Arts payout fuels envy and frustration
Scottish Arts Minister Lord Lindsay’s £13 million rescue package for the ‘national‘ arts companies has kicked up a storm. as Stephen Naysmith reports.
Scottish ()pera. Scottish Ballet. the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra are to be rescued from financial ruin by a f; l .3 million (,iovernment hand-out and reorganisation.
But the key proposal in a package to save the so- callcd ‘National' companies will never work. according to an orchestra member. and envious charities and theatre companies are \ oicing their discontent. It is a far cry from the upbeat launch last week of the radical scheme.
The companies have all been struggling with deficits for several years leading to drastic proposals which included Scottish ()pcra going part-time or the merging of the Opera and the Ballet. The final solution. involving a merger between Scottish ()pera and Scottish Ballet orchestras. has been greeted with relief by the companies themselves. but criticised elsewhere.
The biggest losers could be Scottish Ballct orchestra musicians. who are currently freelance. ()ne of them. who didn‘t wish to be named. said: ‘You can‘t cobble two orchestras together. In terms of egos. rcsitting players and so on. the idea is a total disaster.‘
The move is neither a relief. nor a great step forward. she added. ‘I don‘t think it is any of those things. Scottiin Ballet wouldn't have gone ahead with this but it was a shotgun approach -- if they didn’t the whole thing would have been ased.‘
Theatre companies such as the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh. say they have been overlooked. and point out that theatre attracts a bigger paying public than all four ‘national' cotnpanics put together.
‘There‘s a feeling of frustration that theatre as an art form is somehow seen as inferior to the “national” art forms.‘ says Steven Gale. assistant director of the Lyceum. ‘The implication is that theatre is secondary when in fact many more people come to the theatre.‘
Scots charities have also joined the backlash. The Scottish Council for Voluntary ()rganisations (SCVO) has been logging the catastrophic effect of local government re-organisation on the voluntary sector.
So far. it claims. I l.887 people have lost jobs or services as a result of budget-cutting by the new councils. All pleas for Government assistance have fallen on deaf ears.
‘\\'c don't begrudge them the money. they are deserving causes.‘ said an S(‘\’() spokesperson. ‘But when charities giving services to very vulnerable people are going under due to Government cuts. it does seem a little strange.
'If the Government can see the point in bailing out arts organisations. why do they not listen to our argument when it comes to charities."
The .‘ylusicians‘ l'nion has also been anxiously watching the progress of the working group. Many of its members w ill be pleased that the threat to the viability of the national companies has ended. llow cy er the Scottish Ballet orchestra was made up largely of freelance musicians for whom it was their main source of employment.
‘We were not going to stand and say “absolutely not" to these proposals. If we‘d done that Lord Lindsay wouldn't have come up with the money.‘ says Bill Sweeney. a spokesman for the Mtrsicians‘ Union in Scotland.
‘l’eople have been saying for years that the opera or the ballet couldn’t be allowed to go out of business. but the London City Ballet went a month ago. so there is relief that the money actually keeps the companies open.‘
For former members of the ballet orchestra. the future looks bleak — though nothing has been finalised yet. ‘The same people have by and large been doing the ballet for a long time.‘ says Sweeney. ‘Their
Opera: Are other arts treated as second class?
present situation is more insccure.‘
Scottish Opera is in no doubt that the money is well spent. Spokcswoman Roberta Doyle says the part-time proposal was never a scare tactic but a real danger. ‘We would have implemented it. it was otrr strategy for survival.‘ she said. ‘The sense of relief is huge — there were many times when we really didn't believe we were ever going to get out of it.‘
Negotiations beginning next month will continue into the autumn to finalise arrangements for cooperation. This w ill include combining efforts w here possible on marketing. administration and finance.
l)oy'le is aware of the problems faced by local councils and other arts organisations and admits Scottish Opera has been fortunate. ‘It is more than good news. it is a breaktln’ough.’ she says. ‘Given the public spending cuts elsewhere it's really quite remarkable that the Government is putting its money where its mouth is and recognising the importance of the arts in Scotland.‘
The reaction from Scottish Ballet has been more muted. General manager David Williams would only comment: ‘We welcome the minister's continued support in finding cost-effective solutions. I would give a guarded welcome to the proposals. bearing in mind these are still the early stages and many important practicalities have to be addressed by the implementation group.‘
And Finally. . . Earmuffs for cattle? Deﬁnitely, maybe
The manager of a Glasgow branch of McDonald's has been suspended by his employers for allegedly — wait for it — setting fire to the private parts of a staff member. This finger-lickin' story was reported in the Daily Remer under the coy headline ‘Burger boss burned worker‘s McNuggets‘.
An internal disciplinary hearing had been called. but there was no news on the state of the young man‘s ‘McNuggets'. The anonymous employee may at least be thankful the
gigs near Balloch. According to the Sunday Mail. promoter Regular Music * paid £l()()() in compensation for disturbance to the cows after Runrig‘s Loch Lomond concert in l99l. ‘We are doing everything to accommodate him.‘ said a Regular spokesman. adding: ‘We did think about supplying hundreds of ear-muffs for the cows during the gig.‘ Some might say they weren‘t taking the problem very seriously. or perhaps the promoters are just hoping the band will be seen and
Sticking with the animal theme.
rights organisations grousing about cruelty. ‘Clearly the firm is going to get some publicin but I'm not sure it‘ll be the sort they wanted.‘ cooed an RSPCA spokewoman. ln publicity terms. the pigeons may turn out to be an albatross around Scottish Life's neck.
And finally. from pigeon-fancying to 'Ii-ains-puning. as the tidal wave of hype crosses the Atlantic to America. where US audiences are becoming acquainted with Rents. Spud and Begbie.
Reaction in Los Angeles and New
alleged incident didn‘t happen at Burger King — a flame-grilled Whopper sounds even more painful. You got it!
Still with beef. a Loch Lomond farmer fears his cattle may be put off their cud by the forthcoming Oasis
feathers flew recently when a publicity stunt by insurance firm Scottish Life crash-landed. The bird-brained scheme dreamt up by its London-based PR firm to publicise the launch of a new product involved hand-delivering around 80 pigeons to financial
Trafnspottlng: What Wallace fought for? journalists. Eager hacks could release the homing pigeons with the chance of winning a case of whisky if their doo came in first.
However the bizarre stunt had animal
York seemed largely favourable. though the critic from populist tabloid USA Today tried to make a spurious link with another so-called Scottish movie : ‘This is what Brave/reart's William Wallace fought for?‘ Aye. laddie. (Eddie Gibb)
A, The List 26 Jul-8 Au 1996 5