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Scottish arts organisations criticise ‘devastating’ cuts to children’s theatre

White, a production by Catherine Wheels. Photo: Paul Watt White, a production by Catherine Wheels. Photo: Paul Watt
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Scottish arts organisations have criticised ‘devastating’ cuts to children’s theatre companies in the latest funding round, labelling them a “huge blow” to the sector.

Creative Scotland, the public funding body, has announced that 116 organisations will receive a total of £33 million a year in funding between 2018 and 2021 as part of its Regular Funding Network.

The overall figures have remained stable since the previous 2015-18 round, with the majority of companies receiving stand-still funding. £7.6 million a year is allocated to theatre (up from £7.34 million) and £10.14 million for multi-artform venues and bodies, including the Edinburgh International Festival (down from £11.47 million).

Creative Scotland has made 100% cuts to 20 organisations. The majority of bodies removed from the regularly funded organisation status in the theatre sector are touring companies. Creative Scotland said this was an attempt to “shift the way the sector works”. It announced that a £2 million annual fund, ring-fenced for touring the performing arts, will come into effect in June 2018.

Of particular concern is the removal of RFO status from touring children’s companies Catherine Wheels and Visible Fictions. The Scottish Government has also designated 2018 as the Year of Young People.

A spokeswoman for Catherine Wheels said: “We are being penalised for our success. We are nationally and internationally renowned for critically-acclaimed artist-led work. Work that creatively engages and inspires young people. We are instrumental in supporting artists and organisations’ development. This work can only happen with consistent funding.”

Catherine Wheels production Hansel and Gretel. Photo: Peter Dibdin
Catherine Wheels production Hansel and Gretel. Photo: Peter Dibdin

She added: “Scotland is the the only country in Europe without a regularly funded children’s theatre company. This is an embarrassment for a progressive nation.”

Paul Fitzpatrick, director of Imaginate, the promotional and development body for Scottish children’s theatre, described the cuts as a “huge blow for the sector.”

He said: “These companies have helped build Scotland’s reputation for excellence in the young audience sector. They are being put in a position where they will struggle to create work.”

Also cut were Birds of Paradise and Lung Ha, the only two companies making theatre by disabled artists. BoP has an advocacy and training role besides its theatre making. However, Solar Bear, which makes theatre with, by and for the D/deaf community, has been added to the network.

Of the non-touring companies Ayr Gaiety, which had a third of its local council funding cut in March 2017 causing its owners to fear closure, will now lose out on £75,000 a year from Creative Scotland.

Also cut is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, although its removal from RFO status will effect only 5% of its total income.

Laura Mackenzie-Stuart, Creative Scotland’s head of theatre, said it has been talking with the theatre community through the Federation of Scottish Theatre about the problems of touring theatre in Scotland.

“We have been working on it with the FST and we haven’t finalised the details. It is not helpful, when looking at getting a sector to shift the way it works, to set up a system that perpetuates an old way of working,” she said.

Chief executive Janet Archer added: “We have announced our intention to open a £2 million fund in June this year. We have been discussing what that fund should be with the FST, but we are not in a position to say what it is.”

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