Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Creative Scotland - A Timeline

The following is from Jennie Macfie's much needed overview of the visisble processes by which 'the arts' arrived at this juncture with Creative Scotland:

Foreword - Santayana famously said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". Perhaps it's time we started reminding each other about the process that led to the setting up of Creative Scotland. This timeline attempts to do that and to pull together in one place the consultations and reports that have been compiled so far.
The information here has been drawn from personal notes,  gleaned online, and owes a particular debt to the online archives of Variant and the timeline at
If you notice omissions or facts that are incorrect, please post them in the comments section.

Creative Scotland - A Timeline

1999 May - 2005 June

2006 January - 2012 December

2013 January - …

Afterword - All the success stories I've ever been part of or have come across, whether in business and in the arts, in Scotland, England, Europe or overseas, have originated in individuals with a vision, a vision they cared passionately about and had the courage, conviction, and dedication to make real. This is so fundamental an aspect of what it is to be an artist or what is usually called an entrepreneur that we usually assume everyone understands it.
Now we've had nearly fourteen years of consultations and conferences and seminars and summits and workgroups in which the people Scotland have talked about Creative Scotland, before and after the organisation came into being.  Re-reading the 1999 survey, it's striking how many of the responses are as true today as they were then. There must be rooms full of paperwork and servers full of data.
Millions of pounds have been spent on the processes that led to Creative Scotland, money which surely could have been better spent on encouraging people in Scotland to be creative.
During the decade that it took to bring Creative Scotland into existence, banks failed, credit crunched, property bubbles burst and whole countries went bankrupt but the idea that market-oriented management* of the public sector was the best way of moving forward went seemingly unquestioned by the organisation's midwives.
And finally, here is the Scottish Government's  Gateway to Scotland website. The  Visit Scotland page links to VisitScotland's website. The Creative Scotland tab does not mention the eponymous agency. First noticed in 2010, the assumption was that once CS' permanent website was in place, it would be linked but so far this does not seem to be the case.

*See Managerialism 
"In Managerialism, there is a belief that organizations have more similarities than differences, and thus the performance of all organizations can be optimized by the application of generic management skills and theory. To a practitioner of Managerialism, there is little difference in the skills required to run a college, an advertising agency or an oil rig. Experience and skills pertinent to an organization's core business are considered secondary".

Jennie Macfie, March 2013

Sunday, 24 February 2013

change management

"A collaborative and respectful relationship between Creative Scotland and those we are here to serve is a necessity in order to ensure that the arts, screen and creative industries continue to thrive.
It is clear that, in the first two years of Creative Scotland’s existence, this has not been successfully achieved across all sectors we work with.
To rectify this, we have embarked on a programme of change, the key themes of which were announced in the Board statement of 7 December 2012. […]"
Who's not tired of the predominance of consultancies that push futurology? -'imagine here-or-there or this-or-that at some projected point in some future or other', omitting how we understand our present existing circumstances and the life-processes of how we actually interactively produce our many possible futures, though not under self-selected circumstances (despite what those consultancies may want us to believe).

What would activity look like, not to "help shape the future for Creative Scotland" but to 'actually' understand the 'today' of Creative Scotland and 'intervene' in it on the basis of strengthening equality in the present? As what other legitimate basis might there be?

Flattery and fears-of-fragility aside, would a "collaborative and respectful relationship" not be making selective claims that "arts, screen and creative industries continue to thrive" - when some orgs may be surviving, with many no longer in existence. It certainly wouldn't assert the reinforcement of an 'industries' concept for all - which in fact is the acute problem. Nor would it defensively use the verb "continue" so as give the impression of continuity where in fact the legislative basis for cultural provision in Scotland has changed very significantly.

So what are we told is to be 'rectified' and how? The predominant themes of the board (with *) and some brief notes in response:

* "…change Creative Scotland’s operational structure to give staff the freedom to use their specialist knowledge more effectively." "[Enable] more effective use of staff specialist knowledge and expertise, increasing autonomy of decision-making and increasing the visibility of, and access to, this expertise."

[How does this counter initially recognised problems? Does it not merely reassert the power of perceptibly closed networks of patronage (the "art form silos")? Who safeguards the limits beyond which this autonomy cannot be stretched without falling back onto clientelism? Isn't the danger that 'change' will be being fronted by staff who are also being put in a position of increased pressure to protect particular art form interests? Who are the winners and losers?]

* "Changes to make the language and tone of Creative Scotland more accessible…" "Changing the content and tone of our language to increase clarity and accessibility with a re-design of our application forms, guidance and other communications." "Emphasising the language of 'support' rather than 'investment' in both our values and operations."

[So a linguistic shift in emphasis, but how does this manifest itself in actual operational changes, other than merely how they're described? What does it in fact amount to? So, are we going to get investment or support in practice; and who is to receive either?]

* "…simplifying the routes through which individuals and organisations can access advice and funding."

[Is it the 'routes', the 'advice' or is it that which it is advising on? So as above, what does this amount to?]

* "…set up internal and external forums that allow artists, creative practitioners and staff to feed into policy development." "Creating effective regular consultative forums with artists and creative practitioners and staff to inform policy development and increase transparency." "Working with the sector to design the specific nature of these forums with the aim of a first open session in early 2013."

[How has CS now worked with 'the sector' on such forums? - with these forums, we have something tangible promised to assess. Who indeed constitutes 'the sector' in such instances - who does not?
Why is it considered right that CS should act as a non-neutral intermediary to policy change - a buffer between ScotGov and 'the sector'? What of the sector unions? ScotGov make cultural policy - ScotGov determine how and when CS reports to ScotGov. So is it in fact a function that CS at all has; something CS cannot impartially or otherwise follow through on? Is it not more about delivering 'the sector' to policy change, which is what CS is charged with doing?]

* "Stability is a core concern of many companies [and non-companies?] […] intend to offer that stability in a number of key ways:
- As soon as is practicable […] offer long term funding to organisations over a number of years, subject to a review of progress, but relieve them of the need to submit fresh applications annually.
- […] offer the security of multi-year funding to organisations, project funding for specific time limited work, and funding to individuals which may include partnerships."
- "Reviewing current funding models' to enable as many organisations as possible and appropriate to benefit from stable, multi-year arrangements. ..."

[That is, to reassert the previous funding hierarchy - for which there will be another round of 'reviews' to decide on which orgs are to be offered multi-year funding and which ones are not. Who does this benefit - and who not? Which institutional voices legitimised, which ones not? Might we also wish to offer stability to Creative Scotland? - to put back its term to the previous 5 years from its current 2 years, so as to facilitate arms length from ScotGov?]

* "…lottery funding should never be 'regarded' as a substitute for government sourced grant in aid…" - [includes] "…an end to the plans for 'strategic commissioning'."

[Not being 'regarded' a substitute is not the same as actually not 'being' a substitute - so how is Lottery being used, what is it being used for, and by whom?]

* "…re-building trust and confidence in the organisation…" "...They [staff] will be involved at every stage of this period of essential change."

[Aside from the time-limited nature of what's presented - whereas we undergo change all the time - what if it's not the organisation or the management I lack 'confidence' in? What if I think CS has done exactly what it's been brought about to do? What if my concern is not with 'trust' or 'confidence' or any other affective presence the charismatic management of an institution is supposed to project, but my concern is in fact what the organisation and its relationships are actually founded upon - the legislation and ScotGov's policy. That CS is constitutive of that policy - "To contribute to the Scottish Government's central purpose - increasing the rate of sustainable economic growth" - which is the re-framing of cultural production within the market (and in its 'Scottishness') and (allegedly) supplementing the economy (e.g. massive spending on tourism projects).]

* "…time that Creative Scotland stopped being the story." - "Reducing efforts on activity that could be construed as promoting Creative Scotland ahead of artists, creative practitioners or cultural organisations."

[A bit difficult as promotion is hardwired into CS's existence, in its need to generate additional income and to compete for it - like any other cultural organisation. Something which structurally differentiates it from what went before. It's also disingenuous, as overall this is about managing the perception of change.]

* "…moderate the pace of change to enable better planning and consultation internally and externally."

[So there we have it: TINA, There Is No Alternative - the problem is not in what CS is doing or why it should be doing it, it's merely the 'pace' and presentation of it. But what should we expect? If all the board hear is the problem's not what they're doing but how they communicate it, one might be given to forgive the board for thinking it's all just a matter of perception and marketing, not content.]