A hundred names from the Scottish arts establishment – including Ian Rankin, Douglas Gordon and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies – have expressed their dismay at Creative Scotland's policies with a heartfelt open letter
Over 100 Scottish artists, including three Turner-prize winners, a Booker winner and a winner of the Costa award have written an open letter protesting at the "deepening malaise" at Creative Scotland. It is the latest iteration of what now looks like an unbreachable rift between the Scottish arts community and their national funding body.
Signatories amount to the bulk of the Scottish arts establishment. As well as the artist Douglas Gordon, and novelists James Kelman and AL Kennedy, they include the Scots national poet Liz Lochhead, master of the Queen's music Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and writer Alasdair Gray.
The artists write of Creative Scotland's "ill-conceived decision-making; unclear language [and] lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture". They accuse it of a "confused and intrusive management style married to a corporate ethos that seems designed to set artist against artist and company against company".
Playwrights David Harrower, Zinnie Harris and David Greig are signatories, as is poet Don Paterson. Prominent artists include Richard Wright, Martin Boyce, David Shrigley, Karla Black and Nathan Coley. Writers Ian Rankin and Andrew O'Hagan have also signed.
(Scroll down for the letter in full.)
Trust between artists and the body, which handles an £83m budget, is "low and receding daily", they say. Concerns raised publicly and privately "have gone unanswered or been met with defensiveness, outright denial, or been ascribed to problems with 'communication'."
The crisis began in the summer, when artists expressed dismay that 49 arts organisations had been taken off regular funding and placed on one-year, project-based grants, denying them, argued the organisations, the necessary stability to flourish.
But the problems went much deeper, as fears began to grow about Creative Scotland's perceived lack of transparency; a reliance on the language of business and the commercial sector; and a focus on "strategic commissioning", which, it was argued, gave too much power to Creative Scotland and removed agency from artists. Privately, some expressed fears that they would be "punished" for speaking out against the body. A host of blogs and open letters began to be addressed to Creative Scotland's chief executive Andrew Dixon and its chairman, Sir Sandy Crombie. Culture minister Fiona Hyslop also expressed concerns to the funding body.
It had been hoped that pressure exerted on Creative Scotland by members of its board over the summer would lessen the crisis, but frustration has only increased. The open letter does not call on Dixon or his most senior colleague, creative director Venu Dhupa, to step down, but the crisis is now so deep that resignations seem increasingly likely.
The artists call for a "fresh start" with a seven-point list of demands, including the end of "business-speak and obfuscating jargon in official communication" and a revisiting of Creative Scotland's priorities with an eye to "social and cultural as well as commercial values".
A spokesperson at Creative Scotland said: "We are totally committed to working collaboratively with the arts and culture sector, we are listening very closely to what that sector is telling us and we are taking positive action as a result across a number of operational and strategic areas."
The letter in full:
Dear Sir Sandy
We write to express our dismay at the ongoing crisis in Creative Scotland. A series of high-profile stories in various media are only one sign of a deepening malaise within the organisation, the fall-out from which confronts those of us who work in the arts in Scotland every day.
Routinely, we see ill-conceived decision-making; unclear language, lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture. We observe an organisation with a confused and intrusive management style married to a corporate ethos that seems designed to set artist against artist and company against company in the search for resources.
This letter is not about money. This letter is about management. The arts are one of Scotland's proudest assets and most successful exports. We believe existing resources are best managed in an atmosphere of trust between those who make art and those who fund it. At present, this trust is low and receding daily.
In his address to Holyrood, Mr Dixon asked why more artists do not address their concerns to him directly: the answer is straightforward; they have. Letters of concern have been sent by representative groups from theatre, dance, the games industry, visual arts and literature. Individual voices have also been raised from many quarters both privately and in public. These concerns have gone unanswered or been met with defensiveness, outright denial, or been ascribed to problems with "communication".
It is time for a fresh start. We ask that the board of Creative Scotland considers the following requests with the utmost urgency. We ask that you:
1. genuinely acknowledge the scale of the problem;
2. affirm the value of stable two to three year funding for small arts organisations;
3. end the use of business-speak and obfuscating jargon in official communication;
4. revisit CS policies with an eye to social and cultural as well as commercial values;
5. collaborate with artists to re-design over-complicated funding forms and processes;
6. ensure that funding decisions are taken by people with artform expertise;
7. establish an effective system of dealing with complaints as swiftly as possible.
We do not sign this letter lightly but we feel we are in an unprecedented situation. We call on you to act swiftly to make what changes are necessary to the organisation to repair trust and restore communication before any further damage is done to Scotland's cultural landscape and international reputation.
Sam Ainsley, Davey Anderson, Peter Arnott, Clare Barclay, Anne Bevan, Karla Black, Martin Boyce, Katrina Brown (Dr), Tam Dean Burn, Roddy Buchanan, John Byrne, Lorne Campbell, Richard Campbell, Jo Clifford, Nathan Coley, Deborah Crewe, Jeannie Davies, Peter Maxwell Davies (Sir), Chloe Dear, Finn den Hertog, Ella Hickson, Roanne Dods, Jude Doherty, Jaqueline Donachie, Joe Douglas, Rob Drummond, Oliver Emmanuel, Catrin Evans, Rob Evans, Graham Fagen, Andy Field, Pat Fisher, Luke Fowler, Fiona Fraser, Vivian French, Janice Galloway, Andrea Gibb, Suzy Glass, Douglas Gordon (Prof), Mickey Graham, Alasdair Gray, Stephen Greenhorn, David Greig, Kris Haddow, David Harding OBE, John Harris, Zinnie Harris, Ben Harrison, David Harrower, Lewis Hetherington, Corrina Hewat, Mark Hope, Philip Howard, Kieran Hurley, Chris Hunn, Callum Innes, Kathleen Jamie, David Paul Jones, James Kelman, AL Kennedy, Laura Cameron Lewis, Liz Lochhead, Ali Maclaurin, Linda Maclean, James Macmillan, Caoihin MacNeill, Aonghas MacNicol, Willy Maley (Prof), Andy Manley, Michael John McCarthy, Nicola McCartney, Francis McKee, Bernard McLaverty, Alan McKendrick, Linda Mclaughlin, Becky Minto, Alexander Moffat OBE, Gerry Mulgrew, Rona Munro, Andrew O'Hagan, Janice Parker, Don Paterson, Toby Paterson, Mary Paulson Ellis, Aonghas Phadraig Caimpbeul, Philip Pinsky, Karine Polwart, Lynda Radley, Ian Rankin, Robin Robertson, Fiona Robson, Muriel Romanes, Lesley Anne Rose, Lisa Sangster, David Shrigley, Ross Sinclair, Gerda Stevenson, Pete Stollery (Prof), Richard Wright