Scottish Arts Council’s funding U-turn which guarantees subsidy for eight companies north of the border cash until 2006, has been criticised by the Federation of Scottish Theatres for denying them long-term financial security.
An additional £173,000 – understood to come from unallocated funds and reserves put aside for the results of the Scottish Executive’s cultural review – means that 7:84, Borderline, Mull Theatre, Scottish Youth theatre, Suspect Culture, Theatre Babel, Theatre Workshop and the gaelic group TOSG, could all receive another year’s funding at 2003/4 levels.
The groups had been told in February that their core grants would end in 2005 and they would have to reapply for money from a greatly reduced pot, despite SAC gaining an extra £7.2 million itself. Now the companies will effectively be guaranteed funding from 2005 to 2006.
While acknowledging the relief the extra money could bring to those groups, director of FST Heather Baird told The Stage that in the long-term the decision could led to further problems.
She said: “Last year a similar number of non-building based companies received standstill funding for two years which means that the whole sector will come up for review in 2006. Touring companies, which cover important work with children, disabled and gaelic speaking audiences, have struggled from short term grants for quite some time now and there is still a possibility that they will not receive any money two years down the line.
“SAC says it is finalising its corporate plan and a new cultural review and wants to see the results of this before it decides on future allocations. But uncertainty means that organisations can not make long term plans and leads to the potential loss of audience and talent.”
The results of the cultural review, which was set up by the Scottish Executive to establish and implement the cultural needs of the nation, are expected next year and after that the funding of theatre and the arts council itself may change dramatically.
Pioneering touring company 7:84 was one of eight organisations to receive standstill funding last year and was one of those to lose its annual grant in favour of children’s’ arts organisations in 2005.
Ruth Ogston, general manager of 7:84, said: “This is not ideal but we see it as support for our work and for that we are thankful considering that we didn’t know our funding situation for 2005/6. We are now more confident that we will be looked after, although the arts council is loathed to say that anything is definite.
“We have made plans up until 2009 but short term funding makes this difficult. After 2006 we are once again at the mercy of the arts council and the Scottish Executive and the level of funding will be determined by the outcome of the cultural review.”