Fans of the great British gangster film, The Long Good Friday, were jubilant about its recent 20th anniversary re-release. Those north of the border, however, were disappointed to discover that Fridays distributor, Equator, made an eleventh hour decision to restrict the re-release to London.
A simple case of London- centricity, then? Well, yes, except that judgement must be qualified with the more recent news that another distributor, Metrodome, has acquired The Long Good Friday and is re-releasing it in Scotland later this month. These stories don‘t always have happy endings, though; there are many films that take months to reach Scotland and Wales and even the short distance to the Midlands.
A low-budget film with a select
Fantasia 2000 has yet to arrive
audience - such as Lodge Kerrigan’s drama about a New York prostitute, Claire Dolan - may not generate enough prints to go around the country. So we have to wait until the south of England is done with theirs. That's not a problem with a higher budget film like Disney's revised Fantasia 2000. Yet it still hasn't opened in Scotland despite playing at London IMAX cinema two months ago. This is a 'platform release' strategy. Essentially, that means drumming up word of mouth by staggering a film's opening. It also allows a distributor to test a film's box office pulling power. If, like Simon Beaufoy’s The Darkest Light, the film fails in one area, it doesn't get played in another.
But these release problems work both ways. Two new Scottish films, My Life So Far and Love The One You’re With, are playing in Scotland and London exclusively. And last year’s horror phenomenon, The Blair Witch Project, opened at Edinburgh's Cameo cinema before being screened way down south.
Of course, Scotland loses out, but also it doesn't. (Miles Fielder)
Harold Macmillan once claimed ’We’ve never had it so good’ and most people can claim to be bored at least once by some ageing rocker rambling on about the halcyon days of Queen playing Stirling University and the Rolling Stones gigging every other month in Glasgow. Nowadays, most will complain that we don’t get to hear as much quality live music as we should but, depending on your tastes, some are far from starved.
A number of years ago, Scotland was awash with international acts, many from Africa and South America who would be booked to play extenswe tours of the mainland and islands. This has become a thing of the past for various funding and booking reasons and there is a feeling in folk and world music Circles that we are not getting all we deserve, the scene being supported by local talent only.
Eminem goes down a storm here
The feeling with rock and pop, however, is more posmve. By head of population, Scotland gets more live shows than London. The difference is that London plays host to more one-off appearances by artists who regard ’domg London’ as ’doing Britain'.
’What we do have in our favour is that if someone comes here once they’ll more than likely return,’ says Dave Cerbet, a promoter for DE Concerts. ’We put on Eminem and Blink 182 recently and both were amazed by the response and vowed to return. lvloney Wise, bands are not keen to put out the money it costs to play in places like Aberdeen if the Manual rewards are relatively small.‘
Fraser Smith, publiCist for Regular Music is also posmve about Scottish live mUSIC, believmg we are as well off as we’ve ever been. ’There was a time prior to events like T in the Park and Glasgow Green when Scotland perhaps didn't get all the bookings it deserved, but when booking a tow most bands nowadays Will inSist they get to play at the Barrowland.’
Dave Corbet concludes: ’Scotland has its fair share of quality homegrown talent anyway, so we’re hardly struggling to fill the halls.’
Scotland's contemporary art scene is currently enjoying international critical acclaim but are we getting the opportunity to view work by artists from elsewhere? The British Art Show 5 is currently showing in eight venues across Edinburgh. The decision by London’s Hayward Gallery to begin the tour in Scotland's capital is seen as an acknowledgement that the city has the finest range of art spaces outside London.
Yet London does have a monopoly on the bulk of big name shows. It is, after all, home to a larger number of sizeable art venues commanding sizeable financial resources. Here the National Galleries of Scotland has both the budget and space to bring in and curate large-scale exhibitions of international stature.
The British Art Show 5 came here first
Last year it opened a Magritte retrospective and showed work by one of Britain's most talked about artists, Gary Hume. Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery is also in the position to bring in touring shows, and to curate and tour exhibitions of work by Scotland-based artists, internationally.
And things could be further looking up. The year-old Dundee Contemporary Arts is both a recipient and exporter of touring exhibitions, and the reopening of Glasgow‘s Tramway next month is set to provide Scotland with another large-scale venue. It is important, however, that Scotland follows its own agenda and does not feel obliged to take exhibitions, in a spoon-fed fashion, from London. What needs to be encouraged is a greater degree of curatorial adventurism that looks to the world and not only London. (Susanna Beaumont)
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In the labyrinthine world of the Arts COuncils, the issue of cross-border funding contains more committee room complexmes than an Anthony Trollope bishop could understand. Its impact, though, is readily understood. SubSidies from the UK’s separate Arts Counols don't apply once a company crosses a border within the UK.
Stephen Barry, chief exeCutive of Edinburgh’s King’s and Festival Theatres explains the paradox through the example of the Royal National Theatre, recently in Edinburgh with The Heiress. ’The term “Royal” belies its ability to cross borders,’ he says. 'For all the devolution that’s occurred, Betty is still our monarch here as well as there, but the cost can be higher for us to have them here than it is in England. Newcastle and ourselves are only 100 miles apart, but we’re paying much higher fees.’
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Unusually. David Greig’s Cosmonaut opened first in England
Barry adds that the same arrangement applies for English venues Wishing to host Scottish companies. As Suspect Culture’s David Greig recently said, it's ea5ier for England to ’get money to bring over, say, a Belgian company, [yet] the rescurces aren’t there to import work from over the border’. What are we to make of such a bizarre Situation?
’Two or three years ago, we were in the crazy posmon of subsidising our Scottish venues by touring England,’ says Graham McLaren, artistic director of Glasgow’s Theatre Babel. ‘The fees we c0u|d command down south allowed us to afford to t0ur small and medium-scale Scottish venues. Now people are starting to recognise that a genume cross-fertilisation is essential, and the Arts C0unol itself can see the senseinit/
The mess looks like being sorted by allowmg companies to put aSide some of their budget for cross-border t0uring, possibly by April 2001, but you still wonder at how such a bureaucratic paradox ocwrred in the first place. (Steve Cramer)
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