The uncertainty that has accom- panied the proposed merger between Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet looks set to be resolved following the recent announcement by both companies of their decision to form a single board. In a statement issued at the beginning of July, Peg Beveridge, Chair of Scottish Ballet, said, 'It is a symbol of the trust that exists between the two organisations that we can pledge ourselves towards the future in this way.’ The move is the result of years of dramatic diSputes between the two companies, and marks the first positive step towards a successful merger.
The saga began back in the days of the last Conservative government, when public funding for the arts had decreased, and Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet were forced into competition over the available resources. Controversy arose when they were told to merge their orchestras in order to save money. Opposition was fierce, particularly from Scottish Ballet, and as a result its board was sacked in 1997. The next episode came as the Scottish Arts Council ordered the two companies to merge in order to
Merger advances after so
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High drama: a scene from Scottish Opera's 1998 production of The Magic Flute
ensure their survival, and a deal was eventually struck whereby Scottish Ballet would receive £2.1m in funding in return for their co-operation in the merger.
With this amount of money on the line, there can be no reneging on the deal. The merger will go ahead, although to date it hasn't been a smooth production. The first task the new board faces is to find a Chief Executive to head the new company, a vacancy that almost certainly would have been filled by the recently departed Scottish Opera Director, Ruth Mackenzie. As yet there are no candidates, but whoever does take up the ‘poisoned chalice’ - as Mackenzie dubbed it at her resignation - will be responsible for maintaining and promoting the separate identities of the two companies within the new framework. While this is undoubtedly a
challenge, the official line from all parties involved is that it is not an insurmountable one.
Unofficial feeling seems to be that, despite the financial rewards promised to Scottish Ballet, it will still get the worst of the deal and become a ‘poor cousin’ to Scottish Opera. Already a Robert Cohan choreographed production of Aladdin, set to a new score by Carl Davis, has been postponed until the end of 2000, although two programmes of work by new Artistic Director Robert North will be performed next Spring. Scottish Opera’s 1999—2000 season will include crowd-pleasers such as Carmen and Tosca, as well as Friend Of The People, an intriguing new opera by David Home based on the life of 18th century Scottish reformer Thomas Muir. (Kirsty Knaggs)
Setting the scene: a sketch of the new Scottish Screen offices by designer lean Camplisson of Hugh Anderson
Scottish Screen, the umbrella organisation for the Scottish film industry, has moved its offices from Glasgow's West End to West George Street in the city centre.
New location for Scottish Screen
’The new offices are more central for the film community in Glasgow and better placed for people coming through from Edinburgh,’ says Scottish Screen's Chief Executive John Archer. 'l envisage it becoming an active place, which producers can use for meetings. The old Victoria Crescent building is a former school, not open plan and therefore not conducive to an integrated organisation such as Scottish Screen.’
The two floors at the new West George Street premises will house Scottish Screen, MEDIA Antenna, PACT Scotland, BAFTA Scotland and the Celtic Film and Television Festival Company. The Scottish Film and Television Archive will remain at its Bowmont Gardens
offices for at least the next three years. The extra space there will provide the Archive with room to accomodate seven new staff members employed to assist with its cataloguing project and clean-up of films in bad condition, financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Screen.
'The government will actually save money on the deal since we are taking over a lease already paid for by the public purse,’ says Archer of the relocation. ‘This has been facilitated by PACE, an Executive Agency of the Cabinet Office formed in April 1996 to identify opportunities for the re-use of vacant government property.‘
The full address of the new Scottish Screen office is 249 West George Street, Glasgow GZ 4R8 (0141 302 1700). A refurbished website can be accessed at www.5cottishscreen.com. (Miles Fielder) '
The Scottish Inquisition
Questions you don 't expect. This issue: Geoff Ellis, promoter with DF Concerts.
Broadsheet or tabloid?
Broadsheet: Hera/d or Guardian for news and media coverage, Observer for football.
First arts/media related job? Temporary/part-time: DJ/student journalist. Permanent: Entertainments Manager at Middlesex Polytechnic. What is your career highlight?
The first one: booking the Stone Roses from a demo tape for their first London gig at Middlesex Polytechnic.
The award for a lifetime contribution to Scottish culture goes to?
Name a work of art that you cannot live without . . .
Joy Division and Massive Attack records.
. . . and a law that you are proud to have broken?
Stopping a nasty landlord from evicting some students.
You're about to be exiled - where and how would you spend your last night?
With some good friends - Fusion for Yakitori chicken, then Air Organic, then on to the Sub Club.
Glasgow: City of Architecture and Design. But which Scottish building would you like to see destroyed? The one over the M8 at Charing Cross, Glasgow. It's a good site for a good building, but what’s there isn't.
What motion would you make as an MSP?
A tax on English-based concert promoters operating in Scotland.
Top Scot of the new Millennium? Fran Healy of Travis, who are the next big international success story from Scotland. .
What should be in the Millennium Dome?
Two turntables, a good sound system and some real people.
How do you see Scotland's future? Ideally as a cultural leader of Europe. (Compiled by Brian Donaldson)
8-22 Jul 1999 THE U311?