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Viewing Platform at Collective: Simon and Tm Bloor

The arts, culture and creative sector in the UK are amongst the most devastated by the results of the vote to leave the EU on Thursday.  Leaving Europe does not only have negative implications for trade, attracting talent and for EU funding, but, more insidiously, reverting to apparently splendid isolation strikes at the heart of the value to culture of international collaboration and exchange.   Cultural exchange within Europe has become a defining element of how the arts in the UK operate and an industry in itself.  The opportunities for European funding through collaboration have led to many productions on art house stages.  Associations such as the Informal European Theatre Meeting (IETM) have become essential networking events for the sector.  But this breakaway from Europe offers a pause to reflect on how the UK arts community should collaborate internationally.  Freed from the obsession with Europe, could we exchange more globally and meaningfully?

 

I have oft found myself in international think tanks and conferences  to consider cultural policy  in privileged surrounds including on one occasion on the country estate of Ingmar Bergman. I chaired a three day session on Trust for IETM in Dublin. Each time, the participants have been largely European culturatti with regular doses of Australians and Americans.  The presbyterian in me gnaws at me in these sessions, concerned that we are talking only to ourselves.

 

International cooperation and understanding is critical for the arts and culture.  At this time, when families drown in the Mediterranean or are marooned with a blanket between 6 and no water, that cooperation has to go beyond Europe.

I have no idea how much the UK would have extra for culture in the Brexit fantasy maths scenarios.  But lets imagine that its at minimum £5m pa (based on the current €1.46 billion allocated by  Creative Europe with admin costs of 20% divided by 28;  there are several other funds which could be identified and added to this).  The likelihood is that a fraction of this would be allocated to cultural diplomacy just as it is now through the British Council or other government agencies, with international projects taking place in those countries deemed economically and politically important.

But what we really need is for our artists to exchange with artists in countries where we do not understand, in Africa, in the Middle East.  Its difficult to imagine artists having that much influence within Westminster’s current democratic system and Whitehall’s control of funds.

While the cultural sector is the most organised its ever been, with the  Federation of Creative Industries clearly advocating to remain in the UK, its now apparent that lobby groups and industry bodies are not enough to bring about change or to make our voice heard.

In Australia, where there is PR, artists are seeking to contribute in full through standing for election.  The Australian party for the arts reminds us of Plato’s warning:

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors

 

 

Here in Scotland the vote  to leave Europe has additional and more profound implications. We want to remain. Our values are increasingly different to those of parts of England and we hope that a solution will be found for us to remain in Europe.  But we could benefit also from a wider interpretation of internationalism.

The Edinburgh International Festival was begun after the  Second World War to provide ‘a platform for the human spirit’, aiding peace, international understanding through great art.

Scotland  needs to work in and beyond Europe, and beyond official cultural diplomacy to create new platforms in this fractured world.

Rainbow over Ushuaia, terra del fuego, Patagonia Argentina

 

For several years, the UK government was largely silent on its high level support for culture, while politicians in Scotland have been increasingly passionate, eloquent and publicly committed to the value of culture to Scotland.   In producing the Culture White Paper, David Cameron has, for the first time since Jennie Lee’s Policy for the Arts some 50 years ago, committed the UK government to some principles around culture. The Scottish Government has not yet committed to a high level statement of principles about the value of culture, despite consistent demand from the arts, heritage, screen and creative industries represented by Culture Counts, a group of 45 national, umbrella and membership bodies which represent the majority of professional and voluntary artists and cultural organisations in Scotland.

With the forthcoming elections for Holyrood, candidates speaking for culture might consider what sort of high level statement of principles for culture in Scotland we should have. This should start with the principle that cultural expression is an individual right and supports a better understanding of our own and others’ identities. A rights based approach is similar to some aspects of cultural policy in Nordic states and in keeping with the global movement in UNESCO towards recognising that culture is a human right critical for sustainable development. This reflects Scotland’s values more than the UK approach which is largely written from the perspective of the cultural and political establishment. And, in keeping with the governance of our small nation, the principles should enshrine culture across other policy areas.

The Cultural Value Project (CVP) has provided a comprehensive overview of the value of culture and pointed out where there is long term evidence of impact, for example, on the long term health benefits of cultural participation. A cultural statement of principles would support and encourage Scotland’s health bodies to embed cultural participation.

In the meantime , the UK Culture White Paper is the highest level policy statement we have and the PM’s support for equality of access to culture is welcomed, albeit seemingly as a consequence of his belief in public funding:

If you believe in publicly-funded arts and culture as I passionately do, then you must also believe in equality of access, attracting all, and welcoming all.

Rt Hon David Cameron MP

The White Paper lacks the  depth of principles contained in Jennie Lee’s paper, and is less of the comprehensive and high level policy document for culture which one might associate with a white paper. It focuses on institutions funded by government and on actions which will be taken by distinctive, and restricted parts of government and sets out a number of actions for reviews, reports and partnerships with other parts of the cultural establishment. Many of these are similar to actions governments have taken in the past as part of business as usual, for example, reviewing the Arts Council, working in partnership with the British Council, encouraging private investment, commissioning a report on ‘the key issues to be addressed to make the UK one of the world’s leading countries for digitised public collections’ content and so on.

The tone is rather grand..

it seeks to harness the nourishing effects of culture. It seeks to ignite the imaginations of young people, kindle ambition and opportunity and fuel the energy of communities.It seeks to spread the gifts of our arts, heritage and culture to more people, and communities across the country and abroad and free the creative genius that can make a better world for all.

And, while it obligates the general public …

Everyone should enjoy the opportunities culture offers, no matter where they start in life

..it does not obligate other parts of government, such as education, skills, health and wellbeing and social justice, where cultural participation has proven and sustained positive impacts on individuals and societies

Scotland’s statement of principles for culture should be broader, deeper and rights based. It should be underpinned by an outcome for culture . It should articulate the importance of culture as a public good, recognise the right to participate in culture and identify culture’s central role to an informed, engaged and healthy modern democracy, the glue that binds Scotland together.

Slide1
Creative Scotland has announced regular funding for three years 2015-2018 of £99,696,859 to 119 organisations. These organisations can be viewed as the core infrastructure which Creative Scotland supports to deliver its overall policy objectives over the next three years. Inclusion within this portfolio is associated with a recognition of value and significance by Creative Scotland, including in terms of excellence.

The awards need to be seen in the context of other public funding available to the arts and culture in Scotland: Creative Scotland itself will be funding artists, companies and projects through other programmes over the next three years; the Scottish Government’s culture budget (draft) for 2015-16 totals £174.7m; Scottish local authorities can be expected to expend close to £100m; the British Council will fund some arts activity and UK Lottery funds are available not only through the arts lottery, through by Creative Scotland, but also HLF and the Big Lottery.

The 119 organisations in receipt of Creative Scotland’s regular funding will receive an estimated £33,232,286 in 2015/16, one-third of the three year total and can be compared with 3 groups of funded organisations in 2014/15:

 

2014-15
Foundation Funded Organisation Programme Organisation Annual clients/other Total Regular Funding Awarded 1 year average
45 36 47 128 119
18,735 4,634 7,486 30,854 33,232

Bonnar Keenlyside’s analysis of these by art form and location (BK Analysis Creative Scotland Funded Organisations 2015) identifies that overall the art forms have all received more funding than previously, if the £400,000 award to Sistema in 2014/15 is discounted.

It further identifies where the funded organisations cluster – and where there are gaps. Even when using the 14 larger health board areas as opposed to the 32 local authorities, there are some parts of Scotland where Creative Scotland’s funded organisations are scarce –  Ayrshire and Arran, Fife and Lanarkshire or, in the case of he Scottish Borders, non-existent . By the same token, the Islands, Highland and Tayside have attracted relatively high amounts.

There are a number of factors which contribute to this: a place’s tradition of engagement in the arts and culture and in encouraging arts organisations; where artists have found support; where local authorities and civic leaders have weighed in – and some great applications. Equally, there might be a dearth of compelling applications from artistic organisations in those areas which have not attracted support.

In making this historic three year commitment to a national portfolio, Creative Scotland now has the opportunity to look at gaps and to work with the members of its portfolio, its funding streams and its partners including the Scottish Government, national performing companies and local authorities to support artistic and cultural activity where there is little.

The Scotland Devolution Commission represents an important opportunity for the value of culture in a flourishing Scotland to be recognised by Holyrood and Westminster government, for the arts and  and culture to be further embedded in the civic life of Scotland and for artists to be involved in civic leadership and governance.

My job is to create a process through which politicians, civic institutions and the Scottish public can come together, work together and agree the detail of what those powers should be.

“To that end, I am working to one aim: to produce a unifying set of proposals by the 30 November 2014.

Lord Smith of Kelvin

The members of the Commission are two from each political party.  For those not in the tent, the way to have your say is to submit views by 31 October.

This is my submission:

The Scotland Devolution Commission represents an important opportunity for the arts and culture to be further embedded in the civic life of Scotland and for artists to be involved in civic leadership and governance.

Further, for both the UK and Scottish governments to recognise the value of culture to a flourishing Scotland.

In the years since devolution Scotland’s arts and culture have flourished and thrived. They have been recognised as being of high value to Scotland across many economic and social/civic spheres, bringing benefits to individuals, communities and the nation. These benefits include contributing to our sense of identity, to how we understand the world and to our international reputation and contributing to learning, health, wellbeing, confidence and quality of life for individuals and for our communities.
Artists have become recognised as having an important contribution to make to civil society and their voices and views have been increasingly sought in the period leading up to the referendum on independence.

In order for culture to play its full part in a flourishing Scotland, the Commission should consider four elements:

1. The enshrining of the value of culture to Scotland in any legislation and statement of principles which define in statute the Scotland settlement;

2. The use of fiscal instruments to support artists, the arts and culture;

3. The devolution of broadcasting to Holyrood;

4. The creation of a system for broader and more open leadership in Scotland than the current political system, including the involvement of artists.

1. Enshrining of the value of culture
A high level statement of principles stating Scotland’s values should be included in the legal documents enshrining the outcomes of The Scotland Devolution Commission. In tone this should be equivalent to a constitution.

These principles should enshrine the value of culture to a flourishing Scotland, stating simply that culture is core to Scotland’s people, our future, and that taking part in cultural life is a human right.

Cultural value should inform all policy areas to recognise the value of culture to a flourishing Scotland.

2. Use of fiscal instruments to support artists, the arts and culture

The Scottish Parliament should have powers to raise income tax, national insurance, corporation tax, inheritance tax, petroleum revenue and other taxes and fiscal instruments. With this, artists and culture should be supported in ways additional to the current system of subsidy.

In particular, there should be available a tax-free research and development allowance available for artists and entrepreneurs in culture and the creative industries. This could be based on schemes in other countries and also the Enterprise Allowance Scheme of the 1980s, which supported many artists and creative entrepreneurs including young people. (This differs from the current UK New Enterprise Allowance Scheme in several key aspects including age restrictions, business eligibility and duration).

There is additional potential to consider the use of other tax breaks including for investors in film and creative business in Scotland. Tax incentives used in other countries as a means to attract artists to reside in a nation, for example in Ireland, are not be as relevant to Scotland at this time.

3. Devolution of broadcasting

Scotland has its own culture, political system, institutions and history and there should be a greater devolution of broadcasting than is currently the case. The precise nature of this will need fuller consideration.

4. A system for broader and more open leadership involving artists

One of the major themes of the last few years and the referendum period itself has been the positive involvement of civil movements and the desire for a more inclusive democratic system in Scotland. I urge the Commission to be mindful of this and to consider the creation of a system for leadership in Scotland which is inclusive of civil movements including those involving artists. These movements, such as National Collective are not the type of constituted institutions which lend themselves to absorption into governance models where power is organised and controlled by political parties and civil servants and where systems of representation are dependent on the existence of constituted institutions.

Impact

These measures are presented as suggestions at a fairly high-level. Some need further consideration and appraisal. They have the potential to help Scotland flourish.

Lets hope that our views are heard, that we can become more involved in the future of Scotland and that the old political system doesn’t close the door on artists.

 

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?