Meet Jackie Crichton, one of our new Board Pioneers

I love literature, work in theatre and am a feminist. It didn’t take me long to find Stellar Quines.

The first Stellar Quines performance I attended was at the National Portrait Gallery. It was a gorgeous production that joined together fine art, beautiful writing and the lives and voices of women. Since then I’ve followed the work of Stellar Quines closely: seeing as many of their plays as time and money would allow.

As I was learning about the Quines, I was also working professionally in the theatre industry – as Administration and Communications Co-ordinator at Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland and then in the Development Team at The Lyceum. Both of these companies have been important to my professional development and have shown me how organisations of different kinds operate. I am ambitious, and keen to be continually developing my skills and learning. Joining a board seemed like the next step that I could realistically aspire to. I felt strongly that being a board member would increase my ability to think strategically and improve my understanding of the governance of organisations. I was also hopeful that I could find a company whose work I was passionate about: a company that I could wholeheartedly advocate for. Then the Board Pioneer role at Stellar Quines was advertised. The opportunity to join a board before the age of thirty is quite rare and, frankly, I jumped at the chance.

As I write this, The Lover is rehearsing down the corridor from my office in The Lyceum. In the room, there is an early-career, female sound designer called Zakia Fawcett who is shadowing the production’s sound designer in order to gain experience and to develop her skills. From the creative team on their productions to the board that governs their company, Stellar Quines are embodying their vision to inspire excellence in women and girls. I am delighted to be on their board.

Image: Mirrorbox

Scotsman preview – Fleur Darkin & Jemima Levick on blending theatre & dance in their production of The Lover

It’s Fleur Darkin’s job as a choreographer to let her dancers’ bodies speak for themselves. That’s why one phrase leapt out when she re-read one of her favourite books, The Lover by Marguerite Duras: “When you let the body alone to seek and find and take what it likes… then everything is right.”

Letting the body take what it likes feels right to Darkin. “To me it feels so real, that we do exist with drives, hungers and libido,” she says. “Not many writers name it so powerfully.”

And by naming it, Duras seemed to be giving Darkin permission to trust her instincts. Working in close collaboration with theatre director Jemima Levick, Darkin is creating not simply a straight adaptation of the semi-autobiographical 1984 novel – and its companion piece, The North China Lover – for Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum – but a dance-theatre hybrid. Together, they are thinking as much about the language of movement as the language of speech.

“You look at Duras’ catalogue of work and it’s novels, films, plays,” says Levick. “She’s so bold as an artist. She’s open to other artforms exploring an idea. I like to think she’s smiling down saying, ‘Yeah, give it your best shot, ladies.’”

A novel that is at once experimental and passionate, daring and heartfelt, struck them as perfect for a show that would draw on their respective talents. “As a choreographer, I wouldn’t normally stage a book, but The Lover is fragmentary and open,” says Darkin.

Levick adds: “Her sensibility is not to be straight-down-the-line linear narrative. It weaves in and out. She creates texture and atmosphere. That is one of the reasons it felt like it had the space to become a collaboration as opposed to a straight play.”

Set in French colonial Vietnam in 1929, The Lover is about a 15-year-old girl’s illicit sexual awakening in the company of a 27-year-old son of a Chinese millionaire. Recalled 50 years later, the affair seems as passionate, confused and intense as it ever was, not least because of the era’s divisive colonial culture and the girl’s dysfunctional family. Writer Deborah Levy called it “exhilarating, sexy, melancholy, truthful, modern and female”.

Darkin agrees: “There’s this real contradiction at the heart of Duras’ writing, because she’s keen for everyone to know she’s not sentimental, yet it has this undertow of affect and feeling. It’s a really emotional story even though she employs a lot of breaking techniques to keep you guessing.”

The choreographer read The Lover as a teenager (“the right age”) and was captivated. The two had identified it as a dream project even before they worked alongside each other in Dundee – Darkin running Scottish Dance Theatre, Levick at the helm of Dundee Rep. Only now Levick has moved to Stellar Quines have the pieces fallen into place.

Taking joint responsibility for the script and the staging, Darkin and Levick have cast both dancers and actors. Narrating the story, for example, is Susan Vidler, known for her compelling work for the National Theatre of Scotland and on screen in Trainspotting, while playing her younger self is Amy Hollinshead, a Rambert graduate who joined Scottish Dance Theatre in 2013. What mattered to the two directors were performers who were happy to cross the line between disciplines and who wouldn’t be fazed by the chopping and changing of the devising process.

“I see a lot of similarity between actors and dancers,” says Darkin. “If they’re given time, their virtuosity explodes and gives you the answers. They’re loving the exchange. And when you ask the dancers to do text, they’re phenomenal. They only dance if things feel authentic and so they speak from the same place as an actor.”

“Susan Vidler is bold, she’ll do anything,” says Levick. “She’s interested in dancing and dancers, she joins in with class and gives learning what they’re learning a go. It’s great seeing them learning from each other.” Darkin adds: “The dancers are virtuosic because they listen and they work. They’re not diva-ish. And guess what: Susan is the same. She wears her talent lightly, but when it’s in full force, she changes the air in the room.”

For their own part, splitting the work in the rehearsal room has come naturally. “We both want to tell the story,” says Darkin. “If I was to stand up for anything in terms of a dance sensibility, it would be that we don’t over-tell it. We under-tell it so that the audience have something to play with themselves. We’re always on a spectrum between everything being super clear at one end and wild imagery at the other, and we both play with that dial.”

“It’s so exciting having that other way of working in the room,” says Levick. “It’s a great way of having a look at yourself.”

The Lover is at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, from 20 January until 3 February.

Mark Fisher – The Scotsman preview 16 January 2018


Stephen McGinty, Sunday Times, chats to Fleur Darkin & Jemima Levick in rehearsal

To conjure the sensual heat of Saigon in the depths of a Scottish winter is ambitious; to do so when dosed with the flu is little short of heroic.

For Susan Vidler, a small corner of the stage of the Lyceum in Edinburgh became a quarantine bay last week. While fellow performers rehearsed lines and dance moves, Vidler — the lead in The Lover, which opens on Saturday — could only watch, having returned from two days in her sick bed, where she saw off her illness in splendid isolation.

As choreographer Fleur Darkin, co-director with Jemima Levick of the sensual new production, says: “It has been a bit of a nightmare.”

Anyone familiar with the autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras, on which the new play is based, will be aware that these theatrical directors already do not have their troubles to seek. A slim literary masterpiece, The Lover was first published in 1984, when Duras was 70, and tells the story of an old woman gazing down through the decades to her schooldays in French colonial Saigon and her love affair with an older, wealthy Vietnamese man.

Duras describes how, at 15, she was wearing a sleeveless, low-cut red silk dress, her older brother’s leather belt, a pair of gold lamé shoes and a fedora, when she caught the eye of her suitor as both rode the ferry across the Mekong River. In the novel, both characters are crossing invisible boundaries: she is poor, he is rich; she is white and he is Vietnamese.

When he offers her a cigarette by way of an introduction, his hand shakes: “There’s the difference of race; he’s not white, he has to get the better of it, that’s why he’s trembling.”

Explicit and erotic, The Lover has sold more than 1m copies in 43 languages. Yet Duras had a complicated relationship with her most popular book; she later reworked it as The North China Lover to emphasise the pressure she had been under from her impoverished family and abusive brothers to indulge an affair that was to the family’s financial benefit.

When the French film director Jean-Jacques Annaud collaborated with her on the 1992 film, starring the British actress Jane March, Duras was dismissive: “The Lover is a load of shit. It’s an airport novel. I wrote it when I was drunk.” Yet the novel’s evocative prose and insights into the complexities of a girl on the cusp of womanhood, rebelling against a mother she both loves and despises and discovering the power of her own sexuality, continues to cast a spell over each new generation of readers.

“I read the book when I was 14, the age of the girl in the book, so it was profoundly strong for me and still is strong,” says Darkin, of Scottish Dance Theatre, during a break in rehearsals. Keen to collaborate with Levick, the artistic director of Stellar Quines, she gave her the book seven years ago and Levick was equally smitten.

“There are extraordinary things that define you as a person that you go through in those years,” adds Levick. “Particularly when you are 15 and up, particularly to do with your sexuality and your sense of self, but it is also to do with family and understanding what your position is within the family. The magic of this book is you have the joy of retrospection — a woman has had the chance to look back on that aspect of her life.”

The theatrical adaptation is a mixture of drama, dance and spoken word and conveying the book’s sex scenes has not been without it’s unique challenges. The Christmas break permitted Darkin to indulge in a few long, dark nights of the soul as she wrestled with the staging: “I produce dance a lot and people come up to me at the end of the show and say, ‘That was really sexy — I’m going to go home now and make love to my wife.’ It does get people’s hearts beating and they are in touch with their sensuality. But it is also a secondary by-product of something that is happening, that is an inquiry. This is the first time I’ve ever made a show where sex is the subject.

“During the Christmas break I was waking up in the middle of the night and thinking, ‘What the f***! What am I doing?’ It is so on the nose and so literal. We have had to find a language of intimacy which is iconic, and while you do know what is happening, it is also poetic and has emotion. It’s abstract — they are not having intercourse obviously, but they are on a bed, the bed’s on a platform in the centre of the stage. We were all anticipating the final scene of the virginity and the union and we have harnessed that in the show; there is the feel of the clock ticking as they inch towards it.”

I ask about the cultural prism through which the play could be viewed, in light of the revelations about Harvey Weinstein and the spotlight on abusive relationships. While accepting the culture appears to be changing, Levick insists that at the heart of the novel is an obsessive, though complicated, love story. “Obviously that is in the ether and we are living and breathing it, but the truth is this stuff has been around for ever and just because Hollywood has turned round and said, ‘We don’t like this’, we are all supposed to go, ‘Oh the stars don’t like it so we must listen’.

“Abuse and abusers have been happening for a really long time and the key to remember is that this story is not about abuse: she makes a concerted decision to become involved. The by-product of that — potential prostitution, the way her family behaves, and the cultural difference — is where the control begins to get lost. But in terms of her decision, that is not an abusive situation. I know some people will be worried about that because she is 15.”

Darkin interjects: “And a half.”

Levick continues: “Fifteen and a half — I’m not trying to brush it aside at all, but it’s been a novel, a play and film and now a dance and spoken work, so it is more complex than a 27-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl. To break it down to something as singular as that does not feel right. The story is timeless, but let’s hope [Weinstein] excites change because it’s important we understand what respect is.”

Both directors are full of praise for their leading lady. After the movie of The Lover was released, March was dismissed in The Sun as “the Sinner from Pinner”, a reference to her home town. They have no such fears for Susan Vidler. “She is unbelievable,” says Darkin enthusiastically, “a true star.”

Levick concurs: “She is brilliant, you can clear a space for her and let her do her thing. It’s going to be powerful.”

The Lover is at the Lyceum, Edinburgh, from February 3

Sunday Times article by Stephen McGinty

Neil Cooper of The Herald meets Jemima Levick & Fleur Darkin in rehearsal

IT WAS seven years ago that Fleur Darkin and Jemima Levick first talked about putting Marguerite Duras’ novel, The Lover, onstage. They had both become captivated by the French novelist’s semi-autobiographical best-seller set in 1920s French Indochina concerning an affair between a 15-year-old French girl and a wealthy Chinese man 15 years her senior.

With Darkin now artist director of Scottish Dance Theatre and Levick in charge of the Stellar Quines theatre company, when the pair’s unique adaptation opens at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh next week, this collaboration between the three companies will highlight their own labour of love.

“We’ve been living with it intently for the last three months,” says Darkin of a book written by Duras when she was 70, and narrated by an older woman looking back at her younger self. “Adapting the book has been quite a dance. We’ve kind of honed it down to the bare bones of the story, which feels a bit non-Duras in a way, but I think we’re relying on the fact that because we’re doing it cross-form, and we’re coming at it musically as well as textually, that it will tip a nod to her spirit.”

As Levick points out, “It’s not like we’ve ironed it out and made it into a literal narrative play, because it’s very definitely not a play, but it felt like it needed something relatively straightforward to hang it off of without the people who don’t know Duras’ work feeling like they’re totally at sea.”

The result combines spoken-word, dance and music to cut through to the story’s physical and sensual heart. With actress Susan Vidler taking on what amounts to an extended internal monologue as The Woman, both her character’s younger self and her lover himself are played by dancers. Two others take on all other roles. Such an impressionistic approach is in keeping with a story which Duras returned to repeatedly throughout her life, and taps into the book’s poetic essence of personal transformation.

“That space of girlhood Duras writes about is so under-articulated,” says Darkin. “I think a lot of girlhood is private, and its nature is quite concealed. When I first read The Lover I was at quite a formative age, and I just loved that world. I loved hearing the language, and I wanted to know more about that energy, and try and put the audience in her lap.”

Levick too recognises the inherent physicality that drives the story.

“When Duras talks about the relationship between the lover and the girl, she says that you just give up and let the body do what it needs to do. That’s what dance does. Dance is instinct, and when I read the book, it had a real profound effect, because it all feels like it comes from the inside.”

Darkin goes further.

“I think when you deal with The Lover, you’re really dealing with intimacy,” she says. “It’s a whole inquiry into what intimacy is, how it feels and trying to get it. That’s what we’re struggling with now in the rehearsal room, because intimacy is private, and it’s hard to do if you don’t know people. One of the lovely things I read recently that helped me was when Duras talks about this primal act that happens at the back of the bachelor’s quarters, and the shutters are hiding them from the people walking outside, and it’s both public and private at the same time. She said that created her as a writer. Being private in public, that’s the same act as writing, and I feel with what I do that I’m always creating intimacy which hopefully someone in the back row is part of, and can connect to from the darkness and safety of their seat.

“That public/private thing seems to be something that’s so powerful with Duras, and she was able to realise what the lover gave her. He didn’t save her life, he didn’t protect her from her family, but he did give her this space where she was able to reflect on her family, and she credited that with being able to find her voice.”

The Lover was first published in French as L’Amant in 1984, and was translated into English by Duras’ regular translator, Barbara Bray. For a writer whose vast output of novels, plays and screenplays were more readily associated with the post-Second World War French avant-garde, the book was a surprise mainstream hit. Up until that point, Duras was probably best known for her Oscar nominated script for the Alan Resnais directed 1959 film, Hiroshima Mon Amour. As with The Lover, it’s depiction of a conversation between a French-Japanese couple used extensive flashbacks to highlight how memory can play tricks.

While The Lover went on to be translated into 43 languages, it was Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 1992 big screen version that took Duras’ creation – or a version of it – into the tabloids. With the then 18-year-old Jane Marsh making her big-screen debut as the Young Girl (Jeanne Moreau provided the older woman’s off-screen narration), despite the film’s seriousness, much was made of the film’s sexual content, with the English-born March inspiring nudge-nudge headlines that dubbed her “the Sinner from Pinner”.

“That’s actually how I knew about the book, after knowing all that tabloid stuff,” says Levick. “I guess that was what really flipped it into the public consciousness. That poor actor, I don’t know if she’s ever recovered. She’s really good in the film, but basically was just tainted for being sexual, like she wasn’t allowed.”

The Lover is the latest female rites of passage story to grace the Lyceum stage in recent times, and its timing is particularly pertinent in this era of heightened anxiety over sexual behaviour. The production follows similarly audacious versions of Picnic at Hanging Rock and Tipping the Velvet, as well as the late Linda Griffiths’ play, Age of Arousal, which was also seen in co-production with Stellar Quines. As with the first two shows, anyone expecting attempted imitations of the film and TV versions should think again

“If they’re coming for a cheap thrill they should go back to the book and double-check what it was really about,” says Levick. “It’s the greatest lesson in how a film is not the book that it was based on.”

Darkin and Levick are clear too that the girl in The Lover is in no way a victim.

“The crucial thing about this story is that she’s in control,” says Levick. “She’s not swept away and kidnapped by this older man. She makes a choice, she feels desire and she pursues it. She survives it, and she becomes a writer because of it, maybe. It inspires her, and it gives her a future. This is a story about empowerment, and making choices, and about ditching your childhood, becoming a woman and discovering yourself.”

As Darkin points out, “Her sexuality is some kind of passport out of there, and some kind of step into an imagination that’s her own.”

Like the story, the show itself sounds like a liberating force for good.

“In the world we’re living in now, it’s refreshing to be telling that story,” says Levick. “The fact that we’ve been talking about this for seven years and it’s never died, it’s timeless. We’re all fascinated by the story, and that’s because it’s about matters of the heart. Whether that’s a relationship or a familial thing, the characters who inhabit this world in the story are so present, and they’re present in all of us. It won’t go away, and finally we’ve found our moment to do it.”

Neil Cooper – The Herald 9 Jan 2017

A bumper year for Stellar Quines!

Thank you and merry Christmas to all our Stellar Quines friends!!

This year has been a bumper year for Stellar Quines. In January we welcomed Jemima Back from maternity leave (and little Ivy as our newest Quine).

In March we celebrated International Women’s Day with Glasgow Women’s library and thanks to your contributions of over 200 Books established a new Play section in the Library.

In the Spring Jemima directed her first Stellar Quines play as Artistic Director and CEO The 306: Day written by Oliver Emanuel, composed by Gareth Williams, which we co-produced with The National Theatre of Scotland and Perth Theatre, in association with Red Note Ensemble. The play toured to 14 venues from Glasgow to Arrochar and was seen by over 1900 enthusiastic audience members, receiving a clutch of 4 star reviews.

In the Summer Jemima continued achieving firsts, directing her first Stellar Quines Edinburgh Festival Fringe Production The Last Queen of Scotland that was commissioned and supported by the National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep. After two jumping previews in Dundee the show completed a Fringe run of 21 performances, including two with an integrated BSL interpreter, playing to over 1800 people.

October saw further celebrations for International Day of the Girl with Village Pub Theatre. Many thanks to the 44 who submitted play scripts, 9 were selected for sharing at the full to bursting Village Pub on the 11th October.

Throughout the year we have continued to support campaigns such as Parents in Performing Arts contributing to Best Practice Charter that was published this year. Thanks to those of you who joined us at our Edinburgh Fringe PiPA coffee morning.

In the aftermath of the reports and allegations that swept across the media in the wake of #MeToo we invited you to join our #Respectis campaign and creatively respond through Answers on a Postcard. Thank you for all your responses with over 50 #Respectis words of hope and inspiration shared, which continues to grow, and 12 more in depth provocations to Answers on a Postcard. As well as continuing to share your words over the coming months we will be working with colleagues at the Federation of Scottish Theatre to develop a toolkit to combat abuse.

We’ve continued to prove our own commitment to celebrate the value and diversity of women and girls by supporting 73 women in cast, creative and crew roles in the last year, that’s 73% of all the roles available a figure we’re proud of and will strive to maintain and increase.

As well as welcoming these women and men to our extended Quine family through our productions and projects the company has welcomed new people to SQHQ. In October we welcomed our new Company Administrator Hannah Forsyth, relocating to Edinburgh from York, and Catherine Grosvenor in a new role as Creative Learning Associate. We’ve also benefited from Adela Martinez’ contribution to the team whilst on placement with us from Belgium, and two dynamic Social Media interns Tomiwa Folorunso and Rosie Bans (who is with us until the beginning of next year).

After recruitment in the Summer that included a new Board Pioneer opportunity which received over 50 applicants, we have welcomed Lisa Kapur, Kris Bryce, Jackie Crichton and Shilpa T-Hyland to our Board. In response to the Board Pioneer interest we hosted a Board Pioneer Day at the beginning of December which introduced 15 young women to Governance and being a Board member, with many more following our live twitter feed.

We’ve also sadly said goodbye to our previous company Administrator Gillian Shaw after 7 years, and we wish her well in her new role as Executive Assistant (maternity cover) with Museums and Galleries Scotland.

As the year draws to a close the company is in rehearsals in the Lyceum for our co-production with The Royal Lyceum Theatre and Scottish Dance Theatre of Marguerite Duras’ The Lover, which will bring sensual heat to the stage when the show opens on January the 20th.

Following that we’re delighted to be bringing a new musical comedy Bingo! by Anita Vettesse and Johnny McKnight to the stage with Grid Iron in February and March.

As the final days of December dwindle don’t forget to check our who our last few 12 Quines of Christmas are.

The Stellar Quines office will be closed from the 22nd December till the 3rd January so until then all the Quines wish you a wonderful Christmas and new year and thank you again for all support in 2017!


Board Pioneer Event

Board Pioneer Event

A few months ago Stellar Quines put a call out for applications to become a Board Pioneer and sit on our Board for a year to gain experience and see how a Board operates. We received a tremendous response with over 50 applications – all of which were extremely good and it was a hard decision. So hard that instead of one Board Pioneer we appointed two!

Shilpa T-Hyland and Jackie Crichton are our Board Pioneers and we are delighted to welcome them to Stellar Quines.

But what about the rest of the applicants? Jemima Levick decided that she would like to give the other applicants the opportunity to come along to an event hosted by Stellar Quines to learn more about being on a Board.

We hosted the event in The Lyceum rehearsal room with around 25 young women attending. The opening session was presented by Miles Harrison and was a very informative session on what a Board does and the relationship it has with the Artistic Director/CEO of the organisation.

Mary Paulson-Ellis, author & Stellar Quines Board Member, who tackled the subject of pulling together a Business Plan/Strategy to present to a Board, led the second session. She had two willing volunteers in Jenny Gilvear and Shilpa T-Hyland (our Board Pioneer) to discuss the process of pulling together their own business plan for their company Modest Predicament 

The third and final session was a group sharing when Jemima and Miles were joined by a fantastic line-up of Artistic Directors, CEO’s and Board Members including Julie Ellen (Macroberts Arts Centre), Jude Doherty (Grid Iron), Lisa Sangster (Designer/The Envelope Room & Stellar Quines Board member) and Claire Dow (Creative Theatre & Events Producer).

They shared invaluable experiences of working with Boards and also being part of a Board and making difficult decisions but also the rewards of being part of the successes of an organisation.

The event was also attended by representatives from Arts & Business Scotland and Changing the Chemistry and we have been approached by other arts organisations that are interested in introducing the Board Pioneer Scheme. Watch this space.

Meet Jackie Crichton, Board Pioneer

12 Quines of Christmas

As a way to celebrate women we feel have made an impact moving forward the conversation in equality, culture and art we will be announcing our 12 Quines of Christmas each day until the 22nd of December! 

The 12 Quines of Christmas

Adela Martinez – behind the scenes at the auditions

My behind the scenes view of audition day.

During the last 2 weeks, I had the opportunity to go back to Glasgow for the Stellar Quines/Grid Iron auditions for Bingo!

Bingo! Is a new comedy musical that has been written by Johnny McKnight and Anita Vettese. It’s very funny – so I’m looking forward to the auditions and meeting the actors.

I arrived on the first Monday morning at the UK theatre school in Glasgow. My role was to wait for the actors and take them to the studio. It was lovely to see again some of the actors I met in the first rehearsal. I knew which character some of them were auditioning for but not everyone.

I enjoyed being the first point of contact for the actors. It’s interesting to see how they all get ready. Some of them run over their lines, others warm up their voice. It’s easy to see how stressed they are and that’s normal, I’m pretty sure they’ve all been working a lot to be ready for this audition. But it’s part of the profession.

What I also enjoyed was to see them after their performance because they all looked really happy with what they’d done (or perhaps just happy to be done?).

The next Monday was a bit different, this was when the recalled actors came for a second audition. The day had an unexpected start as due to travel issues there was a delay so I had arrived 2 hours early but I used this time to play some piano, a blessing in disguise. People started arriving at 11 and I knew all of them so it was nice to see who had been recalled. Now, I’m excited to know who has been chosen.

I really hope to be able to come back and see the Bingo! next year.


Stellar Quines: Using data to monitor success

In early 2017 we approached leading audience development agency Culture Republic to commission them to produce a survey of their audience that could then inform our future audience development and business strategies.

As a touring theatre company the challenges we face to access reliable audience data is difficult but is crucial to inform future planning. Culture Republic worked with us to speak to our audiences with the help of the venues the company had toured to and using their own wealth of data research. The results were interesting, surprising and revealing and shows why you can’t be complacent and that you should speak to your audience – they want to talk to you!

Stellar Quines: Using Data to Monitor Success highlights the main findings of the research.

Art cuts would “devastate” culture north of the border, leading arts organisations warn

As arts organisations across Scotland, that receive Regular Funding from Creative Scotland, await the news of what funding they will receive for the 3 years between 2018 – 2021, an article in The Herald reports on the concern shared by leading arts organisations.

Art cuts would “devastate” culture north of the border, leading arts organisations warn

Phil Miller – The Herald (Nov 21 2017)

CUTS to cultural funding in the upcoming Government budget would “devastate” the arts north of the border and cause “irreversible” damage, leading arts figures have claimed.

A new letter published today, signed by several cultural organisations including the Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN), says that arts support is now at a “tipping point.”

They are concerned that a cut in funding to Creative Scotland from the Scottish Government, in the looming budget, would add to funding woes already felt by declining Lottery funds.

The letter comes as Creative Scotland, the national arts funding body, has reiterated that it expects the amount of arts companies it supports with its crucial regular funding pot to decline.

Creative Scotland has said that decisions on future funding for regularly funded organisations will now not be known until the end of January.

The letter from a group of arts bodies says that the cultural sector is awaiting the looming Budget with “trepidation”.

It adds: “We have now arrived at a tipping point where even a small cut to Creative Scotland’s Grant-In-Aid, alongside reductions in Lottery and local authorities, will devastate Scotland’s cultural infrastructure.

“Damage to this infrastructure, developed with the aid of public investment over the last fifty years, will be irreversible.

“This cannot be overstated.

“Conversely, a very small increase in funding would allow the core infrastructure of arts and culture in Scotland to survive and to thrive.”

It adds: “We welcome the positive public statements made by the Scottish Government in acknowledging the central role culture plays across our society, and we applaud the major new investments in film and the Edinburgh Festivals, The Burrell Collection and The V&A in Dundee. Clearly, the will to support arts and culture exists at the highest level.

“However, big flagship investments cannot substitute for the basic funding that our everyday, small-to-medium sized cultural groups need to exist.

“If these disappear, which many will if predictions about cuts to Regular Funding Organisations (RFOs) are correct, how will we nurture and sustain the highly skilled but low-paid artists who deliver arts, culture and creative experiences to audiences across every community in Scotland?”

The Creative Scotland bulletin says: “We are committed to doing everything we can to announce these decisions as soon as possible after this but it is now clear that this will not be before Christmas.

“With this in mind, our planning now means we will announce decisions by the end of January 2018.”

The body said because the lateness of this decision, in the financial year, will be mitigated by extending regularly funded organisations contracts until May 2018.

It will also offer “transitional funding support” for existing companies which have been unsuccessful in their application for Regular Funding 2018-21.

Hannah Forsyth joins the Young Women Lead Project

We are so excited that our Company Administrator, Hannah Forsyth has been selected to join the Young Women Lead leadership group. Initiated by Young Women’s Movement Scotland this inspiring group of young women will come together to discuss current issues and empower young women to encourage change.

Here is the first of what will be a regular series of articles from Hannah on her experience as part of the group:

When you hear the words “Parliamentary Committee”, what do you think of? My mind immediately runs to lots of people in suits and the word “honourable” being thrown around a lot. It’s fair to say that even in Scotland, politics has some work to do in terms of connecting with young people. And this is exactly what the YWCA are aiming to improve with their new leadership scheme. Young Women Lead is a brand new project aimed at connecting young women in Scotland with their political representatives.

I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the scheme, and spent a fascinating day in the Scottish Parliament and Meadowbank meeting my fellow participants and learning more about the scheme. One of the first things we did was take a tour of the Scottish Parliament Building in Holyrood, which is packed full of contributions from inspirational women such as Shauna McMullan’s Travelling the Distance mural (see image). The entire building has been designed to emphasize openness and honesty in politics, and members of the public are encouraged to follow Parliamentary events in person and online.

After a hearty lunch, we all convened in St Margaret’s House, HQ of YWCA at Meadowbank, to decide what we wanted to gain from this scheme. It was really exciting to hear from other women from all across Scotland (there was an entire Highlands and Islands contingent) and by the end of the afternoon we had produced plans for how we would like the ideal committee to run, what it would look like and what sort of things it would discuss. Encouraging young people to participate in politics is more important than ever, and I’m very excited to see where Young Women Lead will take us in 2018.

All that remained after that was to take part in some glow in the dark yoga (I cannot recommend it enough) and make sure we were all signed up for updates on the scheme.

If you want to see what we got up to or where we’re headed next, use #ScotWomenRise or follow @youngwomenscot