Last of the big spenders

6
705

 

 

 

 

 Kenneth Roy

  
After last Thursday’s piece about the new quango which intends to introduce the laws of the market to the funding of the arts and literature, Scotland on Sunday called to share some startling news about Creative Scotland’s logo, described here as ‘wretched’.

  

 

 Kenneth Roy

 

 


After 
last Thursday’s piece about the new quango which intends to introduce the laws of the market to the funding of the arts and literature, Scotland on Sunday called to share some startling news about Creative Scotland’s logo, described here as ‘wretched’.

‘Did you know it cost £35,000?’, SoS asked me.

    As a purchaser of logos myself, in the distant past when I could afford such luxuries, I might have guessed a tenth of that figure. When I started a local radio station in the south-west of Scotland in 1981, I seem to remember shelling out around £2,000 for a ‘design concept’ (the fancy title for a logo). The radio station is still using the image 29 years later – I still see it occasionally on the backs of Ayrshire buses – so it turned out to be a sound investment.
     But £35,000? OMG.
     Needless to say, Scotland on Sunday ran the story, putting the word ‘wretched’ above it. Judging by most of the comments posted on the paper’s website on Sunday morning, there is a general shock bordering on disbelief that any public body could commit to such a spend at a time when people in the arts fear for their livelihoods. The most salient response (apart from the splendid polemic of A L Kennedy) was from an SoS reader who demanded an itemised bill. That seems reasonable.
     What might £35,000 have bought had Creative Scotland not taken leave of its senses? I asked someone knowledgeable about the cost of mounting artistic enterprises.
     Evidently this is what £35,000 might have bought:
     Three writers’ fellowships for a year; or
     Seven lunchtime theatre productions; or
     Dozens of small exhibitions; or
     Hundreds of workshops and readings
     One supposes it might also have been possible to launch, with £35,000, a scholarship scheme for talented young designers.
     Instead we have an almost universally disliked logo.


Its chequebook for the last month would make a fascinating study: a work of art in its own right.


     But the Scotland on Sunday story didn’t point out the full extent of Creative Scotland’s profligacy in the first few weeks of its existence. It failed to mention the cost of its ‘launch event’ in Edinburgh one day last month. That set us back – us being the ultimate pickers-up of the bill – no less than £17,000 for a few hours of corporate self-regard, including £5,500 for lighting, sound and attendant crew.
     It was probably necessary for Sir Sandy Crombie and his mates on the board to be seen and heard as they unfolded their grotesque vision for the arts in Scotland, even if Sir Sandy’s view that ‘it’s like any other business’ might have been better articulated in a darkened room with, say, Joyce McMillan in attendance to represent the outside world. But is the privilege of seeing and hearing these people really worth £5,500 of public money? They could have hired a hotel room – there is quite a pretty one in the Caledonian with a view of Princes Street and the Castle – and got electric light thrown in.
     Among the other expenses of the day was £1,000 for a television presenter to ‘chair a question and answer question’. This really is a lovely hourly rate. How long would a painter have to dedicate to a work before she or he earned a fraction of it? There are (believe it or not) journalists in Scotland who would have chaired such a question and answer question for the cost of the rail fare to Edinburgh if only they believed in the cause. Few do, so the altruistic gesture is out of the question. But no matter: at Creative Scotland it is the law of the market which rules. Its chequebook for the last month would make a fascinating study: a work of art in its own right.
     Of course a total of £52,000 for the logo and the launch event may be considered small beer by an organisation chaired by a man who, in his last year as chief executive of Standard Life, received a salary (including bonus) of £1.76 million. (He is now in reduced circumstances, earning £250 a day from Creative Scotland). We can only hope that Sir Sandy is as generous with the applicants for Creative Scotland’s largesse, most of whom are worried sick about their future, as he has been in the last few weeks with logo designers and television presenters. The jury is out; I suspect it will not have to deliberate long to reach a verdict.
     When Ronald Mavor, the playwright and critic, became director of the Scottish Arts Council (as it was called then), I went along to interview him. I asked him what he saw as his new job. ‘To support all the talented people who need our help,’ he replied simply. What happened to that noble principle? When did it die?

This article was reproduced with the kind permission of Kenneth Roy.

Read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review.