Ashley Smith-Hammond

Big decisions abound in the first round-up of 2018. Read on for the latest Scotland cultural news.

Welcome to the first round up of 2018, Scotland’s Year of Young People!

Paisley’s run as 2021 UK City of Culture was sadly not to be (the title went to Coventry), but the team are building on their bid activities in a really positive way and used our research to help make the case for their impact. This follows the news that UK cities will no longer be considered for European City of Culture funding, which will have a negative impact on our friends in Dundee.

A key event was the December announcement of the Scottish Government’s budget.

In the end it shook out like this: standstill funding for the national performing companies (£22.9m), Creative Scotland ‘and other arts’ up to £70m from £52.1m. Collections funding down £77m to £73m. Creative Scotland responded positively to their funding increase, while the Museums Association raised concerns about funding reduction year on year.

Our data features in Creative Scotland’s annual review. Your top takeaway is that 74% of RFO audiences attended only once over the course of the year. This means there’s space to grow repeat attenders and reward loyalty. And speaking of which…

black and white image of a woman standing alone against a brick wall waiting by glass doors
RFO funding decisions

All eyes are on Regular Funding decisions from Creative Scotland, which will be published tomorrow (25 January). We’re pulling for all of you who have applied and our data is here to help you make the case the creativity matters.

There’s been quite a bit of conversation around the risk to culture and the arts if Brexit affects free movement. It has the potential to particularly affect organisations that work with international artists and programme global work, as is clear from this story on how free movement might affect Celtic Connections. At least UK access to European culture funding has been confirmed through 2020.

man at a demonstration with a sign that reads 'You're welcome in Scotland too'
Diversity in unexpected places

Concerns around major events exploiting workers were raised around the Fringe this summer and this leaked into the delivery of Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay events. The organisation had initially recruited for a number of volunteers but many of these posts were converted to paid positions as a result of a public outcry. Full disclosure: Culture Republic carried out the research with workers on behalf of the Fringe and these results are now public. Kudos to the Fringe for their transparency.

The #MeToo campaign around bullying and sexual harassment has continued to ripple through the cultural sector. Arts Professional surveyed its readers and found “an endemic culture of fear around speaking out about harassment, driven by the threat of losing work or not being taken seriously by their employers.” Vicky Featherstone, formerly Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Scotland was recently voted ‘most influential person in British theatre’ because of her leadership and speed of response on this issue.

SCAN launched their new manifesto – it’s a direct response to the new National Culture Strategy consultation process. Which is a good reminder to all of us that the cultural strategy development is carrying on at the Scottish Government and it’ll be one to keep an eye on over the course of 2018.


We are always keeping our eye out for great practice and have caught our partners undertaking some excellent projects and campaigns. Here are some that caught our eye at the end of last year and the start of this one.

The National Museums of Scotland are taking on an innovative programme focused on inclusive practice and diversity showing that part of widening access and audiences is showcasing diverse makers and stories.

Impressed to see the Citizens Theatre’s great support for D/deaf attendees. Video introduction to new work can make a big difference to removing barriers for D/deaf audiences.

The team at Macrobert have a fun example of creative audience engagement – a pyjama party and sing along! Love it.

Was impressed to see NYCoS’s erstwhile choir leader Christopher Bell removing barriers for Island hopefuls by offering Skype auditions. It’s a lovely example of simple digital technology opening access for rural participants.

graffiti on wall showing a Facebook thumbs up with a number 1 next to it and the words likes this next to them
Read our top Facebook posts of 2017

Speaking of digital, we’re impressed with the new website from Museums & Galleries Edinburgh, the venues owned and managed by the City of Edinburgh Council, which is opening up the city’s collections through storytelling for visitors and locals alike.

Classic FM’s research around what keeps people from going to the opera found that it’s considered ‘too posh’, ‘too long’ and ‘too expensive’. This put us directly in mind of Scottish Opera’s recent campaign (which we love by the way) aimed squarely at undoing some of these fears for new attenders.

As we noted above, 2018 is the Year of Young People, and there’s some great work happening in Edinburgh’s festivals throughout the year. This piece outlines how young people are right at the heart of this year’s Science, Film and Book festivals.


Dye in the Goldfish Bowl
Scottish Youth Theatre

Congratulations to Scottish Youth Theatre whose good work with young people is nominated for one of this year’s Stage Awards.

Kudos too to National Museums of Scotland, V&A Dundee and the National Theatre of Scotland who all got shout outs in Brian Ferguson’s look ahead at the best arts and culture coming in 2018.

New or improved infrastructure is always welcome:

  • New working and learning space from Wasps is in development in Inverness. Kudos to the team for getting the Inverness Creative Academy off the ground.
  • The home of the Citz in the Gorbals is about to undergo an ambitious redevelopment. Bon chance to them as they kick things off!
  • Congrats to Collective Gallery – the new galleries are planned for a spring 2018 opening. The team have been fun to watch, building up to this day through tweets like this one:

Hats off to Fiona Bradley, Director of the Fruitmarket Gallery who was awarded an OBE in the new years honours list for service to the arts. Hear hear!

Delighted to see that Gavin Reid, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra has been elected as the new Chair for the Association of British Orchestras.

Finally, a warm welcome to Michael Tippet who joins the RSNO leadership team.


This is a new format for our regular Scottish Cultural Sector round ups. Let us know what you think! What to get this news straight into your inbox? Sign up to our newsletter.