Thursday, 27 December 2012

Anger is an energy - by Andrew Eaton-Lewis

“WHAT we’re trying to do is inject some energy into the ecology,” said Creative Scotland’s Venu Dhupa back in May this year, announcing a radical restructuring of funding that would see large numbers of arts organisations competing for pots of one-off project money.

Well, it worked, although probably not in the way Dhupa, the organisation’s senior director of creative development, had imagined. The rebellion against Creative Scotland – which peaked with 100 Scottish artists writing an open letter condemning its “ill-conceived decision-making; unclear language, lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture” and culminated in this month’s resignation of chief executive Andrew Dixon – can largely be traced back to this single decision.

Instead of energising artists to become more entrepeneurial, the funding shake-up energised its critics to voice long-held doubts about what the organisation was doing. (First up was this newspaper’s Joyce McMillan, who immediately and memorably condemned the move as embodying “a kind of undead Thatcherism, a half-baked, hollowed-out, public-sector version of market theory that reduces the language of creativity to a series of flat-footed business school slogans, and imposes a crude ethic of sado-competition on areas of society where co-operation and mutual respect matter more.”

So it’s appropriate that Dhupa, credited as the architect of the changes, resigned last week. Like Dixon, her statement is entirely unapologetic (it is not remotely clear, reading it, why she is actually leaving). But at least it was more dignified than that of Dixon, who petulantly lashed out at the critics who didn’t “respect and support” him.

Where does this leave Creative Scotland? In limbo. Dixon will remain in his job until January, Dhupa will leave a month later. It remains to be seen whether the organisation’s chairman, Sir Sandy Crombie, can follow up on the recent promise of change in a way that will win back the trust of the people the organisation alienated this year. Here’s hoping.

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