Creative Scotland: Power To The Artists

Arts bureaucrats tend to be troubled beings. Their appointments are often seen as acts of apotheosis as they dispense largesse often with cruel impunity. The big power arts barons (read board-members) believe talented artists are (p-i-t-a) tedious proto-nationalists, opaque expressive elites or even creative terrorists seeking to forge an autonomous audacity often within a nation-language fueled by bitter class experiences.

Accepting a senior post in Scotland’s current ‘bubblin an bilin’ arts and cultural cauldron will require a profound understanding of the core function of supporting artists and cultural talent. Will the post-holder have the necessary consciousness of the plural nature of current artistic expression: possess the enormous courage, political savvy and hopefully the prior respect of artists in Scotland? The ground is shifting as we migrate towards a ‘sovereign sensibility’.

How do we express this new-day while retaining our internationalism and profound humanism?

This may seem redundant but with the current board still in place the candidate will require a professional/intellectual grasp of what constitutes the Scottish arts community. More particularly will the new person have an appreciation of/for the several regional,ethnic, civic, linguistic, social and above all artistic options and talents available? (There is also the need to have an acute awareness of the social nuances that create the troubling cultural schizophrenia often seen in our arts.) The new director should also require some hint of experience of the incredible variety of forms, frames and modes of contemporary Scottish expression.

There is a political problem in arts-management, dialectical in nature. Artists should be able to say ‘fake-off’ to power. Yet they are required (almost like the feudal minstrel/fool/bard) to go proposal-in-hand to seek a crumb. (Jim Kelman doesn’t ask and exists on £15,000 a year from writing).

So can Creative Scotland (as currently constituted) create a sustainable (and thriving) future for artists; develop a supportive creative climate characterised by integrity while seeking expressive excellence?

Creative Scotland should look after arts development: providing artists with time and space to create. Inter alia its remit should be to discover fresh talent, instigate, nourish, nurture and enable while supporting established artists. For this to happen we must move out the power of the bankers who see life differently.

But there is a case for a Scottish cultural industries sector but not in Creative Scotland. Let Scottish Enterprise seek opportunities to apply technology to talent. There are entrepreneurial opportunities in publishing, print -making, computer games, digital arts, design, craft, fashion, the recording industry, heritage tourism and above all in an indigenous film/TV production industry. But this down- stream commercial industrial development vision (with export potential) needs very different heads who seek profits not prophets (Move in the bankers).

So Scottish Review’s Kenneth Roy is so right in suggesting that the Minister/Cabinet needs to take a much more vigorous and formidable look (again) at Creative Scotland. First step change the board, then change the vision, change the remit and give artists a chance for change.

Thom Cross
Acting for Change


About Thom Cross

Thom Cross is a Kirkcaldy born, theatre-trained drama activist and writer. He spent most of his career in the Caribbean (arts education and communications) and formed Acting for Change. His novel 'The Scottish Swimmer of Colombia' was published earlier this year and he would like to work with a Yes campaign popular theatre group.