An open letter to Creative Scotland from Scotland’s dance community
Cc. Sir Sandy Crombie, Venu Dhupa, Anita Clark
20 June 2012
The Work Room is a membership organisation that represents over 80 independent dance artists and companies, offering support, time and space for artists to research and develop new work.
As you would expect from an organisation which promotes our constituency, we are keen to effect positive change on behalf of the audiences we serve. It is in this spirit that we are writing to you. Recent discussion with members has revealed deep concern that the way Creative Scotland works with artists, and recent proposals to restructure investment, have the potential to destabilise what is already a fragile independent arts sector in Scotland.
We value your endorsement that you recognise that the dance sector in Scotland punches well above its weight. It is to be celebrated that increasingly our artists are respected across the UK and internationally. Sadly, however, we risk losing some of our brightest talents since they feel that infrastructure and investment changes do not support them. The reality is that it is now more difficult than ever to generate an income through working as an artist. We cannot replace excellence, craft or experience with volunteer labour.
We would ask that you consider whether it is appropriate that some of your communications messages appear to place artists in opposition to the public. In countries all over Europe there is Government-aided support for artists to promote economic growth through the arts and cultural sectors. There is a wealth of data that demonstrates achievement via these kinds of strategies. Artists are already on the front lines working with the public; indeed it is their calling to serve the public. We all wish to make a better future for Scotland’s people, by making the best work and ensuring it is at the heart of Scottish cultural life. Artists are key stakeholders in this vision; they are Scotland’s people.
We are concerned that responsibility for major decision-making is in the hands of too few and that these processes are not transparent. We would like to understand why overarching decisions about the future infrastructure have been taken before the outcomes of the sector reviews are published. We welcome new models and ideas, but we would also like to be able to share with you the wealth of our experience.
Our sector is complex, collaborative and interconnected, and we do not feel that market economy models are stable or appropriate for future sustainability. This position is based on our observation of the economic circumstances at ground level, where market-driven models do not (yet) achieve results. We would be keen to enter into the thinking around this question, and wonder, for example, how Creative Scotland plans to prevent monopolies and stagnation or provide stimuli crucial for independents and sole traders?
We hear repeated concerns that many of the current processes for Creative Scotland investment streams are adversely affecting the work of independent artists. At times conflicting information is distributed by Creative Scotland staff; individuals/organisations have been advised to apply for programmes which do not meet their needs; budgetary requirements have been misadvised; applicants report difficulty obtaining meetings or speaking to staff on the telephone; and the outcomes of applications are sometimes delayed beyond your published turnaround time of 3 months. These outcomes risk affecting the functional livelihoods of artists and their long-term credibility and relationships in the international sector. Artists are fearful to report these issues, since they do not wish their applications to be assessed unfairly. These concerns might be assuaged, but key to this is to ensure transparency and include future safeguards such as specialist advisors, selection panels and public reports.
We are keen to do whatever we can to make cultural life in Scotland stronger and more enriching. Most of us contributed our minds and hearts to the Dance Review process, and know that this will represent a sector that is hungry to aspire to quality and to serve/benefit the people of Scotland with our work. We are hopeful that together we can determine ambitious proposals and a long term vision for the development of Dance and movement arts in Scotland. Understanding that all momentous change is a long process, which requires the input of many, we would urge you to take on board the recommendations of the Dance Review and integrate that into your future thinking.
As a sector we are energised and look forward to embracing positive changes. We are open and willing to continue the conversation and play our part in making Scotland a leader on the world stage.
We would like to request a meeting with you to discuss these concerns. Our imperative in writing to you is to be open about the issues that are being fed back to us, with the aim of generating a dialogue around how to preserve and grow opportunity for artists to work in and from Scotland.
The Work Room
Independent Dance Membership