""wlevvs. gossip and opinion
Arts doosday delayed
A. Opera’s woes are .r -. ted by the health
Rumours of Scottish culture’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated. Words: Ruth Hedges
cotland's art scene is in a state of crisis. It's going to the
dogs at the callous. conspiratorial hands of culture
minister Frank McAveety and chairman of the Scottish Executive’s Cultural Commission James Boyle. That, at least. would be yOur conclusion it you‘ve read half the press column inches dedicated to Scottish Opera's [mis]fortunes and the resignation of composer Craig Armstrong from Boyle‘s Cultural Commission. In just one day. the major dailies splashed: 'Revealed: The Arts Council plot to kill off Scottish Opera‘ and ‘Operatic farce as composer quits culture review after three days‘. But is the arts scene really in such dire straits beyond the doomsday headlines?
First off, let's present some facts: the Scottish Executive agreed on Monday 7 June to give Scottish Opera an advance of £4.5m but. with an annual wage bill that comes to ESm, it still faces making 88 redundancies, 23 IWE'LL of which were dramatically presented to the chorus on Thursday 17 June. five minutes before they went on stage in a performance of La Boheme. On Monday 14 June. Armstrong resigned from the Cultural Commission which was set up to examine Scotland‘s arts policy; he quit after three days because he found out he was the only practising artist on the board. Other members include directors and executives of Glasgow City Council. Dance Base. Eden Court and the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
But Boyle remains buoyant. 'I feel optimistic.’ he said. Scottish Opera is one crisis. Scotland is in a fairly healthy state and the commission is taking a long generational look. Craig's still going to do work for the commission: we've got our remit and we've got our plan.‘ McAveety is equally confident: 'We've put in place. with the unanimous agreement of the Scottish Opera board. a plan that’ll ensure a sustainable future for opera in Scotland.‘
So, alth0ugh it may not be over till the fat lady sings. the overtures from the Executive are clear: Scottish Opera must slim down if it is to survive. Perhaps equally concerning. but much less widely reported. are the results of a major review conducted
6 THE LIST 24 Jun—8 Jul 2004
ENSURE A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE FOR SCO'ITISH
for the Visual Arts and Galleries Association by the Centre for Cultural Policy at Glasgow University. This reveals that spending per head for local authority museums and galleries in 2001 —2 in Glasgow was E21 compared with $22.44 in Edinburgh. It also states that the National Galleries of Scotland are so underfunded that they're using up their acquisitions budget to cover general running costs.
The report also warned that the National Galleries' crisis could result in the fragmentation of the whole visual arts sector, and singled out plans to turn the Tramway into a dance rehearsal space as ‘not addressing current weaknesses‘.
Ironically, such warnings come in the wake of additional news that visitor numbers to the National Galleries have been up 30% over the last year. But Executive funding for culture is up from $383m in 2000—01 to £50m in 2005—06. The most recent figure includes €10.4m for the fabulously ambitious Playfair Project. due for completion in August.
Interviewed recently on Radio Scotland, Sir Brian Ivory. chairman of the board of trustees for the National Galleries. said: ‘We are not part of the arts crisis in Scotland story that seems to be running at the moment. We balanced our books for 2003—2004, we presented to the Scottish Executive a balanced budget for the next three years . . . We have had extremely good support from the Scottish Executive. not only in terms of running costs. but in terms of support for the Playfair Project. which we will be opening on budget and eight months ahead of schedule . . . Our argument is that we would make very good use of additional money. The National Galleries is one of the success stories of the arts in Scotland and money in that direction w0uld be extremely welcome and well used.‘
And extra cash is being sourced more and more from the private sector, an issue which Boyle's commission will have to investigate thorOugth. At a recent Arts and Business Awards dinner, McAveety said: ‘I want you to tell the commission how you think the business community can develop its already fruitful partnership with the transforming world of art and culture'
As 4 July creeps up on us once again, we celebrate those wild and wonky
States in which impotence is grounds for divorce 24
Ways to make change for a dollar 293
Seconds between every US birth 8
Seconds between every US death 14
Gallons of liquid a ten gallon Stetson holds 75
Percentage of North America that is wilderness 38
Average number of people airborne over US at any given hour 61,000
Year the world's first sperm bank opened in Iowa city 1 964
Average number of pitches a major league baseball survives 7
US state capitals without a McDonalds 1
Percentage of Americans who say they are virgins when they marry 28
In acres. the average amount of pizza eaten in America each day 18
Amount in dollars American Airlines saved in 1987 by eliminating one olive from each salad served in First Class 40,000
Times a month an Arkansas man can legally beat his wife 1
Percentage of Americans who are overweight or obese 61
Percentage of American men who said they would marry the same woman if they had to do it all over again 80