I attended the Creative Scotland open sessions on Tuesday. Creative Scotland Creative Scotland is the national development agency for the arts, screen and creative industries. Note the word development.
They have had a lot of bad press and are now holding these open sessions to ‘listen’ to the people . Whilst I applaud an acknowledgement of issues and I am hopeful that its not just hot air to quiet dissent , i also feel that its like me getting a new boss and they ask me to tell them what to do for them to do their job. But knowing there is a problem and acting on it is very positive…..I look forward to the ACTING on it part.
It worrying that they have been given so much power and don’t have the knowledge and skills to deliver. That they have to hold EXPENSIVE consultations to know how to do what they are set up to do.
I also feel that they way they are holding them is a bit skewed. I was sat at a table with people who give out jobs to artists. I was ‘put down’ a couple of times when trying to make a point and some of my points didn’t make it to list of points being taken forward. This also happened to another person.
One of the issues here in the Highlands is that everyone knows everyone and if you have your card marked you don’t work…so stepping out of line is very hard if you want to work and eat. Even just speaking up is doom here. We don’t have a choice of organisations to go to for work. Often one person holds a position which decides who gets work. We don’t have independent arts bodies, so if you don’t agree with a decision or say something wrong (whatever that might be) you are out.
This was present at the open session. I wish I had gone to a session elsewhere so that I could speak openly. But perhaps I was on the wrong table?
So what was it like….. firstly there was the usual lack of communication… We arrived early to get lunch ( we didn’t want to be distracting with harmonised tummy rumbles) We sat in the cafe as all the good and the great filtered in. No one said where we were to go. No signs. So we just waited until 11.50 and asked at reception. We were told everyone was waiting in the restaurant .. so we went in looking lost… and eventually just took a seat. Other artists came in and recognising us from the gallery sat with us. Then a massive buffet of cold wraps and sandwiches came out. No one said it was for us, we were left to glean it from the people around us. We didn’t know there was going to be food or this opportunity to ‘network’ Not that it was as everyone just sat in their own group …wouldn’t it have been better to give us all a number then number the tables so that we were mixed? Opportunity missed.
Our invite said it started at 12 noon. No….. people were still drifting in at 12.30 so now I figure we didn’t get some vital info that others had. Then without notice people started to get up and drift off. Again no announcement or sharing info. Lots of people looked lost and then just followed the others into another room.
The ‘up’ of the event was that Pat Kane of Hue and Cry (eighties band) was facilitating the event and he was really good at it. At times he used word that were beyond me and in fact there was a lot of that around the room. Something I think the creative industries love… it makes them feel highbrow. A musician commented on this after we left… the use of language /jargon /buzzwords which makes them feel elite.
For me ( and some of the other artists I talked to) the day was very interesting, but we felt on the outside as a large percent of the debate was on organisation funding.
The people who attended were very articulate and passionate about the Arts in Scotland. There was a lot to take in and the points made were extremely valid. At other tables there were amazing debates and lots of conversation. At Q&A the issues raised and suggestion made were enlightening and spot on. You can read about it here
I was also disappointed with the numbers…. one artist raised the fact that had someone not told them, they wouldn’t have known the event was on. This was echoed by others in the room. Perhaps the spend on sarnies would have been better used on an advert in the ICA? or maybe Hi-arts should be using its extensive mailing list ….this is important after all.
An artist at my table and I tried to bring up that we felt the funding funding funding culture was wrong, that people need to find ways to generate some of the finances required and that Creative Scotland could be providing support to do that. It didn’t get written down on our tables page to be added to the brain storming at Creative Scotland. We also felt (as did Northlands Glass) that they should do more to ensure that communities have some kind of legacy from arts events etc. and that Creative Scotland could do more to support that through skills and help to raise their own funds.
Often as an artist I have to find money for projects I am working on. I either have to bootstrap (work else where to fund it) or just add in my own earnings to complete it. This is the experience of most artists I have had contact with. So to sit at a table and listen to nothing but give us the money was very disappointing. Esp as Moray has just had 100% arts funding cuts which we all can’t rule out in the Highland Council region… lets also talk about Creative Scotland as a support and knowledge base, which brings me back to the fact that it is a development agency.