Holyrood rejects inquiry into Glasgow School of Art fires 

17 Jun 2024

The Scottish government will not support calls for a public inquiry into two fires that caused extensive damage to Glasgow School of Art (GSA) because the required resources would be “extensive” and “difficult to justify”.

The Grade A-listed Charles Rennie Mackintosh building was extensively damaged in a blaze on 23 May 2014. Following a £35m restoration project that was close to completion, the school suffered a second, even more destructive fire four years later on 18 June 2018. 

A report by fire investigators in 2022 said the cause of the second fire was undetermined. The Scottish parliament’s Culture Committee had recommended a public inquiry with judicial powers to examine the risks posed by fire in historic buildings.

Addressing the committee last week, Culture Secretary Angus Robertson said a review had been considered but the government did not support the recommendation in part because most Grade A-listed buildings - including GSA - are privately owned.

Robertson said neither the Scottish government nor Historic Environment Scotland had the "necessary frameworks or regulations currently in place to implement such a comprehensive review".

In a letter to MSPs, Robertson said that the "resources required, not just financially but in terms of expertise and personnel, would be extensive".

"Given the current financial landscape, it is difficult to identify a way that this could be funded, or justified, given the protections already given to historic buildings in fire safety and construction legislation, and the progress already made since the 2018 fire."

Scottish Funding Council cuts grants to university museums 

30 May 2024

University museums, galleries, and collections in Scotland are facing a 20% reduction in the grants they receive from the funding body for higher education in 2024/25, while those with unrecognised collections will not receive any support.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) said it had reduced the budget by 26% from £1.2m in 2023/24 to £884,000 in 2024/25 in response to a “particularly challenging” budget.

University museums that do not hold recognised collections will be removed entirely from the grant allocation, while institutions with recognised collections will see their grants reduced by 20%.

Museums Galleries Scotland said the cut would “halt excellent collaborative work”, while University Museums in Scotland (UMIS) has written to SFC to reverse the move. 

UMIS told the Museums Association that the cut was made without consultation or impact assessment. They warned that the decision would put Scottish institutions in a worse position than the rest of the UK, notably as Research England has awarded a 20% uplift in its Higher Education Museums, Galleries, and Collections Fund.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Funding Council said: “We understand the value of the university museums, galleries and collections. However, in the context of a particularly challenging budget settlement, we cannot afford to fund everything, and we have had to make some very difficult choices.

“We will continue to invest £884,000 in supporting university museums, galleries and collections which have Recognised Collections of National Significance to Scotland as designated and supported by the Museums Galleries Scotland Recognition Scheme.”

Concern expressed over axing of Scotland's Culture Minister

22 May 2024

First Minister John Swinney's decision to axe Scotland's Minister for Culture is causing concern in Edinburgh's festival sector.

The responsibilities of the axed ministerial position have been folded into Angus Robertson’s brief as the Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture.

Speaking to Scotland's The Herald newspaper, Francesca Hegyi, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh International Festival, said: “We note that Constitution, External Affairs and Culture now sits as the only portfolio within the Scottish Government where a Cabinet Secretary has no direct ministerial support.

“A commitment to work collaboratively and a focus on driving economic growth is essential if Scotland is to thrive and so we look forward to understanding how the Scottish Government plans to address the urgent issues faced by the festivals and the broader arts and culture sector."

Robertson, who is MSP for Edinburgh Central, states in the most recent register of interests – which dates from before the reshuffle – that he has recused himself "on decisions of support for the Edinburgh Festivals" for conflict of interest reasons.

The register goes on to state that all the issues he has recused himself from will be dealt with by... the Minister for Culture.

Creative Scotland accused of misleading MSPs

22 May 2024

Scotland's First Minister John Swinney has demanded "a very full and comprehensive explanation from Creative Scotland" after the arts funding body was accused of misleading MSPs over a three-screen art installation it supported that would have included non-simulated sex acts.

REIN, directed by Leonie Rae Gasson, was awarded £85,000 by Creative Scotland to develop what was described as “an exploration of dyke sexuality”.

The funding was later withdrawn after concerns were raised when the project's website advertised for people to take part in "non-simulated" sex, including "hardcore" acts.

Iain Munro, Creative Scotland's Chief Executive, has stated that the organisation did not know that the project would include non-simulated sex when it awarded the funding. 

In a letter to Holyrood’s Culture Committee in March he claimed the REIN application had initially stated that sex acts would simulated.

However, documents released under Freedom of Information show that the successful application made clear that there would be “work on a sex scene with genital contact" involving three members of the cast.

Swinney said: “The Culture Secretary [Angus Robertson] has expressed his concerns about the information that’s come to light and he’s asked for urgent discussions with the chair and chief executive of Creative Scotland because we have got to understand the substance of this issue.

“I share the concerns that the Culture Secretary has expressed and I think we need to see a very full and comprehensive explanation from Creative Scotland.”

Popular Edinburgh Fringe venue put up for sale

14 May 2024

One of the best-known Edinburgh Fringe venues has been put up for sale.

The Herald reports that Oesselmann Estate Limited, owners of Summerhall Arts Centre, has announced its intention to sell the building.

Estate agents CuthbertWhite say prospective owners have several "refurbishment options," including residential, offices, or student housing.

Robert McDowell, Director of Summerhall Management Ltd, which has been running the building since 2011, said: “I am so proud to say that I have been part of building a space that adheres to the original spirit of the festival and has provided a space for artists, creators and makers to play, build and grow over the years.

“My hope is that with new owners buying the building, Summerhall will be strengthened for the future - and continue its miraculously extraordinary activities, new investment and vigour for the next decade and beyond.”

Theatre Clwyd boss calls for breakdown of UK funding borders

Liam Evans-Ford
29 Apr 2024

Arts leaders from the devolved nations have called for the establishment of an arts fund dedicated to UK and international touring.

Scottish new writing project closes after funding rejection

23 Apr 2024

An Edinburgh-based writing showcase and networking event says it is closing for the foreseeable future after missing out on Creative Scotland project funding.

Page2Stage had previously received Creative Scotland Open Fund grants of almost £7,500 and £19,000 in 2022 and 2023.

Its funding bid for 2024 has been rejected twice, meaning it cannot apply again, as per Creative Scotland’s funding guidelines.

The funder says it is currently only able to support 30% of Open Fund applications, despite 75% being recommended for funding. 

“Difficult decisions are being made on a daily basis,” Creative Scotland said in a statement, adding that “demand is increasing while the funding available to us is not”.

Page2Stage Producer Michelle McKay told The Stage that despite the closure, the event is regrouping and looking at what other funding is available: “We are not giving up because we absolutely believe in what we do,” McKay said.

Cancelled Glasgow festival receives unexpected donation

17 Apr 2024

Glasgow book festival Aye Write, which was cancelled last month after Creative Scotland turned down its funding application, has received an unexpected £65,000 donation that will enable it to host more author events.

While the full festival – last year 175 authors appeared across 10 days – will not go ahead, the money will go towards an increased number of pop-up author events throughout 2024. 

Wee Write, a festival for children and young people, will also now go ahead in autumn, albeit on a reduced scale.

The money, from the foundation set up by the late EuroMillions lottery winner Colin Weir, was described as “unexpected, but very welcome” by Glasgow Life, the council-funded charity that runs Aye Write.

Annette Christie, Chair of Glasgow Life, said the donation meant Aye Write “can continue to have a positive impact on Glaswegians and people throughout Scotland”.

A spokesperson for Weir’s foundation commented: “It was unthinkable that Aye Write should be silenced until next year. Happily, the donation means that won’t be the case.”

Glasgow Life said it will continue to develop a multi-year funding application to Creative Scotland for future festivals.

Scottish performing arts academy renamed

17 Apr 2024

The Scottish Institute of Theatre, Dance, Film & Television (The SI) has been announced as the new name for Scotland's MGA Academy of Performing Arts.

The renaming was instigated by the school's new owners, Irish production house Silver Rock Studios. Funding for the school has been secured from West Lothian Council, Creative Scotland, and the Scottish Government.

The institute, Scotland's only school accredited by the Council for Dance, Drama and Musical Theatre (CDMT), is now based in a campus in Livingston and will be open to international students for the first time.

President and CEO of The SI, Andy Egan, said: “It is an honour to introduce The Scottish Institute and open our brand new campus to our wonderful students, staff and visitors.

"The institute is built on the academy’s reputation and our roots in Edinburgh. This pivotal expansion further marks our commitment to fostering an environment where creativity, learning and profession development take centre stage."

He added: "As we invite our students to our new, state-of-the-art Livingston campus we aspire to nurture a hub that champions creativity, entrepreneurship and learning to inspire the next generation of talent.”


Creative Scotland defends decision to fund 'real sex' art project

16 Apr 2024

Creative Scotland has defended its decision to fund a film installation featuring participants engaging in "non-simulated" sex.

The REIN project, which was initially presented as “an exploration of dyke sexuality”, secured more than £110,000 of lottery funding from the Scottish arts body. 

Support was cancelled when concerns were raised that the project's website was advertising for people to take part in "non-simulated" sex, including "hardcore" acts.

MSPs were told that Creative Scotland had since reclaimed £76,196 from the project.

In a letter to a Scottish parliament committee, Creative Scotland Chief Executive Iain Munro defended the initial grant and praised REIN Director Leonie Rae Gasson's "track record".

He said the application showed a "clear storytelling narrative, strong sexual themes and simulated sexual performance, and would speak to a particular audience rather than the mainstream".

He added that it was important for Creative Scotland to support work "representative of all parts of Scottish society, including those who are more marginalised". 

It was not until March that the funding body became aware of the intention to include real sex, which Munro said "took the project into unacceptable territory" for public funding. 

Those behind the REIN project have disagreed with Creative Scotland's version of events.

A statement sent to The Herald newspaper said they "do not agree that they misled the funding body" and that they were not given any opportunity "to work towards a joint resolution or alternative outcome prior to the funding body's decision to defund the work". 

Edinburgh Fringe artists' funding scheme extended

04 Apr 2024

An initiative which financially supports UK-based artists and companies taking work to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has been extended by two years as a result of £1m capital funding to the Fringe Society from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said the funding would "protect this talent pipeline and nurture the next generation of British artists [by] improving the festival’s accessibility". 

Launched last year, the Keep it Fringe fund saw more than 670 artists apply for 50 bursaries. 

Across 2024 and 2025, the extended programme will offer 360 bursaries -180 each year - of £2,500 each. Of this, £ 2,000 will be paid upfront, with the remaining £500 to support admin and reporting to be paid after the festival.

Applicants will be assessed by "external specialists" to identify those that demonstrate "the greatest need and the boldest ideas".

The Fringe Society says £900,000 of the £1m from DCMS will go directly to support artists over the two years, with £50,000 per year used to support administration and payment to freelance assessors involved in the process, as well as accessibility and event support for funded artists at during the Fringe.

The announcement comes after the Fringe Society revealed it has been turned down for support twice in the space of a month by national funding body Creative Scotland.

Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Fringe Society, said: “We recognise that for many, the financial challenges of putting on a show can prevent some artists from coming to the festival. This funding will enable the Edinburgh Fringe to be more accessible than ever to artists from across the UK.”

Honorary Fringe Society President Phoebe Waller-Bridge added: “To have the government support this fund is to feel the sun come out from behind a cloud. Thank you to the Fringe Society for endlessly campaigning for artists, and thank you to those in government for recognising the cultural importance of the Fringe and the artistic freedom that defines it.”

Scotland outlines ambitions to rejoin Creative Europe

The Royal Scottish Academy building decorated during the Edinburgh International Festival,
04 Apr 2024

The Scottish Government will review its international cultural funding and look into developing a support service for cultural export and exchange as part of a new International Cultural Strategy.

Support for creatives who are carers 'should be mainstreamed'

Barrowland Ballet presents Family Portrait
04 Apr 2024

Evaluation of carer support programme funded by Creative Scotland finds that despite a strong positive response from participants and organisations there are questions concerning sustainability.

Creative Scotland delays funding decisions amid internal review

27 Mar 2024

Creative Scotland has deferred decision-making for its Open Fund for Individuals by up to four weeks while conducting an internal review to identify areas for improvement in its awarding process.

The move follows public and political fallout after its decision to award £85,000 to a controversial film featuring actors in “non-simulated” sex scenes. 

Scottish Parliament has launched a separate probe into Creative Scotland’s decision to back the project, asking the funding body to provide MSPs with details of the full criteria and process for handling funding applications.

Creative Scotland has revoked its support for the film and is seeking recovery of the funding.

A statement from Creative Scotland said that the review of its Open Fund for Individuals will result in “a short, temporary extension to existing timelines to enable additional assurance on applications that are recommended for funding.”

It confirmed that the process would not affect projects already issued a funding contract and aimed to “minimise impact on applicants”.

Edinburgh Filmhouse to reopen after receiving £1.5m grant

Edinburgh Filmhouse
25 Mar 2024

The independent cinema, which closed in 2022, will use the grant to modernise its facilities, offering improved access and facilities.

Creative Scotland withdraws 'sex project' funding

14 Mar 2024

Creative Scotland has withdrawn funding for a project featuring participants engaging in "non-simulated" sex and "hardcore" acts.

The funding body had previously agreed to award £85,000 for the development of the Rein project, a 45-minute film by director Leonie Rae Gasson that was initially presented as “an exploration of dyke sexuality”.

But concerns were raised after the project's website advertised for people to take part in "non-simulated" sex, including "hardcore" acts for a fee of £270 per day.

A statement issued by Creative Scotland today (14 March) said the latest phase of the project "represents a breach of the conditions of funding award, as the nature of the project has changed". 

"The central role that ‘non-simulated’ (i.e real) sex acts now play in the project, marks a significant change to the nature of the work presented in the original application which was assessed for funding," the statement said. 

"Following a review of the application, assessment, and contractual agreement regarding the project Rein, Creative Scotland has made the decision to withdraw support for this project and will be seeking recovery of funding paid in respect of this award to date."

Earlier this week Scotland's Culture Secretary Angus Robertson told the Scottish parliament that Rein should not have received public money and that he “shared the concerns that have been raised”.

Scotland calls for action on culture visas

08 Mar 2024

Practical solutions need to be found to ensure the visa process for international artists coming to contribute to cultural events in Scotland is as smooth and straightforward as possible, Scotland's Culture Secretary Angus Robertson has said.

In a letter to UK Home Secretary James Cleverly, Robertson highlighted the vitally important contribution these artists make to the success of events in Scotland. 

He has called for an urgent meeting with the Home Office to discuss what can be done to remove barriers, which he said put extra financial and administrative pressure on cultural organisations and creative professionals.

"I am increasingly concerned that the Home Office’s procedures for processing visa applications are having a negative impact on the ability of international artists and creative professionals to contribute to cultural events in Scotland," Robertson said in the letter. 

"Each year we hear examples of creative professionals having their work disrupted or delayed, and festivals and events facing challenges programming international performers due to delays with the UK visa process. 

"Approaches to immigration can often lead to discriminatory outcomes for people from minority ethnic backgrounds through combinations of post-colonial legacies, unconscious and conscious bias, and systemic or institutional racism. 

"Stakeholders have repeatedly raised their concerns of this worrying trend and its impact on our culture sector."

Activists arrested after Kelvingrove protest

04 Mar 2024

Two climate activists have been arrested following alleged vandalism at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

Climate activist group This is Rigged said protesters staged a demonstration on 3 March to raise awareness about rising food insecurity in the UK. They are calling on the Scottish Government to implement a community food hub for every 500 households in Scotland.

In footage posted on social media, protesters were seen pouring porridge and jam on a bust of Queen Victoria and graffitiing its plinth.

In a statement, the group said: "We refuse to be dragged back to the Victorian era. Diseases such as rickets, which once haunted Victorian slums, are now on a sharp rise in Scotland, with 356 diagnoses in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area last year."

Police Scotland said officers were called to the attraction in Glasgow's West End at about 11:55 on Sunday and that two women, aged 23 and 30, were charged following the incident involving a Queen Victoria bust.

They were released to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court at a later date.

Scores of Scottish arts organisations miss out on multi-year funding

28 Feb 2024

More than 70 arts and culture organisations in Scotland have failed in their bids to gain multi-year funding from Creative Scotland.

Announcing the results of the first of a two-stage application process, the funding body said that of the 361 applications received, 10 were not eligible for assessment, with a further 66 found to not meet the criteria, meaning their applications will not proceed to stage two. 

Iain Munro, Creative Scotland’s Chief Executive said the range and breadth of applications received were "testament to the ambition and potential that exists across Scotland's culture and creative sector". 

"Today's announcement represents the outcome from Stage One of the process, with successful applicants now progressing to stage two," he said. 

"This remains a live and extremely competitive process, and not every stage two application is likely to be successful.” 

Stage two of the application process for multi-year funding opens on Wednesday 6 March, with the deadline for applications set at 2pm on Wednesday 24 April. 

The final outcome from the application process will be announced by the end of October, with funding in place for successful organisations from 1 April 2025. 

Creative Scotland announces £800k of National Lottery funding

27 Feb 2024

The Open Fund supports activities initiated by artists, producers and creative practitioners across Scotland.


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