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.


When walking in some woodland in Yorkshire, I came across loads of ceramic pipes which made me think about some possible ways of displaying work.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Ongoing Studio work


On my recent visit to the Modern Institute Gallery, I couldn't help be attracted to these Nicolas Party publications on the gallery bookshelf.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Artists forced to survive on £100 a week - Scotsman newspaper article

Thursday 13 December 2012

THREE-quarters of visual artists in Scotland are earning less than £5,000 a year, according to a new report.

Just five per cent of artists surveyed for the study said they were earning more than £15,000 after tax and expenses.

When it came to actual turnover, 70 per cent of those who took part in the study for the Scottish Artists Union (SAU) were generating less than £10,000 a year.

The SAU, which has been campaigning for a fairer deal for self-employed artists, said the figures present a “stark and 
worrying depiction” of their earnings across Scotland.
It has collected more than 500 signatures on a petition demanding the setting up of a “reliable, accessible and effective infrastructure” for artists.

The union also wants to see a minimum-pay rate for artists enforced via all publicly funded bodies and organisations.

The SAU, which has more than 900 members, has been one of the most vocal critics of arts body Creative Scotland, calling for greater transparency in its work and claiming there was “no confidence” in the agency across the visual arts sector.

It said it had carried out the study over the last few months because it was concerned at a lack of evidence “in the public domain” about working conditions and professional circumstances of artists.

More than half – 57 per cent – of those surveyed by the SAU had either never applied for nor received public funding for their work, while 43 per cent were having to support their practice through part-time work.

Two-thirds of artists were having to work from home, which the union says raised questions about the affordability of rented studio space and the financial security of having a professional practice.

Only seven per cent of artists who took part in the anonymous poll said their turnover was more than £25,000. However, this does not take into account the likes of hiring studio space and the cost of materials.

President Rowena Comrie said: “The turnover most artists bring in is scarily low and it’s hard to imagine how they would survive without tax credits. A lot of people have partners that support them and some have part-time jobs, but these figures are very worrying.”
Earlier this month, award-winning writer James Kelman revealed he made just £15,000 last year. After collecting his latest honour, the Saltire Society’s Scottish Book of the Year prize, he said: “And that after being a writer for about 40 years.”

There has been anger from artists after it emerged Creative Scotland’s chief executive Andrew Dixon will get six months’ salary – about £60,000 – after he leaves his post in January.

Mr Dixon has borne the brunt of criticism over the running of the agency, which has a budget of more than £83 million.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Market Gallery visit

Tonight I went to the Market Gallery Committee meeting to discuss my forthcoming residency. It was good to meet with Kirsty and Emmie, two of the committee members I had not previously met.

Kirsty informed me that she organises the volunteers to help the artists in residence, and I explained the kind of work that I will be needing assistance with. One of my aims for the residency is to work on a larger scale, and this will not be possible without help from others.

When we went to look at the gallery that I will be using, the space appeared completely different to how I had seen it before. I think that is because I was looking at it for different reasons - usually I go to visit the exhibitions, but this time i was thinking about how I could use the space.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Screenprint experiments

I really enjoy the unpredictable nature of the outcome when doing a blended screenprint.

 Each print really is unique.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Statement from the board of Creative Scotland 07/12/2012

This statement details the commitments for change as agreed by the Creative Scotland Board at the meeting on the 5 and 6 December.

The statement follows earlier announcements and the work carried out by the Board sub-groups over the past few weeks.

The commitments outlined in this statement recognise the issues raised in recent months by external commentators, through open sessions with artists and creative practitioners and also, importantly, by Creative Scotland staff.

Central to many of the concerns communicated recently to Creative Scotland has been an inconsistency in our dealings with external partners, and there is clearly a need to create a culture and ethos where trust and mutual respect can thrive.

This has meant that, despite a range of welcome and successful initiatives throughout Scotland in the first two years of operation, many important relationships have deteriorated.
The Creative Scotland Board acknowledges its own share of responsibility for this.
Both the board and the senior management team recognise the need for substantial changes which will address the principal concerns made evident in our internal reviews, extensive external feedback, and the submissions sent to us by a range of organisations and individuals, including our own staff.

We are very conscious that future success depends on us functioning as a team with shared goals, operating in an environment of mutual respect.

One cause of friction which has affected both competence and delivery has been the lack of effective use of expertise available to the organisation internally and externally.
This will change in two ways:
  • We will change Creative Scotland’s operational structure to give staff the freedom to use their specialist knowledge more effectively.
  • We will set up internal and external forums that allow artists, creative practitioners and staff to feed into policy development.
We reiterate one of our core values: that artists and creative practitioners should be at the heart of our thinking.

Changes to make the language and tone of Creative Scotland more accessible are already underway, and we accept that the nature and number of our funding streams and programmes has led to confusion.

This will also change. Work has begun on simplifying the routes through which individuals and organisations can access advice and funding.

Stability is a core concern of many companies, not least in this difficult financial climate. We intend to offer that stability in a number of key ways:
  • As soon as is practicable, we will offer long term funding to organisations over a number of years. This will be subject to a review of progress, but relieve them of the need to submit fresh applications annually.
  • We will work towards changing what has come to be viewed as a funding hierarchy. Instead we will offer the security of multi-year funding to organisations, project funding for specific time limited work, and funding to individuals which may include partnerships.
It is essential in our view that lottery funding should never be regarded as a substitute for government sourced grant in aid, but we are working on ways in which we can use both to ensure the creative community thrives.

Crucial to re-building trust and confidence in the organisation is the commitment of our staff who have been operating under the most difficult circumstances.

We greatly admire, value and respect the skills and talents of our staff and intend to create an atmosphere in which these can flourish. They will be involved at every stage of this period of essential change.

There has been good practice in many of the things Creative Scotland has achieved but that has to become the norm in all areas of activity. We recognise that imaginative and successful initiatives have been undermined by failures in other areas.

It is time that Creative Scotland stopped being the story. We think the best way to achieve this is to focus on making our core operation effective, and affording those we support due care and attention.

We will also moderate the pace of change to enable better planning and consultation internally and externally.

These changes are the product of a period of painful but essential re-examination. We are individually and collectively signed up to restoring confidence in Creative Scotland’s work.
We ask for time to be allowed to do this, and to be judged on the results of the changes announced today.

The Board of Creative Scotland

Summary of Commitments
Commitments for change agreed by the Board of Creative Scotland on 6 December 2012 and to be delivered by the Senior Management Team and staff:
  • Underlining our commitment to putting artists, creative practitioners, cultural organisations and our staff at the heart of everything we do.
  • Enabling more effective use of staff specialist knowledge and expertise, increasing autonomy of decision-making and increasing the visibility of, and access to, this expertise.
  • Creating effective regular consultative forums with artists and creative practitioners and staff to inform policy development and increase transparency. Working with the sector to design the specific nature of these forums with the aim of a first open session in early 2013.
  • Reviewing current funding models to enable as many organisations as possible and appropriate to benefit from stable, multi-year arrangements. This will include an end to the plans for ‘strategic commissioning’.
  • Changing the perceived funding hierarchy of Foundation, Flexibly Funded and Annual Organisations and creating clear funding routes for individuals and specific time limited projects.
  • Changing the content and tone of our language to increase clarity and accessibility with a re-design of our application forms, guidance and other communications.
  • Emphasising the language of “support” rather than “investment” in both our values and operations.
  • Reducing efforts on activity that could be construed as promoting Creative Scotland ahead of artists, creative practitioners or cultural organisations.  
Work on these commitments will be a collaborative process with staff, artists, creative practitioners and organisations.
We continue our commitment to supporting arts, culture and creative industries across Scotland and to increasing public engagement and participation, working in partnership with others to achieve this.

Next Steps

Some of these changes are underway, others will involve a significant level of future work. The support and active involvement of people and organisations in the arts, culture and creative industries through this period will be essential.
The following date should be noted:
  • Friday 14 December: Publication of Board sub-group reports and update on actions.
Early in 2013 we will publish more detailed plans for implementing these significant changes, including anticipated timescales. This is to allow staff and the senior management team time to consider the activity and people required to deliver the commitments being made.

The Board will also begin the process of recruiting a new Chief Executive in the New Year and interim organisational arrangements are currently being put in place.

Thursday, 6 December 2012


I now have an Instagram account, so check it out!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Statement from Creative Scotland: 03/12/12

Creative Scotland today announces that Andrew Dixon has taken the decision to stand down from the post of Chief Executive at Creative Scotland and make way for a new Chief Executive to lead the organisation through an important period of change.

Sir Sandy Crombie, Chair of Creative Scotland said:

“On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Andrew for his stewardship of Creative Scotland since its inception. As a new organisation with an extensive remit, there have been inevitable challenges during this period and Andrew has consistently led the organisation with energy, passion and enthusiasm. He has also taken every opportunity to be a vociferous champion and advocate for Scottish arts and culture.”

Andrew Dixon, in a statement about his departure said:

“It has been a privilege to have been involved in the early years of Creative Scotland and to have worked with such talented and dedicated staff, but I now feel the time is right for a change of direction for both myself and the organisation.

“I am proud of what has been achieved since the merger. We have delivered new resources for the arts and established strong partnerships with local authorities, broadcasters and many other agencies. The Year of Creative Scotland, The Guide to Scotland’s Festivals, a new capital programme, the Creative Place Awards and the recent Luminate festival have shown the potential for all parts of Scotland to play a part in the creativity of the nation. I have been disappointed, given my track record, not to gain the respect and support of some of the more established voices in Scottish culture and I hope that my resignation will clear the way for a new phase of collaboration between artists and Creative Scotland.”

I have, however, also received much support and generosity of spirit from people in the arts and culture community across Scotland. I have been grateful for the tireless support of Fiona Hyslop and many others in Government. I would also like to thank Sir Sandy Crombie and the rest of the Board who volunteer their time and expertise so willingly. The staff team at Creative Scotland is exceptional and, despite recent strains, they continue to demonstrate professionalism and a true passion for the artistic and creative life of Scotland. I wish them all the very best.”

The Board will now begin the process of finding a new Chief Executive and setting up interim arrangements. In the immediate future, the Senior Management Team will report directly to Sir Sandy Crombie as Chair of the Board.

Andrew Dixon will leave Creative Scotland at the end of January 2013 after completing a programme of handover and transition support to the Chair and the Board.

Further information:
As detailed in previous statements, Creative Scotland is currently undertaking two internal reviews with the aim of improving its operations and relationship with artists, cultural organisations and other stakeholders.
Andrew Dixon was appointed in February 2010 as acting Director of Creative Scotland and has been full time since May 2010 overseeing the merger of Scottish Screen and the Scottish Arts Council.
Further announcements will be made as appropriate.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Four weeks on from Tramway World Cafe

The Tramway World Cafe event on 31 October 2012 at Tramway, Glasgow was an open opportunity for artists, practitioners and people who care about the arts and cultural sector in Scotland to come together for a discussion about the future of our community in the next 10 years.

It was stimulated by the public and private discussions that have been happening about our main public funding body, Creative Scotland. It was set up to be artist and practitioner focused.

The link below is to a blog post that reflects on the Creative Scotland activity in the 4 weeks since the Tramway World Cafe event.