Sunday, 16 January 2011

compulsion of National intimacy

Scottish artists offered funds to get away from it all in Highland retreats

• Residential plan hopes to uncover future talent

• £1m initiative contrasts with big cuts in England

• Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent, Friday 14 January 2011 20.35 GMT

Up to 1,000 artists, musicians and writers are to be offered government-funded residencies on remote Scottish islands, at art centres and Highland retreats in a new programme to fund new work.

The Guardian has learned that government arts agency Creative Scotland will this month unveil what it calls Europe's most ambitious artists' residencies initiative, one of several new funding plans supported by Edinburgh ministers.

The Creative Futures programme will support about 200 painters, dancers, poets, film-makers and visual artists each year over the next three to five years. They will be funded to work alone or as part of public arts projects in Scotland, elsewhere in the UK, or overseas. Arts executives hope the £1m-a-year initiative will find future winners of the Turner prize such as previous Scottish recipients Susan Philipsz and Douglas Gordon, and fund new writing and feature-length films.

Senior arts figures said the project highlighted a deep gap between the levels of funding and political support for the arts in England and Scotland.

Coalition ministers have caused consternation in the English arts world by cutting funding to Arts Council England by nearly 30% over the next four years, after the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's budget was cut by £300m.

Some cash-strapped English councils have slashed or entirely stopped their arts funding. By contrast, Creative Scotland – formed after last year's merger of the Scottish Arts Council and ScottishScreen – has the same budget in cash terms of £35.5m as last year, and also has a separate £10m music education programme.

Although the overall Scottish culture budget will fall next year by 6.7%, Fiona Hyslop, the arts minister, has kept £2m for promoting Scottish arts and theatre in the Edinburgh festivals for another year.

Andrew Dixon, Creative Scotland's chief executive, said there was cross-party support for the arts. He is able to fund more than 50 major arts events and companies, including the Edinburgh international festival, at the same level this year.

"Scotland is a small country, and there's a kind of pride in politicians, both at a local and national level, in what's being achieved here," he said. "They don't feel that in quite the same way in England. I think that's a real strength of the size of Scotland – a 30% cut doesn't half curtail your opportunities to plan long term."

Sandy Maberley, director of the Somerset-based theatre companyTheatre Melange, said artists in her area "will all be emigrating" to Scotland after the county council and two district councils entirely cut arts funding.

Maberley said it was important for arts organisations to avoid "playing the victim in this situation" but said the damage from the collapse in England's arts funding could take years to repair.

"Knocking something down is quick, and it's easy. The time to build it back up is incalculable," she said. "The arts are about a creative ecology and that includes economic wealth, social wealth and cultural benefits."

The Creative Futures initiative will be directed mainly at Scottish-based artists and creative workers but the residency programmes will also award places to artists based outside Scotland.Installation artist Gill Russell, whose latest work from a residency at the Sabhal Mor Ostaig Gaelic college on the island of Skye is now being exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh, said residencies were essential for artists.

She was given £9,000 by the Scottish Arts Council for a six-month residency at the college, which she extended to 18 months. "I realised there was a huge leap of faith in me and that's extremely rewarding," she said.

"You feel you're very much valued as an artist and that gives you a lot of confidence, instead of having to scramble around and clean loos to get by. Without that you don't have the energy, because it takes so much energy to produce good art."

She added: "The situation in England just makes me feel sad."

Ciara Barry, a Glasgow film producer, was given funding for a short film-makers' residency at the Rotterdam film festival and is now making her first feature film with the artist Henry Coombes, who was Scotland's representative at the Venice Biennale.

Her funding for the Rotterdam Lab event was crucial, she said. "I'm working towards my first feature film credit, so for me going to Rotterdam was the first time I was at an international networking event and meeting my peers. You can't make it all on your own, especially in this day and age."



15 January 2011 8:46AM

A great scheme demonstrating how Scottish politicians and Scotland value artists. The SNP had a manifesto commitment to support artists but Scotland does not have the fiscal autonomy to provide tax relief as the Irish government does and this scheme is particularly welcome.

But before anyone up sticks from Somerset, its worth remembering:

1. that the Scottish budget is for one year only, its a pre-election budget before the May elections for the Scottish partliament

2. local authorities in Scotland are facing the same challenges as in England with large cuts to absorb and neither a staturory responsibility for the arts nor an agreement to support culture. Hence the Somerset scenario could play out in Moray and other councils. Its only in Wales that local authorities have any agreement to support cultural outcomes.


15 January 2011 10:19PM

As one of the architects of Creative Scotland, Anne Bonnar has already corrected such unreflective churnalism:

There are many significant differences between both the budgets and the politics of Scotland and England as well as the cultural dimensions. The most important aspect regarding funding for culture in today's budget is that this is a one year holding budget from the SNP minority administration before next May's election. Another is that we have been spared the public flogging of the Arts Council of England because we have already taken the pain of abolishing the Scottish Arts Council in the course of establishing the more streamlined agency Creative Scotland.

But the overall cut to the culture budget is 10% which is higher than the 6.9% John Swinney cited as the standard cut applied to non ring-fenced services.

So its the next instalments which will shape the story.

annebonnar, 17 November 2010 9:47PM

The verdict on Scotland's arts budget: comparatively protected. (Or – 18/10/10 – is it?)

Charlotte Higgins

So what are the effects of compound cuts and stand still budgets in real terms in Scotland, now and beyond the forthcoming election?

More worrying is the degree of political instrumentalism and centralisation demonstrated here, that goes totally uncommented, as the Creative Scotland cuckoo transforms into a commissioning body in the pursuit of the construction of a National culture; an official Scottishness.

"Scotland is a small country", and it's feeling smaller by the day…


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