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Monthly Archives: November 2010

Suspension of Disbelief?Rain drops hanging from a cobweb from ecstacitist' flick'r photostream

The headlines about the Scottish government’s support for the arts, culture and creative industries in a budget to deal with £1.3bn cuts next year appear less lurid than in England. For a start, the language used in the budget is warm and appreciative about the importance of the arts culture and creative industries to Scotland’ s success and, having already been through the abolishment of the Scottish Arts Council, we have been been spared the public flogging of the Arts Council of England.  Efficiencies have already been made in establishing Creative Scotland and hence its core funding of £35m has been ringfenced. The V & A in Dundee will go ahead. Arts & Business funding is secured. So all good news at face value. But there are other stories yet to unfold which could may describe a bleaker picture. The cultural budget cuts look like this: 

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/11/17091127/7

‘Creative Scotland and other arts’ overall budget decreases from  £59m to £53m. While its ‘core budget’ of £35m is protected, CS, like SAC and Scottish Screen before it, habituall depended upon a series of additional funding programmes which allowed it to undertake extra initatives. Most  of these will be gone, although the reinstatement of Lottery funds to the original good causes may well result in money for jam if not bread and butter.

Overall the cut to the culture budget is 10%.  This is higher than the 6.4% John Swinney quotes as being the cut passed on to non-ringfenced services. While the national performing companies, who are overseen by civil servants within the Culture Division, not by arms length agencies, are cut by a mere 5%, the rest of the sector is hit proportionately more. The cultural collections – National Galleries, National Museums and National Library are cut by a swingeing 12%

And there is room for many a twist and turn in the way that support from local authorities will pan out. The Scottish Government currently has a deal with local authorities, whereby authorities decide for themselves how to allocate cash best to meet the Government’s priorities in return for a fixed settlement. John Swinney spelt out today that a new deal was on the table – local authorities can agree to meet specific targets for early years’ intervention, smaller class sizes and so on in return for a 2% decrease in funding – or take a 6.4% decrease.  As we have seen in England, reductions in local authority funding may have the most serious implications for the arts and culture, with Moray Council considering following Somerset Council’s suit in cutting all arts funding.  As in England, there is no statutory obligation on Scottish local authorities to fund or provide culture.

And of course, the budget is only for one year. With an election in May, it is unsurprising that the SNP did not want to give away their three year plan to dig us out of the larger hole.  But its the next instalments that will determine the support for Scotland’s culture.

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Sutherland Hussey's design for Creative Laboratories at Edinburgh Sculplture Studios winner of the Edinburgh Art Prize

The collapse of the financial services sector and subsequent recession brought with it a decline in the corporate sector sponsorship which Arts & Business had so successfully encouraged and promoted and with which its name is synonymous.  A&B’s recent grant cut from the Arts Council and the indications that the Arts Council will take on the job of incentivising corporate and individual invesment in the arts means an end to all that.  The position of A&B in Scotland is somewhat different.  In common with many Scottish branches of London based UK national institutions, the  A & B Scotland division has a profile, position and  relationships which differ from the UK/London head office and, in common with others, the time may have come for it to break away from London. Its funding comes from Creative Scotland, Museums and Galleries Scotland and the Scottish Government and A&B is more meshed in with the overall cultural economy.

The profile and practice of much of last century’s commercial sponsorship jarred with large swathes of Scottish society. The big sponsors inevitably crowded in around the high profile events, festivals and city venues with facilities for canapés, champagne and other corporate entertainment. This has been fantastic for those in this sector but always, unfairly, made other less corporately-alluring arts organisations feel a bit of a failure.

In response to the downturn, A&B has been promoting a programme of private philanthropy, in what could be described as Arts and the Individual Investor. The individual is key to future support.  While arts organisations have focussed their professional resources on chasing corporate sponsorship, trusts and funds, many have neglected their committed communities, dismissing ‘friends’ organisations as tiresome amateurs.  Yet individuals and members of the audience may represent the most sustainable source of income for the next period. A&B are behind the arts strand of The Big Give, channelling government funds to match individual donations pound for pound.  The power of the crowd is being increasingly harnessed by other creative industries, most notably in films and in publishing, through crowdfunding, where individuals buy a stake in a creative venture. Whereas in movies, investors might hope to get a financial return on their investment, the motives in the arts will be altruistic, like those philanthropists in the New York Kickstarter web crowdfunding project which has generated some $20m arts, film and design projects.

Altruism is a key value in Scottish society and benevolence sits more comfortably for many than the boosterish bashes of high profile business sponsorship. Scotland has produced generations of philanthropists with a passion for public access to culture, from Andrew Carnegie who gave the US and UK libraries, to Robert and Nicky Wilson who have made the fabulous Jupiter Artland.  The latest altruistic artistic gift was unveiled last week without any song and dance at all, without help from governments, public agencies and the like.

An anonymous benefactor provided the £3m Edinburgh Art Prize  which was awarded last week to the Edinburgh Sculpture Studios for the Creative Laboratories designed by Sutherland Hussey.  The Creative Laboratories will allow space for artistic innovation and experiment, driven by ideas and not income targets.  The donor won’t be recognised at an A&B party, through a platinum membership or be plied with drinks at the interval.  In the best traditions of benevolence, he or she will be rewarded by the knowledge that this gift will allow experimentation and artistic development – and maybe the next Michelangelo to emerge.  We need to allow more discreet donations from individuals as subsidy declines and bring out the benevolent best in our communities.