Creative Scotland was first mentioned in the Quinquennial Review of Scottish Sreeen in 2002, or by Mike Watson in 2003 before the match was lit under the bonfire of the quangoes, it could have contributed ideas and opinions about ideology and policy.  It could have contributed to the Cultural Commission, whose one artist Craig Armstrong resigned when he discovered he was the only artist in a committee of administrators, and to the many changes of policy over the next five years.

As Makar, the redoubtable Liz Lochhead occupies the sole official position for a leading Scottish artist.  Establishing a national artists academy with a role in national cultural leadership could bring artists in from the cold and allow more balanced and considered setting of cultural policy. In addition, increased fiscal autonomy could be used to provide a time limited allowance for artists and creative workers to develop their work, either in tax incentives or a creative enterprise allowance. This would loosen the singular dependence on Creative Scotland and create a more balanced system for artistic and cultural leadership in Scotland.

This would provide a counterweight to Creative Scotland, whose board is charged with achieving CS objectives as approved by the Scottish Government and with ensuring that public money is used efficiently, effectively and delivers government outcomes.

Board members of Creative Scotland are appointed by Ministers and not remunerated, in contrast with Scottish Enterprise or NHS. Not only does this signal that culture is less important than enterprise but it precludes applications from those artists who must prioritise work which generates income.   There is an artist on the board, musician Gary West, and others who practice art in their spare time but in selecting a chair closely associated with Scotland’s financial services, Fiona Hyslop has prioritised financial stewardship. Alternative structures involving artists would signal government recognition of their importance and reduce the singular focus on what is just one part of the cultural landscape.

Dear David,

Thank you for your response.

I have not been involved in any of the discussions between Creative Scotland and artists or organisations and have not intended any of the roadshows, so am not qualified to give an authoritative view about what has gone on.  So any suggestions I can give will be informed only by general experience and common sense.

Firstly, I think it would be a good idea to separate the various issues and deal with them one at a time. The current piling in of views about everything is a bit overwhelming and in danger of tipping into some personal mudslinging which would be detrimental to expressing good points. It would be terrible if some of the important issues raised were lost in a tirade of personal comments which painted the theatre community as whinging luvvies.

One way of grouping the issues would be:

  1. Uncertainty about the future stability of companies affected by the end of flexible funding
  2. Current communication issues regarding the companies
  3. Lack of trust many in the sector feel about CS (largely related to 1  and 2 above)
  4. Future strategy and funding particularly with regard to use of lottery funds v grant in aid
  5. Process of decision making
  6. Ideology
  7. Communication generally

I would take the first three for now.

I would wait and see what CS has to offer as a cogent plan.  Andrew Dixon has consistently said he values the companies and , recently, that there will be funding and even  more funding for them under different funding streams and strategic commissions. It seems that the companies believed this when he said it at first, that they were told not to worry and that it would be all right.  Much of the current anxiety is around the uncertainty of the future.  Companies have been told that one stream has ended without knowing what the next one is.  So if Andrew and the companies are right, this is simply a matter of timing and a very unfortunate communications process.

From the outside, I have seen the process of the end of flexible funding as more threatening to some of the companies, and have exhorted companies to develop new sources of sustenance.  But that was before the introduction of new lottery funds so lets hope I am wrong.

I believe CS should acknowledge their part in this communications debacle. I tend to side with the cock-up over conspiracy theory.  I hope I am right and if I were then we should expect some acknowledgement of this from CS.

This would go some way to rebuilding trust.

Secondly, I do believe that there is a need to establish some sort of ongoing open communication between the wider sector (not necessarily the funded organisations)  and CS, and possibly wider.  There are several different ways of doing this, including through the board of CS playing an active role and through the creation of a forum.  I don’t have any specific proposals but I am sure others will.

The comparison you make of Creative Scotland and National Theatre of Scotland invites not only comments on the similarities between the two but also on the differences which go some way to explaining some of the current communication problems.

Both NTS and CS are new models created from different combinations of the same ingredients: political and cultural ambition, demand and disquiet. Both have had to develop trust and credibility in the arts community.  Both had chairs appointed by the Culture Minister.

But whereas..

…NTS is an arts organisation, and a limited company with charitable status, where the board directors  are appointed independently and where the board appoints the director without any Government influence. Under the leadership of Vicky Featherstone and the guidance of the board, NTS has consistently worked on relationships to build credibility and trust.  NTS success and even survival is dependent on good working relationship with the arts community.

..CS is a non departmental government body (NDPD) whose board are appointed by Scottish Ministers to deliver its purpose as determined in law. Scottish Ministers may give directions, although not on matters of artistic judgement, and CS is directly accountable to Scottish Ministers not to the arts community.  CS is not an arts organisation.  It is an instrument of government albeit at arms length.

I share your aspiration that CS should become an internationally recognised leading Scottish cultural organisation.  Like NTS, it is a new model which we have invented for the 21st century as part of Scotland’s national journey.  And like NTS, making the model really work will be dependent on connections, cooperation and collaboration rather than 20th century control and command.

Anne x

fuciods in tide swept condition

The reaction of the arts community to Creative Scotland’s end of the euphemistically-titled flexible funding stream continues to gather steam with this weekend’s open letter from leading playwrights. And playwrights say it better than most of us.  David Greig’s masterfully compelling open letter set a tone which has swept along artists and sympathisers in a tide of protest.

When Creative Scotland announced the end of flexible funding over a year ago there was no such outcry.  Perhaps if playwrights and artists had applied their thinking , passionate prose and inflence around the announcement of the end of flexible funding a full year ago, the dialogue could have been a lot more constructive.

 And it is conceivable that the whole protest could have been avoided had Creative Scotland not only announced the new funding streams with which it intends to support the existing companies but discussed and  finessed the details of how that would work for the companies BEFORE simply announcing the end of the specific funds which support the companies currently.

That moment has passed but the hostile atmosphere created by the process will make a smooth transition to the new funding streams very difficult.

But let’s imagine for a moment that Creative Scotland’s new funding arrangements will, as promised by Andrew Dixon, delivers support worthy of the arts companies.  The Creative Scotland senior team is still relatively new and comes not from the arts community in Scotland. Their communications head comes not from the arts at all.  This could be seen as a refreshing lack of baggage, enabling bold decision making and communication unfettered by being too embroiled with our cultural community.    The recent seemingly lack of consideration of the impact of CS’s communication on those whose stability it affects may  reflect this limited experience and understanding of the arts community in Scotland.  A sin of omission rather than one of commission perhaps.

The Chair of Creative Scotland, Sir Sandy Crombie, has batted back an open letter to the open letter of the playwrights, reaffirming the commitment to those companies funded under the current flexible funding arrangements.  He also draws attention to the other 80% funding provided by CS including for the foundation organisations, like the Traverse, Tron, Dundee Rep, Lyceum and Citizens’ Theatres, which have supported and commissioned much of the fantastic world class theatre highlighted in Greig’s  #stworldclass twitter feed.

All of us in the cultural community in Scotland need to pay more attention to avoid the more negative aspects of this outcry, the anxiety caused, the sucking of energies into defensive action rather than developing ideas and making work.  That means that CS should improve its communication strategy.  It also means that those of us outside, particularly our brilliant writers and poets, should pay more attention to announcements from CS, the Scottish Government and all and reflect on implications for the sector before decisions are made.

An important emergent issue for the future is the extent to which our artists and arts organisations are going to be dependent on lottery funding. The increased reliance on lottery funds rather than recurrent grant-in-aid funding has been emphasised by Creative Scotland.   Lottery funding must be ‘additional’ and can never be core. Therefore, no organisation entirely funded by lottery funds can  expect a seamless security if it is largely dependent on CS rather than other income.  It would be useful to understand what CS principles are going to be regarding the use of grant in aid and lottery funds.  Are only the foundation organisations to be funded from grant in aid?

And we should build on the positive aspects of the furore. The intelligent challenge from individual commentators such as Stramash Arts and Roanne Dods, the openness of communication and leadership from artists are things to be celebrated and on which we should build.

Glasgow's Red Road Flats before demolition

Creative Scotland’s  failure to ensure that arts companies felt valued and understood has generated much anxiety and attracted much criticism.  Announcing the end of the medium term funding stream which its predecessor The Scottish Arts Council euphemistically termed ‘flexible funds’ for 49 organisations BEFORE sharing with the majority of  those companies the names and priorities attached to replacement short and medium term funding streams has naturally threatened the stability of the sector. Its like a local council who has plans for a brand new housing scheme or a new town serving eviction notices to residents of tenements without first showing them the lovely new homes and gardens in which they will live.  While not all of the residents will want to leave behind their old loved but run-down homes, the town planners will genuinely believe its better  for health and wellbeing and for many that will be true.  Of paramount importance is that the families always have a home and are never threated with being thrown out on the street.  Many artists now feel that they are being evicted without a home to which to go .

The arts community always protests when there are cuts.  But the outcry from artists to this situation differs significantly from past protests.  The varied and intelligent blogs, tweets, letters and comments shared digitally has raised the level of debate from being a single channelled protest to a sophisticated identification of key issues.  These are not only from artists such as the playwright David Greig but from other cultural leaders and commentators who, in being freelance or portfolio workers, have more in common with the artistic community than with the salaried and pensioned executives of some of the foundation funded organisations or the staff of Creative Scotland.  Equally importantly, contributors from the wider political media have reflected on ideological elements as well as the more traditional lampooning.

When we change the way we communicate, we change society

Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody

In the past, such protests have always been dealt with behind closed doors.  The arts community would make representations to the Culture Minister in a private manner .  That Minister might then direct its cultural intermediary to make changes in an equally non public forum, communications advisors would work  with individual trouble makers to allay concerns and the old order would be restored.

This time, David Greig responds to a request from Creative Scotland to have a meeting by publishing an open letter.

Scottish Cultural workers feel they are part of a success story, making world class work on thin resources. This is not a career to us, this is our life. By approaching the sector as a problem, or as recalcitrant, or as slow thinking luddites you have immediately put them on the defensive. You need artists to be open in order that together you can explore imaginative ways to respond to the funding issues

The chief of CS communications responds on twitter. CEO Andrew Dixon comments on blogs.

All of this creates an unprecedented open conversation which, if it continues, could have a powerful effect on how the arts community in Scotland can play a full part in leadership and decision making instead of having to react angrily to poorly communicated decisions.

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