Ashley Smith-Hammond

Culture Republic's monthly round-up of how cultural organisations are reaching out to Scottish audiences, plus the strategic issues that might affect your business.


We love it when we catch our partner organisations’ excellent work reaching out to Scottish audiences. Here is some goodness from the past four weeks that has flashed over the wire. If you’re a Culture Republic partner and have something to share that you’re proud of then don’t hold back – instead, let us know with an email or a tweet @Culture_Public.

Platform has been so successful with its series of tea dances for older people in the community that it has taken the event on tour around the city.

Those clever clogs over at Scottish Book Trust are innovating in how they deliver events, offering an upcoming creative writing workshop via Facebook Live. It’s a simple yet brilliant way to deliver their offer more widely and build audiences online. And while you’re on their site, check out the recent post about libraries’ contributions to health and wellbeing.

Royal baby sure, but did you know that the Duchess of Cambridge also agreed to become the V&A Dundee’s royal patron? Plus, with months to go before the official opening date, the V&A report they’ve already engaged with 100,000 people.

An Lanntair on the Isle of Lewis has recently committed to Sunday openings, which triggered some strong feelings within the community. The venue has engaged in the conversation and earlier this month it stated: “An Lanntair exists to serve the entire community, and can serve different parts of it in different ways. Our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion means that we are continuously seeking new ways to support people to access our programme, services and activities.”

Ayrshire arts organisation freshAyr are planning a range of grassroots consultation to make sure that its offer will deliver what its community wants and needs.

Organisations that specialise in working with young people: make sure you take advantage of the Birds of Paradise Barriers training for organisations that “would like to examine their approaches to access and equality and who are looking to diversify the people they work with by addressing barriers young, disabled people may experience in accessing activity”.For an object lesson in why this matters, watch the new Young Ambassadors film as they speak in their own words about inclusion in school and beyond. Participation is by application, and the deadline is 4 May.

The National Theatre of Scotland are bringing back this summer’s Fringe hit Adam and Eve, focused on transgender stories for a national tour and releasing a book of transgender people’s stories as part of this spring’s Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival.

WASPs studios across Scotland are celebrating their 40th birthday by showcasing work by their artist tenants in pop-up exhibitions across the country.

Drake Music Scotland is celebrating its 20th anniversary year with a concert and a campaign by kickstarting a campaign called #LetMeOnStage for wheelchair access on stage.

Pay for festival workers has stayed in the news. Unite raised concerns around council venue workers’ pay during the Fringe and unpaid volunteers at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay were highlighted through the advocacy of the Better than Zero and Fair Fringe campaigners. This summer the council will implement a consistent set of guidelines for volunteers at festivals. Those planning for the summer will want to check out the Fringe’s guidance on running a venue and Volunteer Edinburgh’s Good Practice Guide and be on the lookout for further guidance to come from Festivals Edinburgh.

Kent Faces & congratulations

There’s a lovely profile of Dundee Rep’s Andrew Panton in Fife Today.

The National Museums of Scotland are nominated for an Emcee National Arts Fundraising award for best fundraising campaign.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland have just moved up to number two in the Arts, Drama & Music League Tables.

Special kudos to the four Scottish arts organisations doing their part to reduce the gender pay gap: Glasgow Life, Renfrewshire Leisure, Fife Cultural Trust and National Museums of Scotland top the list. Respect.


women artists

Scottish women artists are having a bit of a moment. Glasgow based artist Cathy Wilkes will represent the UK at the 2019 Venice Biannale. The Guardian highlighted the strong female presence at this year’s Edinburgh International Art Festival. And another Glasgow based artist, Charlotte Prodger, is one of the four people shortlisted for this year’s Turner Prize.

What does this mean for Scottish Audiences? Those audiences that are hungry to see themselves and their stories represented have a good chance of seeing wider perspectives, as the profile of the artists given gallery shows and more official recognition increases.

Cultural Strategy

The Scottish Government is moving forward with the Cultural Strategy for Scotland and at the end of March published a report summarising feedback from the range of consultations it undertook. The press seized on the report with headlines like “‘Lack of diversity’ in Scottish culture is deterring audiences” and “arts funding favours the privileged, Scottish Government told”. The consultation process itself was questioned when Kirsty Gunn reflected that she has been thanked for her input repeatedly but has yet to actually give it.

What does this mean for Scottish audiences? The conversation around a lack of access and continuing barriers for diverse audiences’ participation may mean that coming policy prioritises activity from cultural organisations that rewards audience engagement efforts that proactively seek to remove barriers for under-represented groups. If you count your organisation in this group, we’ve got podcasts and population profiles to help you improve your practice.

An indicator for culture

The Scottish Government have included a new indicator for culture in the draft National Outcomes for the review of the National Performance Framework. The proposed outcome reads: “We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely”. Indicators linked to this outcome are around attendance and participation.

What does this mean for Scottish audiences? Similar to the above, cultural participation and attendance is for everyone and the cultural offer may be asked to evidence how it is delivering against this objective. If you need help to look at your evidence base and are considering how you might measure diversity, we have tools that can help.

We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely

Where can we see it happening in our networks? Check out the great practice from the National Theatre of Scotland, Birds of Paradise, Drake Music Scotland and Platform above for examples of how organisations are reaching out to a range of diverse audience groups.

Culture Is Digital

Cultural Policy is also changing at the UK level and the recent publication of DCMS’ Culture is Digital policy paper has commitments around using technology to drive audience engagement, boosting the digital capability of cultural organisations and unleashing the creative potential of technology.

What does this mean for Scottish audiences? Possibly not much, as Scottish cultural policy is devolved, but UK policy can help inform the thinking in Scottish policy circles.

Where can we see it happening in our networks? Check out the Scottish Book Trust example in our round-up above for a great example of digital audience development.


Finally, we check in with the continued fallout from the Creative Scotland RFO decisions. A previous round-up noted that Janet Archer was asked to give evidence and answer questions from MSPs at the Scottish Parliament. On the heels of this evidence, the Scottish Government opened a formal inquiry to collect views on people’s experience of the Creative Scotland RFO process. And on a sad note, Dance House said that they would no longer be offering classes to the public. The company did not receive RFO funding and the planned The Briggait Creation Centre, with studio space for dancers and circus arts, is no longer going ahead, leaving them without a place to host classes.

What does this mean for Scottish audiences? The loss of Dance House classes means fewer cultural participation opportunities for the people of Glasgow in the near term. Dance House will continue to deliver its community programme and plans to participate in this summer’s Merchant City Festival.

Main image credit: Meadows Festival 2017 by Byrony2 (CC BY-NC 2.0)