Saturday, 29 June 2013

PRISMISM - Transmission Gallery


Transmission Annual Members Show

Preview 29th June 2013


Exhibition runs 2nd - 27th July

Tues - Sat

11am - 5pm



Friday, 28 June 2013

I can see my studio floor again!

Since destalling my exhibition from the Market Gallery, I have barely been able to move in my Studio due to the amount of artwork and materials that I have had to store there. Some of the sculptures have been installed in other exhibitions, giving me a bit more space, but in order to be able to do more casting in the studio, I needed to clear a large space on the floor.

Over the last few weeks I have gradually been sorting through what I could throw away, what I need in my studio, and what I could move into storage, both in Glasgow and in Yorkshire (courtesy of my Granny's garage!)

This afternoon Andy and Emma helped me load up their car with things to be taken to the dump, and then we had a major re-organisation of my storage space. We pulled out the sculptures that I will take to Yorkshire for storing, left them in a relatively easy place to be collected soon, and then we moved lots from my studio into the storage facility that we just emptied.

Thankfully, after all the hard work, my studio is looking much clearer now and I will be able to start casting again.

Watch this space...

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

What are artists really worth? Funding, friction and the future of art

As artists find themselves at the end of the cultural food chain, Susan Jones suggests a new activism to reaffirm their status

Three coloured tubes of acrylic paint 

The so-called golden age of arts funding has given way to debilitating austerity, particularly for artists who find themselves at the end of a long food chain, divorced from arts funding and policy decision making. But when did these divisions start and how can artists use activism to create meaningful change for the future?

The millennium saw arts funding increased through imaginative strategies and policies. Artists and the artist-led flourished. With the lottery-financed arts buildings came a new wave of curatorial positions – and in 2006, the advent of cultural leadership roles designed to "nurture and develop dynamic and diverse leaders to equip them for the challenges of the 21st century" (although scant few of these went to practitioners). Divisions between artists and the public were apparent too.

In 2013, the widening divide between rich and poor is manifesting itself clearly in the arts. Contributing to debates on more imaginative ways to measure cultural value, Louis Barrabas says: "The creative sector is full of scuttling scavenging bottom-feeders." What he's describing are the middle people whose infrastructural preferences over recent years have by default resulted in a steady nibbling away at budgets, resources and recognition factors – things that used to be the territory of artists.

In the arts infrastructure developed since the early noughties, artists weren't invited around the table with the curators, directors and consultants. Peer review was abandoned by Arts Council England as it was deemed too expensive, long-winded and subjective. In the arts ecology of today, it's almost as if artists have to be held in suspended animation, waiting for someone to need them.

Where has all the money gone?

In 1989 the salary of an artform officer in what was then a regional arts association pretty much matched the sum offered for an artist's fellowship, which in those days tended to be for a year. By 2004, the salaries of arts officers in the funding system (when index-linked) were 41% higher than those in 1989/90. Advertised in May 2013, an Arts Council England salary for a relationship manager in its London office is £31,623 – 8% higher than the equivalent pay in 2004 when index-linked. Consider this against an example of an artist's fellowship, such as the Stanley Picker Fellowship in Design & Fine Art 2013, which is paying £12,000.

Published in May 2013, Arts Council England's economic impact report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research shows that full-time earnings in the arts have risen by 6.8% in the past five years, while part-time earnings – one might surmise these to include freelancers and artists – have decreased by 5.3%. As Mark Robinson, a former ACE director and now arts consultant, asks: "Are we squeezing our key nutrients – the artists and creative freelancers – and widening inequality in our own sector?"

Our own a-n research indicated that in 2004, the exhibition fee for artists holding a solo exhibition in a major gallery was £1,000. In 2013, a new survey from AIR indicates that less than a third of artists exhibiting in publicly-funded flagship galleries in Arts Council portfolios are getting any fee at all – with £200 being the most likely figure. While the majority want to share their work with the public, nearly half the artists surveyed reported that it's simply too expensive to exhibit.

Another of our surveys, this time on openly offered jobs and opportunities for artists in 2012, revealed a steady decline in the volume of paid work for artists. In 2012, the overall value of work on offer to artists was £5m (20%) less than in the pre-recession year of 2007. Only 39% of jobs and opportunities in 2012 offered to pay anything to artists, in comparison with 57% in the recession year of 2008. And the value of residencies has dropped to an all time low, amounting to just over 1% of the value of all work offered in 2012. These paid an average fee of £2,600, in contrast to a £7,354 average in 2011 and £6,342 in 2007.

Art feeds the soul but who feeds the artist?

Artists are at the very end of the arts food chain. For artists and their practice, the future is littered with uncertainty for a variety of reasons:

• The variable length and terms of contracts and commissions
• The unpredictability of work offers and variable income
• The short notice of engagements and commissions
• The delays in the start of a production
• The sequential stop/start patterns of employment
• Managing concurrent projects and contracts
• The need to be available at all and/or unsociable hours for work
• Unpredictable locations of work
• Changes in fashion, cultural trends and market preferences

Artists seemingly love their practice so much that it's assumed they will be delighted with any opportunity they get to gift it to others. Increasingly, artists find themselves shoe-horned (through financial necessity or the arts PR machine) into making art or delivering projects, the efficacy of which are measured in terms of their instrumental powers – how well they serve the needs of others (achieve social improvement such as regeneration; uplift the lives of disadvantaged people; fill the 'arts gap' in school curricula; contribute to the economy).
As Hans Abbing commented in Why are artists poor?: "Although the arts can operate successfully in the marketplace, their natural affinity is with gift-giving rather than with commercial exchange. People believe that artists are selflessly dedicated to art, that price does not reflect quality and that the arts are free."

Negotiating your status and practice

So how might artists prepare for a different kind of role in determining the status of their art and their profession? Researching the conditions for collaboration, Chris Fremantle comments: "Artists very often see themselves without much power – is collaboration the context for a new dynamic between artists and those they seek to have relationships with, or at least a signal of hope for that?"
A symposium held in Stoke-on-Trent in 2011 explored working contexts for artists in an age of austerity. A manifesto was drawn up by artists and arts workers present, designed to create strength of purpose and solidarity amongst practitioners. The manifesto stated:

1) Be active: support each other
2) Be active: be an activist
3) Be active: be an artist.
4) Value yourself, your time and your skills
5) Share your knowledge and resources
6) Focus, strategise and plan.
7) Be critical, be fair
8) Know your rights

Reporting on the event, artist Nikki Pugh said: "It was notable that all the rules seemed to be independent of the current economic climate. The issues of prime concern to us were to keep making work of high quality; to be rewarded (financially or otherwise) fairly for our work; and to be part of wider, mutually and innovatively generous networks."

When only extended by the artist , however, this generosity can result in exploitation. Artists continually report lower or no fee offers from commissioners and employers. But institutional budgets exist to enable arts programmes to deliver 'great art' to audiences. Surely how they are constructed can be open to review, negotiation and reallocation?

For the sake of future arts, we really do need to demonstrate how much we value artists. The following statement (though made more than three decades ago and many miles from the UK) sums up why mutuality is vital: "Artists stand at the centre of all arts practice. Without the artist's ability to practice his/her own art, there is no literature, no music, no dance, no painting, no theatre, no film-making – no art of any kind."

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Regardless of whether one is in the heart of a busy city, in the depth of a forest, in a barron desert or in the comfort of one's own home, we are surrounded by patterns, both natural and man-made. I am visually attracted to patterns, and over the years have developed an extensive catalogue of patterned materials.

In my ongoing research I came across Patternity, "an award-winning creative organisation that specialises in the exploration and application of pattern. Founded by photographer/art director Anna Murray and surface/textiles designer Grace Winteringham with a united drive to push the awareness and understanding of pattern. Their unique research archive, design studio and events go beyond the surface, using pattern as a vehicle to engage, educate
and inspire."

At the heart of everything Patternity does "is the fundamental belief that pattern is a powerful tool with which to educate and engage".

I will be exploring their website in more detail soon, but here is a wee taster to whet the appetite!

Check out the website :

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Thinking about new work for Motherwell exhibition

I'm thinking about the work I am going to make for my forthcoming exhibition in Motherwell, and would like to develop some of the work that I made during my residency at Market Gallery. The nature of the gallery space means that the work I produce will have to be wall-based.

I am keen to do some more screenprinting onto birch plywood, and also want to experiment with displaying a number of smaller works in a grid so as to make one work.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Albert Einstein on learning

"...The way to learn the most is when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes."

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Summing up the Sessions

By Pat Kane

It was quite a tour, travelling to eight widely distant towns and cities of Scotland, setting up in grand venues and low ceilings, new build and old town, nestled in housing schemes and perched on island promontories – to meet, in a concentrated burst, the kind of people I’ve mostly ever wanted to spend my time with: artists, creatives, troublemakers and mark-makers, and those who enable, support and enjoy them.

And once there, to find myself facilitating a genuinely open space of reform in an important public institution – with all attending bearing the responsibility to seize the moment, under the most public and freely-mediated of conditions. From all sides, we heard concrete plans, evocative language, instructive tales, critical concepts, undervalued histories and experiences.

What we did is all up here, on the bountiful Net: a considerable mentation on the purpose and direction of the support of cultural and creative activity in Scotland – something to be mined and utilised in the future, as we all have the time to spare. I hope the process we started builds and builds. And that “open” is a door that never, to be honest, needs to be locked shut again.
However, I would like to take the blogger’s and facilitator’s right to attempt a summary of the CSOpen process. This will be shaped and selected no doubt by my own predilections and commitments – though I will try to feel the whole of the material. Regard this as one final, showboating riff at the end of a long, furrow-browed but rewarding session.

For me, one of the obvious findings from the CSOpen sessions is that the language, and thus the policy, around the distribution and usage of Creative Scotland’s resources must change. The greatest and most common anxiety was that a “financialised” and “corporatised” language – “investment”, “value/outcome” and “strategic commissioning”, rather than, say, “funding”, “quality/excellence” and “artistic support” – had become too dominant in the operations of Creative Scotland.

Independently and separately from several of the speakers, with a considerable positive response from the hundreds attending the sessions, the analysis was offered that an ill-considered (or lazily adopted) “creative industries” paradigm had gripped both the preparation stages for, and the early years of, Creative Scotland.

The absurdity that CS, in exercising its responsibility for “arts, screen and creative industries”, might be responsible for every one of the activities in that third term, was regularly and widely noted. (The standard 1997 DCMS definition includes advertising, art and antiques, design, designer fashion, software/electronic publishing, digital/entertainment media and architecture – areas hardly or ever touched by CS, which mostly deals with the CI categories of publishing, film/video/photography and music/visual/performing arts).
There was one consistently expressed worry from most participants. How could the classic DCMS definition of creative industries – “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property” – ever happily sit within the same decision-process that deals with “non-public-facing”, “experimental” or tradition-based artists in fine arts, literature, film or music?

Let alone accept and support, in good faith, the “creative disloyalty”, (Richard Holloway’s still-resonant words) which might motivate artworks that question or trouble the basic goals of “wealth”, “job creation”, and the “exploitation of intellectual property” in the first place?
David Hume
“Truth springs from argument amongst friends” – David Hume

Yet what might have threatened to be an all-too-predictable gulf between “art for art’s sake, money for god’s sake” – and one that several voices from the floor warned about – turned out to be, in retrospect, a much more constructive and fertile discussion. “Truth springs from arguments amongst friends”, as Dumfries-based sculptor Matt Baker inspiringly quoted from David Hume. Some fascinating ideas emerged from exchanges in a room over a few hours between those self-identifying as “arts”, and those as “creative industries”.

But before outlining them, what should be briefly noted is the way the process and experience of the “sessions” themselves are themselves a model for the kind of organisational changes Creative Scotland needs to consider for itself (and maybe other public organisations too).

These were properly resourced, yet freely-attended conversations (within the limits of each venue); conducted widely across the country’s geography, with the content and value of each sessions properly honored, recorded and disseminated. For friends to argue (and the truth to spring forth), “friendly” conditions – meaning convivial spaces, evident mutual respect, and open-ended dialogue – must exist to begin with.

I am a commercial musician and writer, whose creative life has always involved grappling with technology, aesthetics/values and market conditions. So for me, one of the most fascinating strains in the CSOpen dialogue between “arts”, “screen” and “creative industries” was how the impact of “the digital and internet revolution” pointed to new ways of thinking about old cultural-policy conundrums.
  • The massive “convergence” of media across screens, devices and networks was a huge commercial opportunity – but in order to be original, interactive content creators needed the kinds of zones for non-market experimentation that the more conventional arts get from their public support. How could we build those?
  • Those alive to the contributory nature of much networked culture and behaviour – whether crowd-creation, or crowd-funding – reached out to traditional companies and artists, hoping to share tips about community or motivation. What new kinds of collective art could be made?
  • Films were now being viewed everywhere – mobile device, HDTV, laptop, on pay-per-view and open web – and not just in commercial “theatrical release” (its commercial strictures too high a bar for most Scottish filmmakers to get over). Could a new justification for an “arts” approach to film-funding be derived from this new “convergent” age. Where (in May Miles Thomas’ words) “all films are equal”, on a myriad of screens? And where supporting a film culture for variety and impact would produce more fertile results, in terms of films made, than a hard-nosed “return-on-investment” model?
These ideas resonated in the rooms of CSOpen, bringing forth their own refinements and responses (in the best Humean spirit). There were, both from attendees and speakers, some strong voices in favour of CS’s strategy around the promotion of arts and culture to audiences – for example, its ability to curate and sponsor events and competitions which provide a public platform for Scottish artists, creators and creative communities (Tartan Week, Creative Scots awards, Creative Places, the SAY Awards, the various Fèis or Gaelic Arts organisations).

Yet in my assessment, these voices were surpassed by a deep and consistent scepticism about Creative Scotland itself becoming too much the “news” in these kinds of activities, rather than the news being the artists and creatives they should be supporting. Connected to this was another charge; that the often arcane funding categories of CS’s recent years, and the even more labyrinthine and jargon-laden forms that came with them, were in some degree driven by pressure from the Scottish Government, wanting to demonstrate that arts and culture could produce “outcomes” contributory to national indicators of progress or prosperity.

This bureaucratic anxiety bespoke a corrosion of Creative Scotland’s “trust” (a huge word in the lexicon of these events) in what artists might decide for themselves was a proper “outcome” or “impact” of their art – which itself might be universal, inimitable or unmeasurable by the usual “indicators”.

So a regular call was for simplicity in the organisation’s discourse around funding and support: a clear recognition of, and respect for, what artists wanted to do with their artforms and institutions, by their own lights and energies. And an official language which recognised that reality – the autonomy and ultimate self-direction of artists and creatives.
So yes, CSOpen expresses a strong majority resistance (though not total, and with many subtleties) to a market-friendly language for arts – indeed, the polar opposite to the Coalition minister Maria Miller’s injunction that “art is a commodity”. But I would claim, on another register, that there was a broad, rich and sophisticated yearning for a new framework and vocabulary, by which the “social” and “civic” value of arts could be developed and extended.

Maria Miller

Maria Miller – Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Certainly, terms like “networks”, “local” and “ecology” were used as readily as terms like “project” or “sector” or “organisation”. David Greig the playwright tweeted eloquently during the process that “permaculture” might well be the best metaphor for how a national arts organisation related to its artists: “Work with what you’ve got, minimal intervention, encourage interlinked systems, create conditions where the whole begins to look after itself.”
From as far afield as Eigg and Dumfries, and given voice from Inverness to Edinburgh, the importance of respecting and fostering peer-to-peer structures of artists and creatives, and finding some way for their expertise and experience to have an increased input into funding decisions, was stressed in every session. This took various forms – from as lofty as a few paid positions for working artists on the Creative Scotland board, to as local as CS semi-voluntary representatives in most counties in Scotland.

But it certainly seemed from these sessions as if many artists and creatives were willing to countenance an increase in their involvement in the administration and strategy of arts policy and resources – if that policy and resource was truly responsive to actual and existing arts practice.

An element of this desire for participation in the structures of arts funding and support was expressed in a frustrated way, as a regular railing against the Creative Scotland Board. It was clear to many that the secretive, corporate process involved in selecting a new CEO for Creative Scotland was in a different universe to the discursive, exploratory space of the Open Sessions. And a regularly expressed worry was that the messages and mood captured by CSOpen might not be properly taken into account by either the selection process, or the new Chief Executive her- or himself.

Macro-level strains on public budgets of all kinds, and the shadow of Moray Council’s cancellation of all arts funding, hung over many conversations in CSOpen. Another regular call was for a new and distinct public role of Creative Scotland. It should become an informed and confident national advocate for the value and worth of the arts, on their own terms; and taking that argument to politicians and managers who might regard it as an “easy” or “soft” target for cuts.

This is a quite different role from a Creative Scotland that, as many noted, seemed at times confused about the idea of the “arms-length principle” between government and arts policy. The organisation got caught up in all manner of thematised Scottish Government “celebrations” of national culture. This confused curation with nation-branding; the self-confidence and diverse strength of Scottish arts should not be regarded as an automatic resource for cultural diplomacy and “brand Scotland”.

Related to this was another regular call for CS to up its research game, and help provide strong intellectual, historical and factual arguments for the value of the arts to society. Yet as many of those bloggers, tweeters and salon organisers whose activism impelled the Creative Scotland “stushie” in the first place regularly said – often speaking within the sessions themselves – this research had to be diverse, supporting critical perspectives as well as more conventional social-economic accounts.

On a personal note, one of the glories of the last year, and something leant on heavily by CSOpen, is the strong, internet-enabled “democratic intellect” around cultural policy (and beyond) that clearly thrives in our artistic communities. How these thinker-practitioners feed their insight and wisdom into CS’s operations requires some complex considerations.
Perhaps we could reimagine the “civic” dimension of support for publishing. There are arguments abroad (and I’ve made them) that journalism – a safeguard of democracy under threat, as its business model collapses – is a “public good” that may need new kinds of public support. Couldn’t independent cultural critique also fall within that argument? Or, would it necessarily then lose its real independence?

And in this pre-Independence-referendum moment, it was inevitable that an open discussion about the purpose, operation and direction of a major public institution in Scotland would touch on wider, more political and structural issues. Our debates encompassed more, much more, than “just knowing what to do and getting on with it”, as one Edinburgh attendee bluntly requested.

Yet while there was one plebiscite taken during CSOpen – a majority decision that Open Sessions should happen again, next year! – it would be accurate to say that most of the political energies expressed here fell short of any explicit constitutional position, and occupied a more fruitful ground around core issues. The troubling deficiencies in our practice of democracy in Scotland; the legacy (and out-datedness) of “neo-liberal” language and analysis, particularly as it relates to the value of culture and the arts; the need to nurture local traditions, grass-roots activity and non-urban communities; and finally, the ambition for artists and creatives to participate in our great societal debates about “sustainability”, “prosperity”, “success”, “wellbeing”, even a “living wage”, drawing on the particularity of their own practice & experience.

No matter what happens at the more momentous levels of self-determination and autonomy, for me CSOpen was a heartening experience. This is what it might be like to live in a small country where power amends and corrects itself when it’s gone in the wrong direction – and does so according to the strength and persistence of an informed, committed discussion between peers and equals. The political theorists call it, rather beautifully, “concertation”. It’s the great promise of living here: that we can face each other open, argue as friends, and then take the next well-founded, collective step.

Of course, let’s see – and please, in any case, keep watching in the meantime. But I now declare the Creative Scotland Open Sessions closed…for necessary repairs, as it were. The doors should be open again, though, soon enough.

**Addendum: this blog was written days before Fiona Hyslop MSP, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, made her speech at the annual David Talbot Rice Memorial Lecture on 5 June, 2013. So much to say about it – and more than happy to, in the comment box below. But suffice to say for now, that it’s nice to see that a minister and her team reads widely, deeply – and openly – in the Scottish blogosphere… Let the conversation continue, and deepen!**

Arts blog: I’m writing about creative scotland again, sorry

As reported in this newspaper yesterday, Creative Scotland has just announced it is planning to spend £45,000 of public money on an “opinion survey to better understand our customers”.

There are so many worrying things about this that it’s difficult to know where to start. Let’s take them one by one.

1. “Customers”? This is an organisation that has just gone through a year of painful self-examination in the wake of widespread and damning criticism from artists – hundreds of whom signed an open letter expressing serious concern about the organisation’s “corporate ethos”. The writer and musician Pat Kane, who has just spent several months chairing a series of Open Sessions for artists to air their concerns, wrote in his summing up on Monday that “the greatest and most common anxiety was that a ‘financialised’ and ‘corporatised’ language … had become too dominant in the operations of Creative Scotland”.

And yet despite all this – and despite a speech last week from culture minister Fiona Hyslop that made a point of saying “this Government does not look at our cultural life and heritage as if they are merely products that can be bought and sold” - Creative Scotland is still talking as if was a bank rather than a public funding body. This has not, it’s fair to say, gone down very well.

2. £45,000? Really? To “monitor changes in perceptions of Creative Scotland and satisfaction with our services?” Immediately after Creative Scotland has spent significant amounts of time and money on a substantial, nationwide consultation exercise? The purpose of this new survey, we’re told, is to “better understand the views of the public and stakeholder organisations on the arts and creativity”. In other words, this one is to find out what the general public think, rather than what people who work in the arts think. I think. “Stakeholder organisations” sort of suggests they’re going to be talking to artists again.
Anyway, the unfortunate implication of all this is that people who work in the arts, or people interested enough in the arts to attend one of the recent Open Sessions all across the country, or contribute to any of the debate about Creative Scotland so far (in numerous public meetings, Facebook groups etc etc) don’t count as members of the general public. This is not a good message to be sending.

3. Another purpose of the Creative Scotland survey, we’re told, is to “improve our intelligence on the media impact of our communications”. Sorry, isn’t that the day-to-day job of Creative Scotland’s PR team?

I’d love to believe that Fiona Hyslop’s speech last week, and the appointment of Janet Archer, pictured left, as Creative Scotland’s new chief executive, signalled a fresh start for this troubled organisation. Perhaps it will. Hyslop’s speech was properly brave, inspiring stuff – and such a contrast with the dreary philistinism of her Westminster counterpart, Maria Miller, that it is being talked about as excitedly in London as it is up here. Janet Archer, meanwhile, seems to be a popular choice – she is well respected in Scotland and elsewhere, and it’s refreshing to see a woman in a job previously occupied by, how can we put this, a man with a bit too much swagger for his own good.

Disasters like this, though, suggest Archer is going to spend her first weeks in the job doing damage limitation. Not a good start.

Friday, 14 June 2013

AIR's UK-wide Paying Artists Survey

The first results of AIR's UK-wide Paying Artists Survey – which focuses on artists' experiences of publicly-funded galleries – reveal low earnings, miniscule or no fees at all for exhibiting, and shrinking production budgets.
The first set of results of a survey by AIR: Artists Interaction and Representation reveal that the majority of artists receive no fee at all for exhibiting work and most earn less than £10,000 a year from their practice.

Over 1000 artists took part in the UK-wide survey exploring artists’ experiences of exhibiting in publicly-funded venues in the UK. The survey was developed by DHA Communications within a wider campaign to highlight the need to pay and value artists for their vital contribution to arts and culture. The results will inform the next research stages which include discussions with galleries, professional networks and arts funders.

Key findings from the survey include some sobering figures on the income artists earn from their practice:

- 72% of artists earn up to £10K a year
- 17% earn between £10K and £20K
- Only 12% earn more than £20K

Sales, teaching and commissions were the key sources of income for artists, with most citing 'sharing their work with the public' as the most important reason for exhibiting. 

However, nearly half of all artists reported that exhibiting their work is prohibitively expensive.  

Key findings in relation to exhibiting include:

- 71% of artists surveyed had not received any fee at all for exhibiting. Of those who were paid a fee, over a third received less than £200. Over half expressed dissatisfaction with their fee when set against their experience and status

- 63% of artists have turned down an offer to exhibit for reasons including unsuitability of venue, lack of fees, or non-payment of expenses

- 62% of artists have exhibited in a publicly-subsidised gallery in the last three years

- Only 16 of 134 publicly-funded UK galleries were cited by artists as providing exemplary support for exhibiting artists

- Less than half received production support (technical assistance, etc) from the gallery and less than a third got expenses, such as covering the cost of transporting their work to a gallery

AIR Council member Caroline Wright said: “The aim of the survey is to generate advocacy including knowledge of good practice frameworks, and to shape positive policy change for artists. We hope the campaign will empower artists and galleries to work together to improve the current state of affairs.”

An infographic of the key survey findings can be viewed at

Jack Hutchinson

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

MFA exhibition at the Glue Factory

Today I visited the Glue Factory to see this year's MFA exhibition. This exhibition marks the end of the student's two year postgraduate degree at Glasgow School of Art. As is the usual case with such exhibitions at the Glue Factory, some work is enhanced by the gritty, dirty surroundings, while other works would be better suited to a 'white cube' gallery context.

Fraser Sim has embraced the individual features of the space by, for instance, using the fireplace in the wall as a focal point for his installation titled UNITS.

The variety of coloured blocks become like 'coffee-table books'. 

Each block is exquisitely handmade and individual, but I believe that when displayed as a collective group such as in this exhibition, they become so much more interesting as we are asked to consider them as part of a whole rather than individual pieces.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Glasgow School of Art Degree Show

It's hard to believe that 5 years ago I was exhibiting in the Glasgow School of Art Degree Show. There has been lots of change in those 5 years, but the annual degree show continues to raise interesting debate and attracts newspaper coverage.

Here is one article

The age of austerity and mankind's indifference to goats will be explored in the Glasgow School of Art's Degree Show.

Work from 123 students will take over the Mackintosh Building for the School of Fine Art's showcase.

The collection of painted canvases, video pieces, sculptures, multi-media installations, photography and performance works will be open to the public from June 8 until 15 at the Garnethill campus.

Sculpture and Environmental Art student James MacEacheran will be bringing live goats into his installation which challenges the US military's act of shooting animals to allow soldiers to practice binding wounds.

The 22-year-old explained the importance of the event: “It’s the final hurdle of the year and it’s a good opportunity to show your interests.

“My installation is quite unusual, for one of the days there will be goats there as part of it and for the rest it will just be really messy and smelling of goats. There's a lot of indifference to goats in the world, they are not really livestock and not really pets.

“Mostly, I just want people to be able to connect to goats and to understand they are not just a funny internet phenomenon. I don't come from a farming background, I'm more taking it from a military perspective but I also wanted to do something fun. There's more to goats than people think.”

Artists from the Painting and Printmaking, Sculpture and Environmental Art and Fine Art Photography programmes will exhibit their work side by side for the week.

Kenyersel, real name Gordon Andrew McKerrow, has brought together two figures from the Glasgow music scene for a video portrait.

And there's a particular poignancy to the project after the death of one of the subjects, Dave Wilson, in May following a long battle with cancer.

Gordon said: “I wanted to look at these two Glasgow musicians; Dave Wilson, from the Uptown Shufflers, and Greg Aitken, a classical and jazz guitarist who busks on Ashton Lane. They may have been separated by generations but were such big characters that they had a lot in common.

“I wanted to connect them in a way, they've both grown up in different times but had the same attitudes and passion towards music. It's been interesting to draw their stories together. I recorded a video when they met each other but I've kept that out of the installation because I wanted the connection to be more implicit.”

In other parts of the building visitors can find Glenn Kennedy's paintings examining recent disruptions in Belfast and Rosie O'Grady's multi-media project involving a camel which takes a fun look at the institution's past where 100 years ago staff would bring in live animals for students to draw.

The diversity of the showcase is further highlighted by an Austerity Cafe which Chris Silver will be running throughout the exhibition.

Austerity Cafe Chris Silver at the Austerity Café

Chris will be dressing up and coordinating morning and afternoon performances during the run. He said: "I started the project to try to make sense of austerity and what it meant. I decided to go on a porridge diet and use art in a way to reflect it and I've now ended up eating porridge for the last 138 days.

"When I started researching I found out that the chancellor George Osborne actually studied Modern History, so I thought maybe if I got a 2:1 in this it would qualify me to be a minister or a cultural secretary because it's a bit more relevant than George's background.

"Marie Antoinette was a natural link to the subject of austerity and I'm looking at it through the character Les Mis. I'll be performing and giving out goody bags containing things like porridge and once I've given everything out and there's no more bags to give away people can take the pegs from the walls so in the end there will be nothing else to give.

“I wanted to do something that people would either love or hate. I didn't want there to be an indifference, for this final show I wanted it to be memorable and for the Austerity Cafe to create a legacy of sorts."

Spread out over various sites, members of the public can also check out three floors of design displays by more than 140 students at the Skypark Campus.

The Design School output includes work by Ross Hogg, whose short film The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat has been selected for a screening at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and Francesca MacDonald's Raviolo Lavorio cookbook.

The Skypark will feature projects from the Silversmithing and Jewellery, Interior Design, Fashion and Textiles, Product Design, Communication Design and Product Design Engineering courses.

Elsewhere, work from 24 postgraduates will be on display at the Glue Factory until June 15.
Work at the Degree Show

Jim Birrell head of painting and printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art says the Degree Shows are a unique opportunity to see up-and-coming artists.

He explained: "At the School of Fine Art there's a lot of focus on social conditions and austerity, much of it deals with the impact of the environment and every year it's interesting to see what the students will come up with.

"They are encouraged to be completely individual and have the scope to do whatever they want within their discipline. The studios are completely transformed for the shows and there's a lot of hard work that goes into the shows.

"It's an opportunity for people to see what goes on at the Glasgow School of Art. No doubt a few of these students will be well known in the future."

The Glasgow School of Art Degree Show is open 10am until 5pm Saturday and Sunday, 10am until 9pm Monday to Thursday, and on Friday from 10am until 7pm at the Garnethill Campus and Skypark Campus.

The MFA show at the Glue Factory is open daily between 11am and 6pm. For more go to the Glasgow School of Art website.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Joyce McMillan: Looking for a new approach to arts

If economics is not to determine the value of art in Scotland, a change in institutionalised red tape is vital, writes Joyce McMillan

On Wednesday evening, at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland’s culture secretary Fiona Hyslop delivered a speech made to gladden the heart of everyone who cares about Scotland’s creative life, and about the artists, writers, performers and musicians who make it happen. Fresh from a bruising year of debate about the initial failure of the new arts agency Creative Scotland – set up in 2010, and essentially stopped in its tracks last year, by a massive rebellion of artists against its ideology, language and attitude – the culture secretary set about making it clear that so long as she and her party have anything to do with it, cultural policy in Scotland will no longer be shaped by the instrumentalising, economics-driven approach that has become increasingly prevalent in British arts funding since the 1980’s.

As an SNP politician, Fiona Hyslop is clearly interested in putting some “clear tartan water” between her approach and that of the English culture minister, Maria Miller, who recently asked England’s hard-pressed cultural sector to exert itself, once again, to demonstrate the economic benefits of arts spending, if it wants to continue to receive subsidy. For Ms Hyslop, though, that argument is over. “I know what these sectors can deliver because I see it in action,” she said. “So for this government, the case has been made.” And she went on to challenge Maria Miller’s definition of culture as a “product” to be marketed worldwide. “If ever there was a way to suck the vitality out of a topic that should energise, invigorate, inspire and move,” she said, “it is to make a perfunctory nod to generic social benefits, and then, in the next breath, to reduce it to nothing more than a commodity.”

It’s fine stuff, in other words, and it gets better. Not since the days of the wonderful Jennie Lee, perhaps, has an arts minister on this island gone on to speak with such passion about the role of culture in linking us to our past, enriching the present, and imagining new futures; and the culture secretary also paid warm tribute to David Talbot Rice himself, late professor of fine art in Edinburgh, observing that, “his life shows how much Scotland owes to those who come from other lands, and choose to make their lives here”. Her speech has received a huge welcome from artists and those who care about the arts across Scotland; and for all its genuine passion, the culture secretary would not be a politician if she did not hope that it would help strengthen support for a Yes vote in next year’s referendum, among Scotland’s most influential cultural movers and shakers.
Yet in this area, as in many others, the fine words spoken by an SNP minister leave behind a slight sense of unease. The sentiments are clearly sincere, and designed to find an echo in a Scotland that consistently rejects the market-driven ideology behind much UK government thinking. When it comes to implementation, though, there seems to be no plan for seriously confronting that thinking, for taking apart and remaking the institutional and bureaucratic structures which reflect it, or for resisting the fierce private-sector lobbying that tends to drive governments in that direction.

On the contrary, there is often real confusion about whether the SNP wants to be seen as defenders of the 1945 social democratic settlement – still cherished by a majority of Scots – or as 1990s-style “modernisers”, friendly to business, and keen on low tax. As one sage observer of the Scottish political scene observed last night, Fiona Hyslop’s speech is clearly “off message” compared with recent pronouncements from finance and energy ministers John Swinney and Fergus Ewing, to the effect that everything the Scottish Government does, without exception, has to be about “sustainable economic growth”.

So as Scotland moves towards the 2014 referendum, one of the biggest questions remaining unanswered is whether its governing party really has the political will to deliver on its warm words. Yesterday, the morning after the minister’s speech, Creative Scotland announced the appointment of its new boss, after a tortuous six months of deliberation. She is Janet Archer, currently dance director of the Arts Council of England; and if the culture secretary’s speech is to be taken at face value, she will have, when she arrives in July, to begin the herculean and highly political task of transforming Creative Scotland from a late-20th-century target-driven “delivery” agency focused on assessing artists’ skill in filling in forms – including the notorious raft of questions about the “economic impact” of activities such as novel-writing – to a 21st-century one, one which rediscovers the nerve to assess artists on the basis of the work they have done, and to give support to those who have shown that they are most likely to make brilliant creative use of it.

And what I wonder, as I read Fiona Hyslop’s inspiring speech, is whether either the minister or Creative Scotland’s new director really recognises the depth of the cultural change – almost a revolution – which would be involved in achieving that goal. It would mean dropping most of the language of assessment and development with which the current generation of arts administrators have grown up. It would mean rediscovering the confidence to make judgments of cultural value, albeit in a more open and consultative context than would have been recognised by the Arts Council grandees of old; it would mean talking the language of art and of human experience, rather than of business and economic development.

On Wednesday evening the minister made a fine start along this road. Yet she and her colleagues should be in no doubt that a negative, mistrustful and deeply economistic attitude to public spending, obsessed with the delivery of easily measurable goals, is now written deep into the DNA of British public administration. Which means that if ministers wish to mount a serious challenge to those assumptions, their decision will have implications that go far beyond arts and heritage; into a profound confrontation with the centre-right consensus that now unites the main parties at Westminster, and into the fiercest and most significant political battle the SNP has ever known.

Fiona Hyslop speech - Past, Present & Future: Culture and Heritage in an Independent Scotland

On Wednesday evening, Scotland’s culture secretary Fiona Hyslop gave the annual lecture to the friends of the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh.

In contrast to England's culture minister, Maria Miller, who recently spoke about the need for those in the cultural sector to demonstrate the economic value of the arts, Hyslop does not define culture as a “product” to be marketed worldwide.

THE full text of Fiona Hyslop’s speech at the Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh is below, and can be read on the Scotsman website:

I've highlighted a few important parts from her speech.

Past, Present & Future:
Culture & Heritage in an Independent Scotland

Thank you, Betty, for your kind introduction and may I say that I am delighted to give this year’s annual lecture to the friends of the Talbot Rice Gallery.

The Gallery is, of course, named after David Talbot Rice, who was appointed to the Watson Gordon chair of Fine Art at Edinburgh University at the remarkably young age of 31, a post he held until his death. In many ways his life exemplifies some of the themes of the past, present and future of our culture and heritage that I want to touch on this evening. His life shows how much Scotland owes to those who come to us from other lands and choose to make their lives here. This Gallery is a fitting memorial to his work in encouraging modern art in Scotland.

He also contributed much to preserving historic art, far from Scotland, as the UK’s first lecturer in Islamic Art before coming to Edinburgh, and as a leading authority on the icons of the Byzantine Empire. I am proud to be associated with his memory through giving this lecture this evening.

I am also delighted to be here in the Georgian Gallery, this masterpiece by one of our greatest architects, William Playfair. I have just come from a very different building, the Scottish Parliament, the very modern creation of the Catalan architect Enric Miralles.
For me, these two buildings tell us much about what is great about Scotland - the way that past achievements from the Scottish Enlightenment and other great periods in our history mingle with modern successes and developments - and the way in which our own artistic achievements can be celebrated, along with those from other lands.

One of my favourite parts of the Scottish Parliament is the Canongate Wall, adorned with a number of pertinent Scottish quotations, chiselled into the sandstone and granite. I like to think that it’s mirrored within the Parliament by an inspiring sculpture called ‘Travelling the Distance’, which stands testament to the contribution that women have made to the development of democracy in Scotland. I pass by both of these walls many times each week and, indeed, I did so on my way here.

This evening I want to set out five key areas which underpin this Government’s approach to culture and heritage in Scotland.

Firstly, I will take the opportunity to set out how distinct this Government’s approach is from the position set out last month by the UK Government’s Culture Secretary. 

I then want to talk about the value that I, this government and this nation places on culture and heritage, in and of themselves. Why? Because they bind and connect our past, our present and our future and tell the stories about where we’ve come from, who we are and help us reflect on who we could be. 

I’ll then move on to talk about how culture and heritage roots us in place, and helps to empower, enrich and shape our communities.

I believe that culture and heritage in Scotland is of us all and for us all, so I want to talk also about access and participation and how we work to enable all of Scotland’s communities to benefit, not just from the great cultural wealth and heritage of this nation, but also the world’s.

I will then talk about the wealth of other benefits that culture and heritage bring to our communities, both social and economic.

Finally, I want to bring all of this together to speak to you about our ambition and our vision – which is to build an independent nation where our cultural and historic life can flourish.

This is the most culturally ambitious government that Scotland has ever had. We believe that public funding of the arts is a fundamental good and we want the opportunity to take this to new heights - carried on a wave of aspiration, optimism, energy and confidence.

The past year has seen significant debate across Scotland on the value and role of culture and cultural heritage in Scotland. This debate has often been difficult and challenging, but it has consistently been thought provoking and stimulating. Regardless of whether the discussion has been uncomfortable or exciting – it has often come down to a debate around whether culture has a value simply in itself OR whether we should also be considering a wider “public good” and how culture and heritage contributes to economic, social and personal well-being. 

Stanley Baldwin, who was three times Prime Minister between the wars, had a gift for pouring oil on troubled waters. After one heated debate he started his summing up speech by saying “I am struck not so much by the diversity of opinion, as by the many sidedness of the truth”.

That is how I feel after the heated, but very necessary, debate that we have had. Many views have been expressed and they all have their validity. I was particularly struck by a statement made by Dumfries artist Matt Baker at one of the recent Creative Scotland Open Sessions –quoting from Hume - he reminded us that “truth springs from arguments amongst friends”. 

So, my argument to the friends of the Talbot Rice Gallery is that we do not need to choose between culture for its own sake, or for wider benefits. We can do both and, indeed, I know that we do both –exceptionally well – because I see this every day in my work as Culture Secretary.

I have said before that it is not the Government’s job to tell artists what to paint or authors what to write or craftspeople what to fashion. Nor is it the Government’s job to tell people what art to see, what books to read or what crafts to buy. It is our job, however, to create the conditions which enable artists to flourish and as many people, groups and organisations as possible to benefit from and enjoy our culture and heritage. I want to talk to you today about how we do this and set out our aspirations for how we could be so much more.

[Clear Blue Water - The UK Government’s approach]
Recently, the Culture Secretary for the UK Government set out a different approach to culture and asked the culture sector to help her make the arguments about the economic impact of culture in the context of economic growth.

I don’t agree. That is not the future I choose.

The Scottish Government already accepts the case for the role of government in supporting the cultural sector. We actively support the case for public subsidy of the arts. We understand that culture and heritage have a value in and of themselves.

I don’t need or want the culture or heritage sector to make a new economic or social case to justify public support for their work. I know what these sectors can deliver because I see it in action. I visit hardworking artists and practitioners who are exploring new ways of working; and who are creating dynamic and exciting new ways of enjoying and sharing their work and the work of our ancestors. They think in new ways precisely because they are artists.
So, for this Government, the case has been made.

On the 18 of September 2014, the Referendum will give us an opportunity to vote for a future based on choices, predicated on a judgement about what kind of value systems we want to shape our lives. In culture, the contrast between our approach and attitude to artists and creativity and that demonstrated by the UK Government is fundamental and profound. It reflects a choice of two futures.

The UK Government asks what culture can do for the UK Government’s purpose; it asks that cultural bodies, artists and organisations justify public funding by demonstrating – and I quote from the UK Culture Secretary’s speech – “the healthy dividends that our investment continues to pay” and that “[British] culture is perhaps the most powerful and most compelling product we have available to us”.

Of course the culture and heritage sectors make an invaluable contribution to our economic life, but despite these challenging times, we do not measure the worth of culture and heritage solely in pounds and pence – we value culture and heritage precisely because they are so much more, because they are our heart, our soul, our essence. 

This Government does not look at our cultural life and heritage as if they are merely products that can be bought and sold. If there was ever a way to suck the vitality out of a topic that should energise, invigorate, inspire and move – it is to make a perfunctory nod to generic social benefits and then, in the next breath, reduce it to nothing more than a commodity.

Now, in the emollient tradition of Stanley Baldwin, I do not want to say that there was no element of truth in Maria Miller’s remarks. Such truth as there was, however, was entirely one- sided. I agree with her in thinking that the economic effects of culture are valuable. I profoundly disagree, however, in seeing that as its only, or most important, value. For me, culture’s economic value is not its primary purpose but a secondary benefit.

As Culture Secretary for Scotland, I cannot and will not subject the cultural sector to this kind of reductive thinking. It is our role to create the conditions for cultural and creative excellence to flourish. Why? Because this is a prerequisite for all those other benefits that culture can deliver … above all for our quality of life, and our well-being and, secondarily, for our economy.

[2. Culture & Heritage – our past, our present, our future]
I believe that culture and heritage are both an intrinsic and instrumental good for us all.
Scotland’s cultural life and heritage cannot be reduced to a single style or image; rather, they are a wealth of what we might describe as “stories” that take many different forms, as diverse as the land, peoples and places of this complex country.

There is no one thing that defines us. There are, of course, iconic images, poems, films, artists, writers, performers, compositions, buildings and landscapes that evoke a sense of our ‘Scotland’. A Scotland that is steeped in meaning and history but which is continually on the move - engaging with its past, looking beyond borders, seeking new and innovative ways to engage with the world.

From the Stones of Stenness, built, we believe, to connect our ancestors to their past, through to the fragility and beauty of the work of Scotland’s contemporary sculptors such as Karla Black … whose work is shaped by both traditional materials and the by-products of the modern world, immortalised by the tools of our digital age and renowned far and wide. Our culture and heritage is nothing less than dynamic, nothing less than rich and nothing less than inspiring.

The connections and threads between our past, our present and our future are flexible and fluid; we both take and create meaning when we look deep into the history of our nation, shaped by those who have settled here and those who have left for faraway shores; our connections with other countries, other peoples all linked by these threads connecting people, forms and ideas.

I want Scotland to be recognised as a nation that not only nurtures and is nourished by wonderful songs, poems, stories, drama, dance, paintings, and sculpture … but as a nation that welcomes artists and creative practitioners from all over the world to come, to inspire and to be inspired, to innovate and to create.

I want Scotland to be understood not just by what we do, but by how we do it. Supporting the process of artistic development is as important as recognising and appreciating the art itself. 

Last week, I attended the tenth anniversary of the Scotland + Venice Exhibition at the Venice Biennale where Scotland is represented by three emerging artists - Corin Sworn, Duncan Campbell and Hayley Tompkins - not Scottish by birth but representing this nation by choice. Their work is thoughtful, engaged and reaches out to the world. Supporting artists as they develop has to be a hallmark of the Scotland we seek. So too is Scotland’s constant dialogue with the world.

Last year’s first ever global Culture Summit, attended by 33 nations from across the world, was testament to that enduring belief in the power of culture to transform lives, nations and to facilitate international dialogue. It was also testament to a way of working that bears rich fruit both at home and abroad. It was collaborative, in that it was jointly delivered by four programme partners, with considerable help from the sector and the Scottish Parliament as host. It was inclusive – it brought Culture Ministers together with artists from across the world. And it was here - in this wonderfully creative and historic city.

The Culture Summit brought home how, worldwide, culture and heritage inspires, enriches and challenges. Having said that, there is beauty and joy to be experienced in a work of art, a piece of music, a film or a book, and when setting out why we support and value culture and heritage, that most basic of human needs must be remembered.

Art is not always comfortable. It does not need to be easy or ‘feel good’. I want us to cherish what’s difficult, what’s challenging and what’s uncomfortable. It is the very measure of the health of our democracy to welcome and embrace the role of artists to challenge our expectations, to nudge us from our comfort zones and encourage us, individually or collectively to reflect on how we could do better and be better. 

History is peppered with stories and ideas that define us. Some cause for celebration, others almost for lamentation, because any nation’s story has its darker moments and these are also part of our heritage - urging us all to reflect on acts that both have harmed us and have done harm.

When Picasso painted Guernica, he didn’t do so to merely adorn a wall, he did so to make a profound and powerful political statement. I know that contemporary audiences confronted with, for example, the National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch also feel that profound sense of contemplation, reflection, raw energy and emotion. It’s an astonishingly powerful and impressive piece of modern theatre … that also asks us to reflect on the meaning and impact of war.

Scotland is more than a nation bound by a border and oceans, it is a nation of ideas and our innovation and creativity is an intrinsic part of our increasingly global lives. A story, a piece of theatre, a stone circle or a song can expand those boundaries and take us beyond borders.
To give you another quote from the Canongate Wall, Hugh MacDiarmid asked, “Scotland small? Our multiform, our infinite Scotland small?”

Our size is only limited by our imagination, our reach as extensive as our desire and capacity to explore. This is a nation that truly values its creative talents and heritage. That’s why we have prioritised the funding for the National Performing Companies and maintained the international touring fund. That’s why we have also prioritised the funding for the grants administered by Historic Scotland. And, through our Expo Fund, that’s why we continue to support Edinburgh’s festivals and the development of new and exciting work which will be shared around the world. That’s why we are maintaining free access to Scotland’s national collections, including the newly refurbished National Museum of Scotland, which welcomed more than 2 million visitors in its first year of reopening.

Governments in the past have, of course, done much to stifle and suffocate our culture and heritage. We only have to look at Gaelic to see the harm done and why, to turn the tide, I worked hard to ensure that by law we must ‘promote’ not just ‘protect’ the Gaelic language even when I was in opposition. We now celebrate Gaelic everywhere, from increasing the learning of Gaelic in schools and signage in railway stations, to vibrant Gaelic film awards. For young Gaelic speakers, this is a different world.

This is also a country where our historic environment is well managed and enjoyed by many. We have five World Heritage Sites and we hope that the Forth Bridge will become the sixth in 2015. We have over 45,000 listed buildings, over 8,000 scheduled monuments, and 645 conservation areas.

In the last year, Historic Scotland has been working with partners to develop a new strategy which will reflect the huge value which the historic environment has in its own right. Not only as evidence of past creativity and ingenuity, but also in terms of other values, through its contribution to social fabric, community cohesion and economic wellbeing. I am excited by the new strategy, the first Scotland has ever had for the historic environment. The aims and priorities, which have been collectively developed, will facilitate even greater benefit from Scotland’s heritage. To match this strategy, we have also developed a new architecture policy so that this generation, in its turn, leaves behind an architectural legacy of which we can be proud.

Our towns, cities, villages and open spaces are enriched, not only by our past but by our present. In 2011, five new or refurbished heritage centres opened in Scotland – and these are all examples of high quality architectural design. The Burns Museum in Alloway, the refurbished King James the Fifth Palace at Stirling Castle, the National Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, and the Riverside Museum in Glasgow which is the recent recipient of a major European award, are all fabulous visitor attractions. They also stand testament to our relationship with the world – it is in Glasgow that the internationally renowned Zaha Hadid brought a vision to life, capturing the relationship between city and sea, industry and ship-building in inspiring architectural form.

Glasgow City Council led on the Riverside Museum and when I talk about the common and collective value that we place on our culture and our heritage, I recognise that it is not just this Government and the sector, but also the support, collaboration and partnership demonstrated by Scotland’s local authorities and, indeed, by the private and third sectors. I already place a great importance on working with Scotland’s local authorities during these challenging times to help facilitate the building of effective networks, partnerships and sharing of best practice so that we can all play our part in supporting and protecting our cultural, creative and heritage services.

[3. Culture & heritage – roots and place]
Culture and heritage are not just the domain of public agencies and authorities or private or third sector organisations. Culture and heritage are fundamentally about people and places and I believe it is our duty to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to access the arts and cultural experiences, regardless of where they live in Scotland.

It is our job to ensure that we enable and enhance the contribution that culture and heritage make to our places because our communities are so much more than a collection of shops, buildings and houses. Historic Scotland is working with local government and many other partners to ensure that historic environment plays a key role in making and maintaining high quality places – through advice, proportionate regulation, and financial initiatives.

Creative Scotland’s Place Partnerships and the Creative Place Awards also demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that communities across the length and breadth of this country are supported to create and participate, so that all the hard work and imagination that contribute to the cultural life of communities, is recognised and rewarded. We need to work together effectively and build on partnerships to really make the most of the benefits that culture can bring.

Place is about more than physical structures and landscape. Places are where things happen. Places are where we listen to and play music, where we hear and write stories, where we look at and create paintings and sculptures, where we watch and produce films and where we dance. Places are where we take part.

Last year, 2012, saw some fantastic programmes and performances that were rooted very much in place. I’m thinking here of the wonderful programmes that marked the Cultural Olympiad and the Year of Creative Scotland.

It was a busy year and next year, 2014, promises to be even more so with Homecoming, the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup. When I think about all the performances and events I was privileged enough to see last year, though, I am struck by just how profoundly important place was to their impact and success.

Sistema Scotland’s Big Concert at Raploch, in the shadow of Stirling Castle was inspiring and moving, in spite of the dreadful weather – and the impact that the musicians of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra have had on the children and their families reverberates still almost one year later. That concert worked because it demonstrated a fundamental respect for the place that this work originated from – both here in Scotland and in its connections back to the model developed in Venezuela.

How we do things is just as important as what things we do. It would have been easy – and a whole lot drier – to bring the Big Concert to a concert hall in a city, but that would have undermined the profound importance of place and community to that work. The Big Concert brought some of the world’s finest musicians and an internationally renowned conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, to Raploch. It is there that Scotland has developed its Sistema model and it is there that a community came together to enjoy classical music at its best and to celebrate the achievements and ambitions of its young people.

That shows the strength of the connection between people and places. We need to build on that more in our cultural policy making. So, for example, a key pillar of the Museums Strategy is precisely a focus on strong connections between museums, people and places. That brings me on to what I want to talk about next, access and participation and a belief that our culture and our heritage are of us all and for us all.

[4. Culture & Heritage – of us all and for us all]
I think there’s a sense of place and of ownership that is both common and individual and which is distinct to Scotland.

This is a country that is proud and confident, rooted in culture and heritage; a country where everyone should have the opportunity to participate and benefit; where everybody cares about, shares and champions our culture and our heritage – where everyone has a responsibility and can make a contribution. A country where we not only cherish our diverse heritage and traditions, but also continually seek to create opportunities to share and celebrate.

That’s what we should be and that’s what we could be. That’s not yet quite what we are.
Another quote from the Canongate Wall is by the poet and social activist Mary Brooksbank, it reads:
“Oh, dear me, the warld’s ill-divided,
Them that work the hardest are aye wi’ least provided.”

Our communities are alive with music, with dance, with bands, gala days, literature, with theatre and poetry. I want that recognised and celebrated. But, there are divisions in society. Those who are least provided for, are often not just materially deprived but lack opportunities to access culture. But we know that not everyone is able or enabled to take part and to enjoy. I want everyone to have the opportunity to benefit and the opportunity to participate; I want everyone to be empowered and benefit from our rich cultural life. I want to ensure that our collective efforts to tackle poverty and exclusion tackle all aspects of experience. The UK is currently one of the most unequal states on this planet and the future I seek will tackle that in all its facets

Not everyone can get to galleries, theatres, museums and performance spaces. How can we innovate to bring our culture and heritage to people and communities who are constrained by place, whether that’s through geography, incapacity, or poverty or a sense that ‘this isn’t for me’? I want more people to experience more art.

There are some great examples of improvements to access through digital media and by taking art to communities, by making sure transportation is effective and affordable but I’m sure there is more that we could be doing,

Creating the conditions for meaningful access and participation, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to benefit can be done in many ways, not just in a cultural setting, but also in how we use culture to achieve other ends. It’s not just about those places and spaces where you might “expect” to find cultural and creative experiences … it’s also about coming across cultural and creative activity in spaces and places you may least expect. 

I like the idea of a Museum of Scotland that has no walls … no locked boxes … which sees items and expertise from our collections shared far and wide for maximum enjoyment and benefit. I’m also proud of our artists rooms which take the best of contemporary art to all the airts and pairts.

Look at our National Theatre of Scotland, whose home is a collection of hundreds of venues, spaces and places that can be brought to life by a fantastic piece of theatre.
The National Theatre isn’t dependent on location. I’m interested in this idea of building and strengthening the networks and partnerships that we have already in Scotland so that we have cultural and creative hubs throughout Scotland for the benefit of artists and communities across the country.

I would welcome proposals from across the public, private and third sector as to how we might achieve this.

This commitment to enabling our people and our communities to participate is strengthened by the value we assign to the wider benefits that our culture and heritage bring.

[5. Culture & Heritage – benefits us all ]
I believe that our rich culture and diverse historic environment are unique assets which are not only valuable in their own right, but which generate wider social and economic benefits.
Whilst culture and heritage make a profound and priceless contribution to our lives in and of themselves, we can also be proud that we recognise that they can bring so much more.

[Social Benefits]
Culture and heritage are fundamental to our quality of life. A vibrant heritage is central in shaping our sense of place and making our communities attractive places to live, work, invest and visit. Culture and heritage are a powerful force for renewal and regeneration. They underpin our journey towards better health and safer, more resilient communities, individual well-being and enriched lives.

In a period of increasingly limited resources, we must ensure that public, private and third sector organisations work in partnership with communities, and with each other, to design and deliver excellent cultural and heritage services which meet our needs. We also need our communities to be empowered and confident to express themselves.

As I said at the outset, this isn’t always comfortable. Let me give you an example. Recently I attended a theatre performance, in what could possibly be described as a pretty soulless meeting room in Victoria Quay, a Scottish Government building. It’s not a particularly inspiring space, but for one hour on a Monday afternoon it was transformed into something wonderful, terrifying and utterly profound. I was there to view a performance of Wee Andy – a piece of theatre penned and directed by Paddy Cunneen that evokes the emotional and physical horror and fall-out of gang culture in Scotland. This play is an impressive piece of political and social theatre. It can also, though, bring social benefits. Performances have been shared with young offenders, who, indeed shaped the work in partnership with the playwright.

Take too the wonderful musical production the Glasgow Girls. It’s an astonishingly moving story of how, in 2005, a group of teenagers from Drumchapel High School in Glasgow fought against the deportation of a Kosovan school friend, and won. You wouldn’t think that child detention and deportation would be cheery topics for a night out. Yet this is truly a story-telling triumph. You can’t fail to leave the theatre without riding high on the energy of the performances and the power of the story. What’s more, if you fail to be moved by the depiction of Jack McConnell as a gold lamé suited-Elvis then I will have to assume you have a heart made of stone.

Continuing the theme of thinking about culture’s wider social impacts, last year, I pulled together a sizeable funding package for Sistema Scotland. Now, you could argue that Government funding is Government funding, it doesn’t really matter which ‘bit’ funds ‘what’.
But it does.

When we fund a programme like Sistema Scotland we demonstrate something powerful. Sistema is social regeneration through culture.

So I pulled together a funding package in which Culture contributed because we recognise that Sistema Scotland is making a real cultural impact, as those of you who saw the Big Concert will know; Schools put in funding because the kind of team training that an orchestra provides makes a real contribution to the Curriculum for Excellence; Children and Families contributed because Sistema does wonders for children’s confidence and skills, with ten youngsters from the orchestra now playing with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland; and Regeneration found its share because the Sistema programme has been recognised as playing an integral part of the wider regeneration of Govanhill.

We know that immersion in cultural activity can help bolster the resilience and well-being of communities and individuals. I’m thinking here of Fèisean nan Gàidheal which is at the forefront of Gaelic arts development, with research suggesting that participation not only increases skills in young people but also self-esteem and a sense of identity. This Government recognises the importance of early intervention and is working very hard with the public sector to deliver real and meaningful reforms. Our cross portfolio funding of Sistema Scotland demonstrates this by supporting a programme that exemplifies good partnership working, with a focus on prevention, people and improving performance.
[Economic benefits]

I said at the outset that I don’t expect the cultural sector to have to make and re-make the case for culture in an economic context. Acknowledging the economic benefits does not degrade culture or heritage, nor does it damage the authentic meaning of the intrinsic experience. Culture and heritage bring economic benefits to individuals, communities and the nation – this is a simple fact, which is clearly understood. You can’t have great film design, craft, and textiles without a firm grounding in a vibrant cultural sector.

For example, a study of Edinburgh’s festivals in 2010 showed that they contributed over a quarter of a billion pounds to Scotland’s economy and supported over 5,000 jobs.

We want to see cultural and creative industries making a growing contribution to employment and economic output, sitting also at the heart of regeneration, renewal and change. Historic Scotland’s expertise and work in tackling carbon emissions in historic buildings is an example of traditional skills tackling a modern need. I will champion the use of traditional skills in a modern setting – print, conservation, weft and weave.

The Government’s Economic Strategy identified seven growth sectors as being those holding the greatest potential for growth and internationalisation. The creative industries form one of those sectors, recognising both their direct contribution to the economy and the way in which skills such as design and delivering content digitally are becoming vital to other sectors such as manufacturing as well.

The key common factor that marks the creative industries is that the output has a creative originality that thereby creates intellectual property. In 2010 Creative Industries contributed £2.7 billion to Scotland’s economy. To put that in context, this is almost on a par with our Tourism sector which contributed £2.9 billion.

As elsewhere in our culture, we see the old joined by the new. The venerable HarperCollins, founded by William Collins in 1819 is now joined by more recent firms like Canongate Books. We must embrace digital challenge, opportuanity and debate. In fashion, Harris Tweed, over a century old, is selling at record levels, with over a million metres of cloth sold in 2012; Scottish tartan makes over £200 million a year for the Scottish economy. I first met designers Bebaroque, who now design elaborate body-stockings for the likes of Katy Perry, at a Starter for Six creative industries showcase.

If I were to make one ask, though, it would be for the sector to reach out to my public sector colleagues – there is a whole raft of help, expertise, advice, services and sometimes some cash – to help you get started and to grow and make yourselves and Scotland flourish sustainably.

Scotland’s traditional buildings make an enormous contribution to our economy and our national identity. Our historic environment supports 60,000 jobs and contributes £2.3 billion to our economy. The maintenance sector overall accounts for just over a third of construction turnover. Scotland’s 360 museums and galleries attract approximately 25 million visitors a year and generate approximately £79 million for our economy whilst sustaining over 3,600 tourism related jobs.

We can’t discuss the economic benefits of culture without also acknowledging the contribution that our cultural work makes to help build long-term relationships and trust overseas. As a country, we continue to punch well above our weight internationally, using heritage, culture and creativity to attract other nationals to live, work, study, travel and do business in Scotland – all of which contributes to economic growth. Culture helps support engagement with the priority countries and regions identified in the Government’s International Framework and we have some good stories to tell. For example, in North America through our cultural input to successive Scotland Weeks.
Historic Scotland’s Scottish Ten laser scanning project has promoted Scottish heritage and technology around the globe. The scanning of the Eastern Qing Tombs formed a central part of a Memorandum of Understanding on Culture between the Scottish and Chinese Governments.

Shelley described poets as “the unacknowledged legislators of the world” but as the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, today I would like to acknowledge their role, and that of authors generally, as cultural ambassadors. Poets like Liz Lochhead, novelists like Iain Banks, dramatists like David Greig play a tremendous role in reflecting modern Scotland not just to itself but to the world.

[6. Conclusion]
As we move towards the referendum in 2014, I believe that culture and heritage must be at the heart of Scotland’s continued development and must shape our engagement with the world.

The case for independence is, in essence, a simple one.
It is the fundamental belief that it will be better for us all, if decisions about the future of Scotland are taken by those who care most about Scotland – the people who live here.
The decision about independence is, therefore, a choice between two futures. It is a choice between two futures based on different values and direction, perspectives and priorities.
There will be consequences for both a Yes vote and a No vote.

A Yes vote means that the opportunity to build a fairer and more prosperous Scotland will be in our own hands.
It will mean supporting the view that people who live here rather than in Westminster will do a better job of running Scotland.
Here’s another quote from the Canongate Wall –
“When we had a king, and a chancellor, and parliament-men o’ our ain, we could aye peeble them wi’ stanes when they werena gude bairns - But naebody’s nails can reach the length o’ Lunnon.”
The words of Sir Walter Scott, from The Heart of Midlothian – I don’t want to encourage you to take this literally – so please, put your stones back in your pockets.
Scotland is proud to be viewed as a leading nation in a variety of fields, taking our place as an independent nation will enable culture and heritage to flourish as a driver in our continued development and, critically, as an aspect of our everyday lives. In an independent Scotland we can make the decisions about the right kind of environment that will enable this to happen.

Governments can create the conditions in which our culture and our heritage can flourish. I come back to this, because, John Swinney as Finance Secretary and I pressed the UK government for some years for tax breaks for computer games and high end television drama. Those for television drama just started in April and are already seeing a marked surge of interest in inward television production investment into Scotland. With independence we could look at developing such incentives further.
We have also both called on the UK Government to consider reducing the rate of VAT levied on repair and maintenance work to stimulate economic activity, bring empty older houses into use, and most importantly, help to improve the condition of these traditional buildings which form the fabric of our streets, squares, towers, castles, tenements and houses. The Scottish Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in support of such a measure. So far, these requests have not met with success but nobody expected the last budget to remove VAT relief on listed building alterations. Another example of Scotland being held back by a government it didn’t vote for with policies that don’t meet our needs.
With responsibility, we can take full ownership for how we nurture and support the sector and how the private and charitable sectors might be enabled to contribute more and more effectively.
In an independent Scotland we would see increasing opportunities to build our national and international reputation for our culture, our heritage, our skills and our traditions.
We want Scotland to be a country that is increasingly recognised for its modern, creative and innovative industries. We want Scotland to be recognised as a creative nation that enriches our lives, enhances our learning and strengthens both our society and our economy.
I believe that we have worked hard to build confidence in the sector and I have talked about many of the ways in which we have done this in this lecture today. We have prioritised budgets and we have promoted and supported the arts, culture and heritage wherever we can, the length and breadth of Scotland and across the world. I want everyone to know about what we do and how we do it.
As I bring this lecture to a close, I reiterate my strong belief that culture and heritage are an intrinsic and a public good that should be celebrated, nurtured and treasured.
Our culture and our heritage root us in a place but don’t fix us in a place – they help to empower, enrich and shape our communities.
Our culture and our heritage are of us all and for us all. We should all have the opportunity and the enthusiasm to participate and we acknowledge the wider benefits they bring.
Finally, I believe that an independent Scotland will be a place where our arts, our creativity and our heritage is collectively celebrated, valued, nurtured and supported across the public, private and third sector. Culture will flourish in an independent Scotland.
I said at the outset, it is not the Government’s job to tell artists what to paint or authors what to write or craftspeople what to fashion.

It is our job to work with public, private and third sector, effectively and creatively, to create and nurture the conditions in which artists and writers can develop and where our tangible and intangible culture and heritage can thrive.

It is our job to make sure that our infrastructure is supported, maintained and improved.
It is our job to ensure that opportunities for access and participation are widened.
It is our job to facilitate and support collaboration, partnerships and connections for wider benefit both here and abroad.

It is our job to support the cultural and heritage sector to build strength and resilience and to work with our partners across local authorities, the public
, private and third sectors to make sure that this happens;
It is our job to facilitate, promote and highlight the benefits of international engagement, to support an increase in innovation, to encourage our young people and our children to learn a love, a curiosity and a value for these things; and
It is our job to lead a Scotland of the world and for the world.
Finally, of course I want to see a yes vote but I’m struck by the energy and stimulation that the act of simply asking the question has brought to us. Imagine how much more we could be if that question is answered in the affirmative. This nation has many great minds, great thinkers, great artists – all of whom have a part to play in building something exciting and new.

This generation has been given the priceless opportunity to shape its own future according to its own values.

So let me return to the Canongate Wall one last time and finish with a quotation from Hamish Henderson’s song which chimes powerfully with our vision for a just and fair and independent Scotland – I hope you’ll agree.

“So, cam’ all ye at hame wi’ freedom
Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom
In your hoose a’ the bairns o’ Adam
Can find breid, barley bree an’ painted room.”
So let us paint, shape, illustrate, depict, describe, illuminate that room, that future, that Scotland.