Creative Scotland reopens touring fund

31 Aug 2022

Creative Scotland’s Touring Fund for Theatre and Dance has opened for a seventh round, inviting applications from companies, producers and venues touring from September 2023 onwards.

The £1m fund supported by the National Lottery is open for applications until the end of October this year.

Works of all sizes are eligible to apply for funding but to offset gaps in provision from previous rounds of funding, priority will be given to works that will tour to mid-scale venues with an audience capacity of 150 to 350 and/or large-scale venues with a capacity of over 350. 

“This funding will provide vital employment opportunities for artists, producers, companies, venues and all the talented people who work hard behind the scenes to make the theatre a magical experience for audiences, after what has been an incredibly challenging and disrupted period,” said Laura Mackenzie Stuart, Head of Theatre at Creative Scotland.

The fund will support artists and producers to tour “innovative, quality work” and “encourage more audiences to re-engage with their local venues”, she added. 

“Supporting work through this fund allows more artists to share their work and gives audiences greater choice."

Accommodation costs pose 'major threat' to the Fringe

30 Aug 2022

Eight of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s biggest producing venues have issued a collective statement decrying soaring accommodation costs as the biggest risk to the festival’s future.

Assembly, Dance Base, Gilded Balloon, Just the Tonic, Pleasance, Summerhall, Underbelly and ZOO – the venues behind EdFest.com – collectively sold 1,965,961 tickets in 2019, the last edition of the festival before the pandemic. This year’s combined sales are forecast to reach fewer than than 1,500,00.

“The forecast number of tickets we’ve collectively sold is down 25% compared to 2019, which is a major threat for everyone involved in the festival”, a spokesperson for EdFest.com said.

The ticket sales were achieved “despite the very real continuing challenges to our industry, including the cost-of-living crisis, the lingering effects of coronavirus, the cost and uncertainty of international travel, the recent train strikes and more,” the spokesperson continued. 

“Chief among these, however, is the soaring cost of accommodation in Edinburgh in August – audiences and artists alike are being priced out of town, out of experiences.”

The spokesperson said that the lack of safe, affordable housing is a year-round problem that affects the artists, staff and audiences who live in Edinburgh, as well as visitors to the city. 

It is “imperative that local and national government, landlords, the universities, Fringe venues and the Fringe Society all come together to find a lasting solution for this issue, or the future of the Fringe is in very real danger”, the spokesperson added, anticipating that restoring the event to normality may take several years and require public support.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society released figures showing that Edinburgh residents accounted for 39% of all ticket sales, up 4% from 2019. Overseas audience attendance also increased, accounting for 10% of all tickets, up 2% from 2019.

Organisers acknowledged that “audience patterns have changed, industrial action caused significant disruption to rail travel and refuse collection and affordable accommodation in Edinburgh was at crisis point”.

“This year’s festival is the first step in what will be a long road to recovery and renewal,” said Shona McCarthy, CEO of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. 

“We recognise the significant amount of work that is still required to support the long-term sustainability of this phenomenal Festival… Collectively we will work to advocate for greater support for those at the heart of the Fringe – our artists.”  

Proposals for branch of Natural History Museum in Scotland stall

24 Aug 2022

Plans to establish a new branch of the Natural History Museum in Scotland have stalled due to staffing changes at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), it has emerged.

Aberdeen City Council is considering the viability of transforming the Norco House building, a Brutalist landmark that until recently housed a John Lewis department store, into a satellite of the museum.

The store closed in December 2020 and the building was subsequently used as a Covid-19 vaccination centre. It is now up for sale for £5m and the council has been attempting to discuss the project with DCMS, which directly sponsors the Natural History Museum.

A report published by the council reveals that while “officers are looking to meet with the head of cultural development and place-based investment to discuss the proposal”, the plans “have not progressed due to changes in personnel in DCMS”.

DCMS’s previous head of cultural development moved to a new post in April and the post has not been occupied since then.
 

Next Prime Minister urged to reform ACE

The door of Number 10 Downing Street
22 Aug 2022

Equity calls on Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to reform the system of arts councils across the UK and adopt regional structures, whichever of them becomes Prime Minister.

Glasgow museums to repatriate artefacts to India

22 Aug 2022

Glasgow’s museums will be the first in the UK to repatriate artefacts to India after Glasgow Life, the charity which manages the city’s museum collections, signed an agreement to return seven Indian antiquities.

Work on the repatriation of the artefacts began in January 2021 and was recently approved by Glasgow City Council’s City Administration Committee.

Dignitaries from the High Commission of India were welcomed for a transfer of ownership ceremony at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum last Friday (19 August).

The repatriation is part of a wider move by Glasgow Life Museums, which is also repatriating 19 Benin bronzes to Nigeria and 25 Lakota cultural items sold and donated to the city’s museum collection in 1892.

In June, the museums welcomed a delegation from Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments to discuss the transfer of ownership of the artefacts and future dates for their return.

Duncan Dornan, Glasgow Life's Head of Museums and Collections, said the transfer of ownership “symbolises a significant step for Glasgow, with the city continuing its positive repatriation history by ensuring these cultural artefacts are placed back in the hands of their legitimate owners.”

“Credit must be given to the High Commission of India and British High Commission for their cooperation and support. We look forward to continuing our work with the Indian authorities to deliver the safe return of these artefacts,” he said.

Initiative to support early-career film composers launches

19 Aug 2022

Film composers in the early stages of their career will receive support and advice as part of a joint initiative launched by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) and the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF). 

The professional development scheme, called Film Composers Lab, will offer five UK-based composers the opportunity to expand their skills in film composition with Scottish film and TV composer John Lunn acting as Mentor alongside Danai Kokogia as Associate Co-Mentor.

RSNO Chief Executive Alistair Mackie said: “The RSNO is really happy to be working with the EIFF on a brand-new scheme for early-career composers.

"Combining the history, expertise and facilities of both organisations will provide a great platform for the group to explore new ways of working and I’m already looking forward to hearing what they produce."

EIFF Festival Producer Holly Daniel said: “Supporting emerging talent is an essential part of our creative ambition at EIFF. It’s wonderful to be partnering with the RSNO on this activity and to be able to bring our experiences and networks together to support emerging composers with this unique programme connecting the makers of music and film."

Applications for the scheme are open now, with a closing date of 5pm on Tuesday 11 October.

Edinburgh Fringe returns: triumphant or troubled?

Outside the Royal Academy and National Gallery during Fringe
18 Aug 2022

The first full version of the festival following Covid restrictions is in full swing, but concerns about its direction of travel persist.

Scottish museum faces calls to return totem pole

18 Aug 2022

The National Museum of Scotland is being urged to return a totem pole, stolen from Canada nearly 100 years ago, to a delegation of First Nations leaders.

The pole was removed from a sacred “house group” in the Nisga’a Nation in 1929 by Marius Barbeau, a Canadian ethnographer and anthropologist who sold it to the Scottish museum. Hand-carved in the 1860s, it depicts the story of Ts’wawit, a Nisga’a’ warrior killed in conflict.

Barbeau, who conducted fieldwork beginning in the 1910s, has been criticised for inaccurately portraying indigenous cultures.

The repatriation of the object is in line with the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, signed by the United Kingdom, as well as with the provisions for repatriation laid out in the Nisga’a Treaty, which came into effect in 2000.

If the museum agrees to repatriate the artefact, it will be the second totem pole repatriated to Canada from a European museum. The Haisla G’psgolox pole was returned to Canada from Sweden’s Museum of Ethnography in 2006.

The delegation, which consists of the Nisga’a Nation Chief Earl Stephens, Amy Parent and Shawna McKay, will meet museum officials next week.

“This will be the first time in living memory that members of the House of Ni’isjoohl will be able to see the memorial pole with our own eyes,” Stephens said. “This visit will be deeply emotional for us all.”

Recovery funds key to arts survival in Scotland and Wales

an artist working in her studio
17 Aug 2022

Reports suggest devolved governments’ funding was key to sector recovery and resilience but warn the pandemic exposed the need for further financial support.

One person turns up to watch Fringe comedian

09 Aug 2022

A comedian who went ahead with his Fringe show despite having just one person in the audience has become a hit at the festival.

Friday was the first day of Robin Grainger's run at the Edinburgh Fringe but when he went on stage he found a solitary man in the audience.

His decision to carry on was reported by a comedy critic and ticket sales for subsequent shows soared.

"I'm an optimistic guy, it was the first Friday - everyone was tweeting about busy audiences. I thought it would be fine," Robin said.

"My lovely tech operator Eric came to give me my two-minute warning and I asked how it was looking, and he winced. He said 'There's one'.

"I thought, he had paid his ticket and I've got a microphone and an ego, so I went for it."

Robin said that a tweet he posted about what happened has 250,000 views, adding that he has had a lot of support from the comedy community and "a lot of hugs".

His performance the following day was almost sold out.

Edinburgh festivals receive £2.1m boost

08 Aug 2022

The Scottish Government has put an additional £2.1m towards the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The extra funding is available through the Platform for Creative Excellence (PLACE) Resilience Fund and will support events marking the festivals’ 75th anniversary. 

Funded programmes include Edinburgh International Festival’s opening and closing events, and a free concert by the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, and Edinburgh Fringe’s Made In Scotland event, showcasing 27 Scottish artists, companies and ensembles.

The Scottish Government has invested more than £14m in the three festivals since the start of the pandemic.

Edinburgh Festivals Director Julia Armour said the financial support is “crucial not only to our ongoing recovery but also to our continuing ambition to bring increased opportunities to artists and audiences throughout the country, while also showcasing Scotland as a contemporary, creative, outward-looking nation”.

Call for artist compensation over loss of Fringe app

01 Aug 2022

Performing arts and entertainment union Equity says the Edinburgh Fringe should compensate performers over the absence of the official app at this year’s event.

The Edinburgh Fringe app is widely considered to be vital for generating ticket sales. Earlier this month, an open letter from the Live Comedy Association, signed by over 1,600 performers, promoters and venues, condemned the Fringe Society for a lack of transparency over it's decision to withdraw the app.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society CEO Shona McCarthy has since apologised, adding “we really should have better communicated that the app would be one of the casualties of our financial constraints this year”.

Equity has acknowledged the Fringe’s apology but says partial refunds should be given to those who registered for the event before the announcement the app would be unavailable.

“This would be an important goodwill gesture and help repair the damaged relationship with performers at this year’s Fringe,” said Equity’s Organiser for Comedians Rob Lugg.
 
“The removal of the Fringe app could impact ticket sales as well as accessibility for disabled audience members. 

“This is concerning as two years of Covid restrictions have hit our members hard, and with an out of control cost-of-living crisis, the biggest threat to the future of the Edinburgh Fringe is performers deciding that they cannot afford to take part.”

Inclusivity drive for independent music venues launches

People at a music venue
19 Jul 2022

Independent music venues will be encouraged to form a national network offering daytime programmes of music-based activities to engage with diverse audiences.

Former hospital in Dumfries to become £15m cultural site

12 Jul 2022

An ambitious new cultural site has been planned for a disused former hospital building set amid 85 acres of grounds on the outskirts of Dumfries in Scotland. 

The £15m project, funded and overseen by the Crichton Trust, will begin with a design competition to find architects to construct the new building, provisionally called the Crichton Centre for Memory and Wellbeing.

It will house the Crichton Archive and the Crichton Heritage Centre, as well as a new visual arts and exhibition space, an academic study space and resource centre and a land art archives and research centre.

The project aims to transform cultural provision in Dumfries and Galloway and complement the facilities and organisations at the Crichton, which is home to a range of academic institutions and business.

The competition to find architects is designed to encourage collaboration between different practices, including smaller firms. It is partly funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.

The closing date for initial submissions is August 19, after which a blind shortlisting process will award five teams £20,000 each to develop their proposals. The winning team is due to be announced in November.

“We are very excited about creating the Crichton Centre for Memory and Wellbeing, in what will become a new landmark building in the heart of the Crichton,” said the trust’s Chief Executive Gwilym Gibbons.

“This is one of several development projects included within our ambitious 100-year plan for The Crichton and is an important milestone in our journey to connect people, place and the past to shape the future.”
 

Cairn: a new association for performing arts professionals

12 Jul 2022

Following the resignation of the majority of Equity’s Scottish National Committee last year, a group of creative arts professionals have come together to form a new association, as Julie Coombe explains.

Edinburgh Festival director calls for visa-free travel for artists

11 Jul 2022

The outgoing director of the Edinburgh International Festival has called on government to simplify visa to allow musicians and artists to travel overseas more smoothly.

Fergus Linehan, who directs his last international festival next month, said the UK’s post-Brexit visa rules have stifled collaboration, making it harder for British artists to tour abroad, labelling the situation a “disaster”.

He has called on government to introduce visa-free travel for artists and address logistical problems affecting companies importing touring equipment into the UK.

“Clearly, when musicians go to perform [in another country], they’re not going to set up home," he said. 

"That’s not what it’s about. So visa-free movement for people. We’re part of an ecosystem. The idea of discouraging collaboration is a disaster in our industry."

 

National Lottery: DCMS predicts £65m boost for good causes

05 Jul 2022

Good causes set to benefit by at least £65m a year under new contractual arrangements due to begin in 2024.

Edinburgh Festivals launch vision for 2030

04 Jul 2022

The Edinburgh Festivals are aiming for the Scottish capital to be a world leading sustainable festival city, according to a new vision agreed by the festivals and their stakeholders.

Launched in the festivals’ 75th anniversary year, Edinburgh: City of Imagination is a vision for a resilient and ambitious festival city by 2030, encompassing eleven annual events including August’s Edinburgh International Festival and Festival Fringe.

The 2030 vision is based on six collective ambitions, including championing global solidarity, creating skills and work for local artists, workers and traders, and making links with city community groups and schools.

A goal to reduce emissions in line with the city’s goal of being net zero carbon by 2030 also features, alongside investing in excellence and innovation and increasing the festivals’ resilience and long-term financial sustainability.

Festivals Edinburgh Chair Simon Gage says the vision sets a course of action and should act as a starting point for each festival.

“Each festival [can] consider the shared ambitions and identify their particular areas of contribution and for joint efforts across the festivals, funders and stakeholders to identify how we can thrive as a world leading sustainable festival city in this decisive decade.”

Scottish Ballet pilots new care home initiative

27 Jun 2022

A pilot programme called SB Duet will be launched in three Independent Sector Care homes within Inverclyde Health and Care Social Partnership to support the wellbeing of people with reduced mobility.

Scottish Ballet are partnering with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Care Home Collaborative to run the pilot, which will offer care home residents an accessible movement experience that can be done in bed or at the bedside with a carer, visitor or independently. 

The programme package includes two ten-minute films and audio resources, each containing a short excerpt of a Scottish Ballet performance, followed by five minutes of gentle guided movement.  

Dance and movement have been shown to improve physical fitness, cognitive function and quality of life for care home residents.

The programme builds on the neurological programmes and projects run online by Scottish Ballet during lockdown, which demonstrated that people with neurological conditions and reduced mobility were willing and able to take part in gentle guided exercise.

“Research suggests that dance-based interventions are effective in improving both the physical and mental well-being of older adults,” said Pooja Gupta, Care Home Collaborative AHP Care About Physical Activity Lead.

“This resource will not only support physical activity, but also promote mental well-being and help people do what matters to them the most.”

Edinburgh’s first Deaf Festival set for August

20 Jun 2022

The first Edinburgh Deaf Festival will take place from 12 -19 August.

Organised by Deaf Action, with the support of Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, the festival is the first of its kind to be held in Scotland. Its organisation, production, shows and events are all deaf-led and it is scheduled to feature drama, magic, comedy, cabaret, tours, exhibitions, workshops, book clubs and a deaf rave.

Performances will include a mix of deaf and hearing artists and will be interpreted and captioned to be inclusive for hearing people as well as the deaf and hard of hearing.

“The festival will be a real celebration of our language, culture, heritage and the variety of people that make up our community,” said Deaf Action CEO Philip Gerrard.

Fringe CEO Shona McCarthy said “the Edinburgh Fringe is really proud to be associated with the first deaf festival in Scotland”.

“I think this is something that’s going to continue into the future and I hope it becomes an annual addition to the festivals landscape,” she said.

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